JPMorgan Brings Amazons Alexa to Wall Street Trading Floors

  • Voice-activated assistant can now send reports from analysts
  • Other firms such as New York Life using it to help employees

“Alexa, ask JPMorgan what the price target for Apple is.”

It’s a request that JPMorgan Chase & Co. institutional clients can now get quickly answered through Inc.’s ubiquitous voice-activated assistant. The bank and the e-commerce giant have partnered to provide JPMorgan’s Wall Street users with another way to access its research. Alexa is able to send analysts’ reports and related queries, and the bank is testing other features, like providing prices on bonds or swaps, according to David Hudson, global head of markets execution for the New York-based bank.

Voice assistants are “clearly becoming something people are habituated to in their lives,” Hudson said. “It’s about taking information that’s somewhere in the bank, that someone has to generally go and look for, or which is time-consuming or requires authentication to get, and putting that to you in another channel.”

As clients’ habits evolve, firms have been finding ways to adapt popular retail technologies for the business world. While JPMorgan is one of the first to push the Alexa virtual assistant to institutional shops, other banks have been using the service in their consumer operations. And New York Life Insurance Co. is among financial companies building programs that use Alexa as a tool for employees.

12,000 Agents

Customers are becoming increasingly willing to use voice assistants to monitor accounts, according to a survey conducted last year by Bain & Co. While 6 percent of U.S. respondents now use the technology, 27 percent are open to it, according to the consultant.

Capital One Financial Corp. was the first bank to allow customers to manage credit card and bank accounts through the voice assistant, and the lender has slowly expanded its Alexa service, allowing people to ask questions like how much they spent on Amazon last week.

New York Life will start rolling out Alexa features to its 12,000 agents later this year to help them get quick details on policies and prepare for meetings, said Mark Madgett, who leads the insurer’s field force of agents. That means the agents can ask Alexa to figure out how much life insurance a customer has or the value of those policies, or to catch them up on the latest products the firm is offering, he said.

“This is a very complicated business,” Madgett said. “When I started 32 years ago, I had five products that I could help solve problems with. Today there are thousands of permutations around financial solutions.”

New ’Skill’

JPMorgan’s automated service, known in Amazon verbiage as a “skill,” is the latest shared project for the biggest U.S. bank and the world’s largest online retailer. Amazon already leases cloud-computing power to JPMorgan and has asked the bank to compete in creating new products including a small-business credit card for its customers. The companies are also collaborating on a health-care venture.

Read more: JPMorgan-Amazon health venture goes beyond squeezing middlemen

JPMorgan’s Alexa project started last year as part of an internal competition to foster innovation. The bank first opened up data in its research group and added feeds from other departments, including banking and custody and fund services — capabilities now being tested internally. If the automated service takes off, it should free the firm’s salespeople from having to answer routine queries.

JPMorgan has seen that clients are open to new ways of interacting with technology. Not long after the bank created mobile apps for its trading business, it was recording large trades, including a $400 million currency bet last year. So allowing Alexa users to access JPMorgan data from wherever they choose to work — home, office or on the go — makes sense.

The next step is enabling institutional clients to act on the information they’re getting. In the not-so-distant future, Wall Street traders could routinely use Alexa to execute trades, according to Hudson. But the bank needs to do more work on client authentication and other security measures to prevent errant trades before that happens, he said.

“In the open-office environment, if you leave an Alexa on your desk plugged into an Amazon account, you might find a TV delivered tomorrow as a practical joke,” Hudson said.

Read more:

5 Completely Insane Movies Starring Your Favorite Cartoons

Classic cartoon characters are loved by both the young and old. They’re almost like family pets, except better, because they never die and magically have access to dynamite at all times. But because these pop culture Methuselahs have been around since the dawn of entertainment, their IMDb pages are longer than a wolf’s eyes after seeing a pretty lady on stage. Sadly, not all Toons are able to land lucrative gigs hocking sneakers with NBA greats, so a lot of them have to take work where they can get it. And even the most iconic characters have shown up in some weird-ass movies. Such as …


There’s A Sex- And Fart-Filled Batman Cartoon

With the current big-screen incarnation of Batman more interested in murdering other superheroes than, say, solving mysteries, it’s natural that some of us have fled back to to the awesome, noir-y version of the Caped Crusader from the DC Animated Universe. For over a decade, multiple people behind shows such as the beloved Batman: The Animated Series have produced a string of direct-to-DVD DC animated films. But even this hallmark of Bat-quality took a major blow this past year, when it cashed in on the popularity of supervillain and CEO of Hot Topic Harley Quinn.

Inexplicably, Batman And Harley Quinn is an over-sexualized mess that relies on cheap frat boy humor. The movie opens with Harley Quinn working in essentially a superhero-themed Hooters, where waitresses are dressed in skimpy versions of superheroine costumes (or skimpier, at least). We get not one but two close-ups of her ass:

Warner Bros. Animation

Warner Bros. AnimationComplete with camel toe. Classy!

But the movie is only getting warmed up. When Nightwing tracks Harley down, he gets knocked out and winds up tied to her bed. Of course she then casually starts undressing in front of him — at which point you have to wonder whether someone accidentally sent the animators a 13-year-old’s fanfiction instead of a script.

Warner Bros. Animation

Warner Bros. AnimationOK, she’s got four cheeks and two cracks. Will someone please show these animators an actual ass?

Then Nightwing gets a boner. In a goddamn Batman movie.

Warner Bros. Animation

Warner Bros. AnimationNightwing and Nightwang.

So Harley turns out the light, climbs on top of him, and they have not entirely consensual sex:

Warner Bros. Animation

Warner Bros. AnimationYou know you messed up when there’s Rule 34 done with more taste.

And because Batman And Harley Quinn hates you, your rosy memories of Batman: The Animated Series, and the medium of film in general, there’s a prolonged sequence in the Batmobile wherein Harley insists Batman pull over so she can take a shit.

Warner Bros. Animation

When Batman refuses, she starts farting.

Warner Bros. Animation

Warner Bros. Animation

Warner Bros. Animation“Hand me down the Fart-Repellent Bat Spray, old chum.”

Then, as a last middle finger to everything the Batman ethos stands for, the movie ends with Batman deciding to burn a villain to death, and then kissing Harley.

Warner Bros. Animation

Warner Bros. AnimationYou may want to keep open flames away from Harley’s multiple gassy asses, to be safe.

We didn’t think it was possible, but Batman and Harley Quinn makes the DC universe where Oscar winner Holly Hunter handles a jar of piss and Batman cattle-brands sex criminals seem downright classy by comparison.


Behold The Horror Of A Greek Live-Action Smurfs Movie From The ’80s

We’re not really sure how to introduce this next movie, other than by asking: Have you ever wondered what would happen if Soviet minimalist filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky had made a low-budget children’s movie funded by the CIA in order to test the potency of their LSD? If so, you might be interested what a plucky band of Greek psychopaths did when trying to make a live-action Smurfs movie.

Smurfs On The Moon, which is all on YouTube, bizarrely opens with the cast and crew getting ready to shoot the movie. We don’t want to be backseat filmmakers, but there’s a reason the opening scene of a Pixar movie is never a bunch of animators booting up computers and opening a bag of Cheetos.

via YouTube

via YouTubeTo clarify, despite the budget, this is not a porn parody.

It’s smurfing hard to explain the plot, as most of it is nothing but a bunch of actors wearing Smurf costumes made by their moms, traipsing through what looks like a public park and singing terrible songs.

via YouTube

via YouTube“This next one’s called ‘I Regret My Theater Degree.'”

And there are so many smurfing songs in this movie, with a surprisingly large number of them revolving around shoving other Smurfs.

via YouTube“The smurf you say to me, mothersmurfer?”

Something finally happens when one Smurf gets into a heated argument with Papa Smurf, perhaps over his anger that the gods have turned them all into monstrosities. When this Smurf leaves, he encounters the evil Gargamel, who looks like he wandered in from a Swedish existentialist drama, and he seemingly just wants get drunk with the Smurfs.

via YouTubeOr at least as drunk as the screenwriter.

But the movie is called Smurfs On The Moon, so eventually, they go to the moon. Strangely, shots of the moon look a lot like the exact same park the Smurfs were in before, only overexposed. This moon trip is also super creepy, which might be because some editing genius decided to play the Shining soundtrack over a bunch of monstrous blue creatures aimlessly wandering a wasteland.

via YouTube

via YouTube

via YouTubeMad Max: Furry Road

In case all of this hasn’t traumatized your kids yet, in the end, the Smurfs all peel their faces off.

via YouTubeAgain, not a porn parody.

See? They were regular people wearing morose ritualistic masks of comic book homunculi. Nothing to get forever nightmares over at all!


A Live-ActionWoody Woodpecker Movie Got Dumped In Brazil … Last Year

Animating movies is a drawn-out process — literally. That’s why studios much prefer to throw some cheap CGI at the screen and call it a day. But it’s even cheaper to make a live-action film and toss a CG character in there, like in Yogi Bear, The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle, or any movie featuring Andy Dick. But you might not have heard of the latest addition to the live cartoon slaughterhouse: the new Woody Woodpecker movie. That’s because it was made for release in Brazil … and then just stayed there like it was avoiding a war crimes tribunal.

Universal Pictures

The plot of Woody Woodpecker (or Pica-Pau O Filme) finds a big-city lawyer clear-cutting a patch of woods to build his family’s dream house. And in the family film genre, if you’re a lawyer who cuts down trees, you may as well be the goddamn devil.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures“Hey, make sure you’re doing it in a pentagram pattern.”

Unfortunately for this family (and anyone in the audience who suffers from migraines), this forest happens to be the home of Woody Woodpecker, the famous cartoon bird whose name sounds like an antique dildo. However, the filmmakers didn’t get the memo about not using cartoon violence in live-action movies, so when his home gets invaded, the whimsical little fellow responds by trying to murder actual human beings. Like this harmless construction worker, who gets zapped harder than an Alabama death row inmate:

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures“Muh Muh Muh mur-der, Muh Muh Muh mur-der, huh huh huh ha huh huh huh huh huh huh!”

In true rampage fashion, not even wives and children are safe from Woody’s murderous wrath. When the lawyer’s family visits their new land, the bird tries to kill them by shoving a cement mixer that looks like Optimus Prime’s dick into their car …

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Then, to satisfy his bloodlust, Woody (who, like a demon, doesn’t even cast a shadow) uses construction-grade explosives to bomb the family trailer.

Universal PicturesWhich is a perfect visual for how it did in the U.S.

Despite being made by Universal and featuring an icon from the golden age of animation, the studio rightly decided to throwWoody Woodpecker into the DVD market stateside. But they did properly release the film in Brazil, which has an inexplicable love for Woody. There, the movie shot up to number one at the box office.


The Scooby-Doo Gang Meets … KISS?

Landing firmly in the “Let’s throw together some bullshit with a property we own” category, once upon a time, Warner Bros. released Scooby-Doo! And Kiss: Rock And Roll Mystery. The movie finds the Scooby Gang meeting an aging rock band, to the delight of … wait, who was this for, exactly?

The gang teams up with Kiss to, you guessed it, solve a spooky mystery. And it must be refreshing for them to meet adults who are honest and open about being dressed up as ghosts. Also, Daphne is super into Paul Stanley, presumably because the band insisted on accurately portraying how all hot 19-year-old girls want to hook up with 60-something-year-old men in leotards and clown makeup.


Hanna-Barbera“Let me pop one of our Kiss-brand erectile dysfunction pills while you grab an officially licensed Kiss condom, babe.”

The Kiss amusement park (which in real life is a minigolf course) is being terrorized by a supposed witch who is ruining rides. When the gang catches up with the witch, they end up being transported to another planet via a giant space guitar traveling through a wormhole of cosmic nightmares. Luckily, every member of Kiss knows how to fly, which is what happens if you take a very specific amount of LSD every week, kids.


Hanna-BarberaThis also doubles as the worst Powerpuff Girls episode ever.

Of course, Scooby-Doo is all about debunking the paranormal, so in the end, it turns out that the “witch” is a in fact disgruntled Kiss employee in a dumb costume. And that trippy adventure to another planet? It was all caused by a hallucinogenic gas. Leave it to Kiss to get the most innocent teenagers on the planet tripping balls.

Hanna-Barbera“This also explains how anyone past 1987 was still interested in listening to their music.”

Perhaps anticipating that this twist makes Kiss seem super pathetic, they add in a bit where it’s revealed that the band does have super powers. So that wasn’t part of the bad trip, but everything else was? Then Paul Stanley makes out with Daphne, which is sadly not followed by a twist of her yanking off her own rubber mask, revealing that she too is Paul Stanley, and this is all taking place inside Paul Stanley’s gross personal fantasies.

Hanna-Barbera“Don’t worry, we’re gonna start selling our own Kiss Valtrex next month.”


The Mario Bros. Made Their Movie Debut In A Weird-Ass Anime

You might assume that the first Super Mario movie was that one in the ’90s in which Mario and Luigi battled Dennis Hopper on a set made out of rejected Blade Runner props. However, almost a decade prior, Nintendo tried to give their plumber star his own feature-length anime film, Super Mario: The Great Mission To Rescue Princess Peach. And if you thought the live-action movie that expected us to believe John Leguizamo and Bob Hoskins could be Italian brothers was weird, you ain’t seen nothing yet.


Let’s get something really dumb out of the way first: Despite the fact that basically the only thing we knew about Mario in 1986 was his job as a plumber, this movie recasts him as a chronically depressed grocery store clerk, for no reason whatsoever.


ShochikuThere are not enough magic mushrooms to make this job enjoyable.

Also, Mario is himself obsessed with playing video games, suggesting that at least one draft of this script was written by Charlie Kaufman. One late night, Mario’s game magically transforms and a distressed Princess Peach pops out of the TV. Immediately afterward, she gets kidnapped by Bowser, and so we’re off to the Mario races.

Eventually, Mario and Luigi magically enter the video game world to rescue the princess. But while the video games always suggested that the Marios were good at adjusting to alien worlds of magic, the movie versions have a hard time coping. As a result, things get surreal fast, like when Mario finds out that Bowser is going to marry the princess and his self-image literally shatters.



Shochiku*play for full effect*

It’s at this point that the movie bids a fond farewell to the games and decides it has a much better handle on what Super Mario is about than Nintendo themselves. Take Mario’s powers, for example. In addition to superb jumping, Mario suddenly has the surprisingly racist ability to morph into a gun-toting Mexican caricature.


ShochikuAs opposed to being an Italian caricature.

And when the lesser Mario Bro eats mushrooms, instead of getting slightly larger, like you’d expect, Luigi just trips balls and punches Mario right in the face.



Again and again and again.

Shochiku“Why am I always Player 2? Why? WHY?!”

Eventually, the Bros. get a sidekick in the form of a weird dog, because thankfully Toad’s agents had gotten him out of having to do a cameo. Of course, after defeating Bowser, it turns out that the dog is actually a slightly puppet-looking prince …


… who’s engaged to Princess Peach, who then apologizes to Mario for breaking his heart.

Shochiku“Your … your real princess is in another castle. Someday, I hope you find her.”

To the movie’s credit, it’s going to take everyone else another two decades to accept that yeah, Princess Peach is using Mario to constantly get her out of awkward relationship situations — Bowser or otherwise. Speaking of Bowser, in a Marvel-like post-credit stinger, it’s revealed that the King of Koopas is now working at the same grocery store, because even for a murder-crazed turtle monster, there’s no worse punishment than the living hell of customer service.

Shochiku“I’m sorry, but we only accept gold coins.”

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter, or check out the podcast Rewatchability.

We encourage each and every one of you to begin writing these cartoon characters into your own fun stories — start with a beginner’s guide to Celtx.

Support Cracked’s journalism with a visit to our Contribution Page. Please and thank you.

For more, check out The 6 Most Inexplicable Cartoon Adaptations Ever and The 10 Most Disastrous Saturday Morning Cartoon Adaptations.

Follow us on Facebook, and we’ll follow you everywhere.

Read more:

6 Old Acquaintances Who Conveniently Came Out Of The Woodwork Right When I Won A Lifetime Supply Of Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi AllOlio Di Oliva

After winning a lifetime supply of delicious Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva, I thought I was going to be on easy street for the rest of my life. On the contrary, I had no idea how many old “friends” would suddenly show up looking to get a taste of my haul. Here are six old acquaintances who came out of the woodwork as soon as my pockets were overflowing with wads of tiny fish.

1. My college roommate, Mark Ericson: Mark basically acted like I didn’t exist back when we lived in the same dorm freshman year of college, but I guess all it takes is a few thousand pounds of premium Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva for someone to completely change their personality on a dime. Suddenly, Mark accepted the Facebook friend request I sent him nine years ago, he’s trying to get the only existing picture of us trending on Twitter with the hashtag #AngeloParodiSardinePortoghesiAllOliodiOlivaBoys4Life, and he keeps offering quotes about our “incredibly formative friendship” to our college newsletter for their upcoming story “Alumni Wins Sardine Contest.” Mark can try to rewrite history all he wants, but if he thinks he’s getting even one tin of Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva, he’s got another thing coming.

2. My old bandmates: The last time I saw anyone from my old Pearl Jam cover band was when I was dramatically kicked out and told to never come back after I missed too many shows to care for my elderly pet tarantula. Well, it turns out that, in addition to being a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva also has the power to shorten people’s memories! Mere days after I hit it big in the sardine department, all four original band members came crawling back to my door hoping we could run through “Jeremy” like old times to the “smooth backing track of southern Mediterranean fish broiling to perfection” as if I had forgotten them screaming, “You’ve chosen your tarantula over Bellow Ledbetter for the last time!” at me not so long ago. I saw the Tupperware containers hidden in their guitar cases and told them that the only kind of music I make now is the perfect symphony of flavors in my Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva smoked paté, of which I don’t intend to share a single bite.

3. My first love, Kim Johnson: When I look into Kim’s eyes, I don’t feel like a big hotshot with an unlimited amount of Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva at my disposal; I feel like a kid with a regular amount of sardines who just wants to love and be loved in return. Perhaps that’s why I pushed away my doubts when Kim, my crush since high school, suddenly decided she wanted to “hang out” after years of ignoring my Facebook invites and “Happy birthday” texts. Unfortunately, the reason for Kim’s change of heart became all too clear when I went to bed one night with the love of my life in my arms and 300 crates of Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva in my garage only to wake up the next morning completely alone with just 297 crates of Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva in my garage. Lesson learned—it’s lonely at the top.

4. My sixth-grade basketball coach: Interestingly, when I was an awkward 12-year-old with a horrible free-throw average, my basketball coach, Devon Gherrity, would only refer to me as “Princess Butterfingers,” but now that I have enough Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva to feed a small island nation, Coach apparently remembers me as the “single greatest player in the history of the team.” In fact, he even said he’d consider “honoring my legacy” by putting my face on the official team jersey if I was willing to hand over just a small percentage of my Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva cache. I guess for Coach Gherrity, it doesn’t take hard work and perseverance to become a good basketball player, it just takes enough sardines. And frankly, that’s just sad.

5. My pediatrician: No more than a week after my apartment became a veritable emporium of Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva, I received a phone call from my childhood pediatrician urging me to come in for an “emergency appointment.” When I arrived, Dr. Jacobs said that my blood work indicated a deficiency of vitamins D, B2, and B12 as well as early signs of cardiovascular disease. “That’s weird, because a healthy diet of Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva should specifically prevent all of those conditions,” I said. Dr. Jacobs gasped and said, “Oh my goodness, you’re right! I totally gave you MY charts by accident. Looks like I’m the one whose health could benefit from an increased amount of nutritious Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva.” Then he kept loudly repeating that he felt faint until I had no choice but to fork over one of the 17 tins I carry on my person at all times. How silly of me to think that my old doctor might actually be concerned about my health and not just thinking of his own twisted way to get his hands on a piece of the Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva pie.

6. My nephew, David: I’ve been trying for years to make a connection with my moody nephew, David, but I’m pretty sure he’s never said a single word to me. That’s why I was so excited when I heard that he had written about me for his “my hero” essay in school—and then I read it:

How sweet…not! Even if his play for my sardines wasn’t so desperate, it hurts that David didn’t even mention my years in the Peace Corps or my extensive work with shelter dogs. I’m not just a walking piece of Angelo Parodi Sardine Portoghesi All’Olio di Oliva, David! I have feelings!

Read more:

EPA Chiefs $50-a-Night Rental Raises White House Angst

  • Pruitt apartment questions follow first-class flight reports
  • Washington lease is compared to an Airbnb-style arrangement

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt leased a Washington apartment owned by a lobbyist friend last year under terms that allowed him to pay $50 a night for a single bedroom — but only on the nights when he actually slept there.

White House officials are growing dismayed about the questions surrounding Pruitt’s living arrangement, including his initial inability to produce any documentation about the lease or his actual payments, according to three officials. The landlord provided EPA officials with a copy of the lease and proof of the payments Pruitt made.

In all, Pruitt paid $6,100 to use the room for roughly six months, according to copies of rental checks reviewed by Bloomberg News. Those checks show varying amounts paid on sporadic dates — not a traditional monthly "rent payment" of the same amount each month.

That was because of the unusual rent schedule — not a single monthly amount, but a daily amount charged only for days used for a single bedroom in the two-bedroom unit just blocks from the Capitol. The building is at least partially owned by a health care lobbyist, Vicki Hart, via a limited liability corporation. Her husband J. Steven Hart, is also a lobbyist, whose firm represents clients in industries regulated by the EPA.

One person familiar with the lease compared it to an Airbnb-style arrangement, but Pruitt wasn’t a transient and instead made the apartment his home on nights he was in Washington. The lease — also reviewed by Bloomberg — says that he was charged $50 a night "based on days of actual occupancy."

Six Canceled Checks

Bloomberg reviewed six canceled checks paid by Pruitt totaling $6,100 from March 18 through Sept 1, 2017. He paid $450 on March 18, $900 on April 26, $850 on May 15, $700 on June 4, $1,500 on July 22 and $1,700 on Sept 1.

A sampling of current listings of apartments for rent near Pruitt’s temporary pad showed studio and one-bedroom offerings available for $1,350 to $1,975 a month. Some of the current Airbnb listings for rentals of single bedrooms inside apartments and homes on Capitol Hill ranged from $45 to $68 per night.

Justina Fugh, who has been ethics counsel at the EPA for a dozen years, said the arrangement wasn’t an ethics issue because Pruitt paid rent. An aide said the agency had not reviewed the arrangement in advance.

Pruitt’s Payments

The payments covered Pruitt’s room in the two-bedroom unit, but did not afford him liberal use of common areas, where the owners had dinner parties and other functions, according to a person familiar with the situation. According to the lease agreement, Pruitt’s bedroom could not be locked.

ABC reported Friday that Pruitt’s college-age daughter used another room in the condo while serving as a White House intern. An email to agency representatives seeking comment on the report were not immediately returned.

After ABC News reported the living arrangement on Thursday, EPA aides had to seek documentation from the building’s owners to prove he had paid rent, raising concerns at the White House, said two of the people, who asked not to be named discussing a sensitive matter involving a Cabinet secretary. Pruitt was in Wyoming on Thursday.

Related: Bumped? EPA Chief Signals He Will Be Flying Coach After Backlash

The disclosure follows revelations about Pruitt’s reliance on first-class flights to travel around the globe and a series of pricey trips, including a visit by Pruitt and agency staff to Italy that cost $120,249. EPA officials have defended Pruitt’s use of first-class flights on security grounds, but after a series of reports, he shifted to coach.

J. Steven Hart is the chairman of Williams & Jensen, a firm with a stable of energy industry clients including Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co., which paid the firm $400,000 in 2017, according to data compiled from the Environmental Integrity Project from disclosure forms.

Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, has been an enthusiastic crusader against Obama-era regulations meant to combat climate change and limit air pollution. When Pruitt was in Oklahoma, he sued the EPA more than a dozen times.  

Hart’s individual lobbying clients include liquefied natural gas exporter Cheniere Energy Inc.
Pruitt traveled to Morocco to tout U.S. liquefied natural gas last December, though the Department of Energy — not the EPA — plays the major federal role overseeing LNG exports. It is not clear Hart had direct contact with the EPA on behalf of any of his lobbying clients in 2017, according to a Bloomberg News review of disclosures.

Other individual clients of his are the American Automotive Policy Council and Smithfield Foods Inc.

Hart, in a statement to the Associated Press, described Pruitt as a friend from Oklahoma with whom he had scant contact.

“Pruitt signed a market based, short-term lease for a condo owned partially by my wife,” Hart said in a statement. “Pruitt paid all rent owed as agreed to in the lease. My wife does not, and has not ever lobbied the EPA on any matters."

Critics said the unorthodox rental arrangement allowing Pruitt exclusive, reserved use of the room raised questions and could violate a ban on federal government employees accepting gifts valued at more than $20.

“At the very least, it doesn’t look good for the administrator of EPA to have rented an apartment from the wife of an energy industry lobbyist who represents companies regulated by EPA," said Eric Schaeffer, director of the Environmental Integrity Project.

The government watchdog group Public Citizen asked EPA’s inspector general to investigate.

"This appears to be a gift from a lobbyist to the EPA administrator," Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, said in a news release. "Scott Pruitt seems to be renting at well below market value – from a family member of a lobbyist who has business before the EPA."

Messages left with the Inspector General’s office weren’t immediately returned on Friday.

Fugh, the EPA’s ethics counsel, said no gift was involved. It was a routine business arrangement between Pruitt and an individual, not a lobbying firm, she added.

"He paid a fair price for what amounts to just a room,” Fugh said. “So I don’t even think that the fact that the house is owned by a person whose job is to be a lobbyist causes us concern.”

Read more:

Confessions of the Vaticans Favorite Male Escort

ROMEFather Luca Morini did not practice what he preached. In fact, the Catholic priest apparently did a lot more than preaching at the two parishes he led in rural Tuscany where he earned the nickname Don Euro and where he now faces charges for fraud, embezzlement, drug dealing, extortion, and money laundering.

His impropriety was first exposed after a male escort named Francesco Mangiacapra discovered that the consensual sex-for-hire relationship he had with Morini, who he thought was a high-powered judge, was not quite what it seemed. Mangiacapra, who trained as a lawyer but who apparently found the male-escort business more profitable, had made the discovery quite by chance, when he recognized his high-dollar client in priest garb.

He says he then began to wonder how a simple priest could afford such expensive dinners and gifts as his favorite client bestowed on him. A devout Catholic himself, Mangiacapra says he was worried that Father Morini was dipping into the collection plate and duly reported his suspicions to the diocese of Massa Carrara-Pontremoli in Tuscany. But only after a local investigative television show caught Morini snorting cocaine, lounging at a gay spa, and kissing other gay men did they suspend him due to an undisclosed illness, according to several conservative Catholic websites. He was then reportedly tucked away inside a private villa for rehabilitation and is not attending his own criminal trial.

The experience with the double-life priest was not isolated, and Mangiacapra soon learned that most of his clients who were friends of the priest were also members of the clergy, and that hed somehow found himself quite unexpectedly the favorite boy toy in a gay-priest sex ring. He did what any self-serving male prostitute might do and started researching a book about it called Il Numero Uno. Confessioni di un Marchettaro (The Number One. Confessions of a Prostitute) based on WhatsApp messages, screenshots, and videos of various priests in compromising positions.

But the church, it seemed, didnt pay much attention to the book, which was published last March, so Mangiacapra brought it to the attention of various high-ranking cardinals by compiling his raw research into a 1,200-page dossier focused on nearly 40 priests across Italy that he took to the archdiocese of Naples, led by Cardinal Cresenzio Sepe, who decided to act and sent the dossier straight to the Vatican. Sepe told Corriere della Sera that Naples didnt enter into it and that none of the gay priests were Neapolitan. Our diocese was used like a post office, he said. We just delivered the message to Rome.

The Italian equivalent of Drudge Report, Dagospia, was allegedly able to see some of the dossier from which it published various excerpts, including screenshots of messages. Several show what appear to be dick pics of priests with messages about where and how they wanted to have sex with each other and the escorts. In one, an apparent priest invites the escort along to an ordination, after which they would have sex nearby. The message ends with see you later, Ill tell you when the mass is.

Mangiacapra says he means no harm to the church. I want to explain right away that mine is not a gesture that goes against the Catholic Church, indeed, it is paradoxically in its favor, he said in an interview with Catania Today, which also published a screenshot of an exchange in which one priest sent him a naked picture in front of the bell and asked if he liked his penis.

My book and the content of the file that I delivered in Naples is to bring to light the reality clearly in contradiction to the obligations imposed by the cassock, he says.

The escort says the gay priests primarily used Telegram, a preferred service with a number of gay priest chat groups where clergy can find escorts and other priests in their areas. He said the priests paid hundreds of euro and seemingly had no qualms about the premium prices. Mangiacapra says he wants the errant priests to be more honest about their sexuality.

We are talking about sins, not crimes, he said.I only want this out so that these people will stop preaching hatred towards gays.

Now that Cardinal Sepe has pushed the dossier to the Vatican, Mangiacapra told Catania Today that he will get out of prostitution, having grown tired of the indignity of selling my body.

I did it for the health of the church. We are talking about bad apples which, in my opinion, should be reduced to the lay state not to be punished but to have the opportunity to come into contact and reconcile with their own homosexuality, he said. As a person who enjoys sexual freedom, I do not condemn the homosexuality of the priests: Homosexuality is not a crime, what is condemned is the incoherence of these priests.

Read more:

20 Years Later, Viagra Means Something Different For Millennials

Jason K. was 27 the first time he tried to have sex with a woman and couldn’t get an erection. He knew it wasn’t a physiological problem, because he had no problem getting hard at home while watching porn and masturbating, but the embarrassing episode gnawed at him. Jason grew anxious that it could happen again, so he decided to bring it up at his doctor’s appointment a few weeks later.

After a brief exam, Jason’s doctor prescribed him a small dose of Viagra to “experiment” with. The next few times he tried to have sex, Jason popped a pill beforehand and his performance anxiety vanished.

“He gave me a dose that was a little bit more than I needed, but it was enough that it kind of broke my slump,” recalled Jason, who asked to use his middle name and initial to protect his privacy. But over time, as bouts of anxiety or stress came and went, Jason went on to refill the prescription four or five times. He is now 33, and while he tries to use Viagra as little possible, it has become a regular part of his sex life. He wonders if, in a world without Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications, he would spend more time prioritizing his own mental health care.

That world is difficult to imagine today. Tuesday marks the 20th anniversary of Viagra’s approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. From its conception to its marketing, the little blue pill embodies the might and ingenuity of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry and is a masterful example of how powerful sexual medicine can lodge itself in the psyche — and the medicine cabinet — of first the American man, and then men all over the world.

After scientists discovered that the drug could help men get erections, Pfizer executives began tying the ability to get an erection to other markers of health, like diabetes or heart disease, giving the pill legitimacy in the medical community. It was then famously marketed by Pfizer spokesman Sen. Bob Dole as a drug to help cancer survivors and people with other physical limitations overcome what was then known as “impotence,” casting a sheen of respectability and even nobility on the drug’s ability to make men erect.

Tittered over on television and in the media, the drug was nevertheless hailed by experts for not only providing men with the first non-invasive treatment for erectile dysfunction but also opening up a conversation between men, their partners and their doctors about sexual health issues and how they relate to overall health.

Over the years, Pfizer continued to break the mold with increasingly racy advertisements that seemed to broaden the scope of the use-case for Viagra, sold the pill directly to consumers online and opened up the pill to generic manufacturing before the patent expired — a smart way to regain some ground lost by competing erectile dysfunction drugs.

Two decades on, Viagra has so embedded itself in the culture that it has taken on talismanic properties. Millennial men, who came of age sexually in a world where Viagra was always an option, are encountering the drug at younger ages than the men to whom it was originally targeted 20 years ago, and for more diverse reasons beyond diseases like prostate cancer, diabetes or heart problems to include psychological reasons for erectile dysfunction. 

The handful of studies on this phenomenon suggest that while only a small minority of young men has ever taken erectile dysfunction drugs, men who go to the doctor about erectile dysfunction are getting younger over time, they’re healthier, and they’re exercising more.

Findings from a study among young men who take pills without a prescription suggest that they’re taking them for psychological reasons. While they generally have the same ability to get erect as men who don’t take the drugs, they have less confidence in their erections and lower satisfaction with their sex lives ― which could mean that young men feel they can’t get erections without the drug.

When Viagra first came out … there was really a strong belief that these medications should only be used in men who have a physical cause for their erection problem, and it needed to be pretty severe. Dr. Abraham Morgentaler

HuffPost spoke to five men’s health doctors about younger men asking for Viagra, and they all agreed the pill is so safe that they had no problems prescribing it or a similar drug to patients who may simply need a psychological salve to help them recover from the humiliation of a few episodes of erectile dysfunction with a partner.

Like other storied blockbuster drugs, Viagra was discovered by accident. Scientists in Pfizer’s Sandwich, U.K., laboratory developed the pill’s active ingredient, sildenafil citrate, in 1989 to treat chest pain and high blood pressure. While trials for these conditions were disappointing, test subjects tipped the researchers off to the pill’s unexpected and pleasurable side effect: more erections.

After successful trials, Viagra was approved by the FDA in 1998, offering an easy and much-preferred treatment option to men with erection problems who were using penile injections or implants. But while the drug solved a widespread health issue that men were often too embarrassed to talk about, Pfizer executives faced a respectability problem. Lest it be dismissed as a mere “boner” pill, the pharmaceutical company worked hard to tie it to serious medical conditions like the one that left Dole with erectile dysfunction.

Two years after the drug hit the U.S. market, The New York Times reported that for every million men who had inquired about Viagra, “an estimated 30,000 had untreated diabetes, 140,000 had untreated high blood pressure and 50,000 had untreated heart disease.”

“When Viagra first came out … there was really a strong belief that these medications should only be used in men who have a physical cause for their erection problem, and it needed to be pretty severe,” said Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, a urologist at Men’s Health Boston and author of the book The Truth About Men And Sex. But Viagra has proved to be so safe, and become so common, that Morgentaler compared downing a pill to having a drink or a cocktail before having sex.

“It just sort of becomes a lubricant, if you will, for that kind of pleasurable human activity,” he said.

Jason recognized early on that there was a link between his personal anxiety level outside the bedroom, stressful weeks at work, and his episodes of erectile dysfunction with a partner. Viagra was a way of addressing the symptoms of his angst but not the root causes.

“It might have kind of allowed me a shortcut on certain things,” Jason said about Viagra. “If I didn’t have that option, I might have been more inclined to dedicate myself to staying a little more stress-free and a little more healthy.”

And that’s exactly what makes sociologists like Meika Loe skeptical about Viagra’s effect on male psyches. Popping a pill is far easier than facing your own demons or being vulnerable with your sexual partners, said Loe, who authored The Rise of Viagra a few years after the pill debuted. Growing up with outsized expectations for sexual performance, and then needing to buy a pill to fulfill those expectations, could be emotionally harmful.

“The bar has been raised on what is expected for [men] in terms of sexual performance and optimization (the best, the hardest, the most reliable), and when we buy into this (literally) we can lose a bit of our humanity as individuals in and out of relationships,” she wrote in an email to HuffPost. “Perhaps what we need to do is the opposite ― to be more vulnerable with one another, not less.”

Bloomberg via Getty Images
Millennial men, who came of age sexually in a world where Viagra was always an option, are encountering the drug at younger ages than the men to whom it was originally targeted 20 years ago, and for more diverse reasons.

Patrick Q., 34, first encountered Viagra in high school, where his friends were sneaking pills from their fathers’ medicine cabinets and using it to enhance their sexual performance with girlfriends. But it wasn’t until his mid-20s, when he was dating casually around Chicago and having episodes of erectile dysfunction after drinking, that he started to use it himself.

Patrick, who asked to use just his first name and initial to protect his privacy, figured that he was too young to actually need a prescription. He didn’t think a doctor would prescribe him something to help him counteract alcohol’s effect on erections. So he turned to Craigslist and started buying Viagra generics from dealers who would meet him on the street and exchange the pills for money in their cars.

Looking back on those years, Patrick recognizes how reckless the purchases were. He told HuffPost he never knew whether he was getting a legitimate generic pill or something that had been cut with other chemicals. Patrick also said he felt scared getting into cars with dealers whom he didn’t know, and he was always nervous that the transactions could end up being undercover stings. And yet he kept on buying the pills illicitly because he was afraid he wouldn’t have access to the drug through a doctor.

These kinds of black market purchases are what moved U.K. health officials to designate Viagra as over-the-counter medicine late last year. Instead of getting a prescription from a doctor, men in the U.K. speak to a pharmacist to make sure they don’t have pre-existing conditions or take other drugs that could make Viagra dangerous before purchasing it. There is currently no effort to reclassify Viagra as an over-the-counter drug in the U.S.

Patrick is especially regretful about buying Viagra on Craigslist because he now knows how easy it is to get a prescription from a doctor. Now a Ph.D. student living on the East Coast, Patrick recently visited a urologist for the first time to get a handle on some other medical issues. When he brought up his situational erectile dysfunction, the doctor had no qualms about writing a prescription for him.

“He even stated that he uses it,” Patrick said. “He made it seem like its use is so widespread.”

Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs aren’t risk-free. Their use, and especially recreational use, has been linked to risky behavior like having unprotected sex, and interactions with certain drugs can cause serious health problems like heart attack or stroke due to plummeting blood pressure. There’s also the drug’s infamous warning-as-enticement: “Call a doctor if you have an erection that lasts longer than four hours.” 

Since Jason first started taking Viagra, he has used it through two long-term relationships ― one of which became a marriage a year ago. When he first started dating his wife, he told her early on that Viagra was something that he had to have in the bedroom, and that he may occasionally take the pill before sex.

Marriage hasn’t changed his relationship with Viagra. While he can be more frank with his wife about how he’s feeling, and may be able to plan when to use it more, pressure from work hasn’t let up, and stress from everyday life can creep into the bedroom. That means Jason still needs the pill.

Erectile dysfunction “is still very much tied to my mental state outside of a sexual situation,” he said.

Read more:

New York’s Cardinal Dolan: Democrats have abandoned Catholics

A couple of events over the past few weeks brought to mind two towering people who had a tremendous effect on the Archdiocese of New York and the U.S. more broadly. Their witness is worth remembering, especially in this political moment.

Last Saturday’s feast of St. Patrick, the patron saint of our cathedral and archdiocese, reminded me of Archbishop John Hughes. As the first archbishop of New York (1842-64), “Dagger John” displayed dramatic reverence for the dignity of Irish immigrants. Thousands arrived daily in New York — penniless, starving and sometimes ill — only to be met with hostility, bigotry and injustice.

An immigrant himself, Hughes prophetically and vigorously defended their dignity. Because the schools at the time were hostile to these immigrants, he initiated Catholic schools to provide children with a good education sensitive to their religion and to prepare them as responsible, patriotic citizens. The schools worked. Many remain open to this day, their mission unchanged.

The second event was the recent funeral of a great African-American woman, Dolores Grier. A convert to Catholicism, she was named vice chancellor of the archdiocese three decades ago by Cardinal John O’Connor; she was the first layperson and first woman to hold the prestigious position. Grier was passionate about civil rights, especially the right to life of babies in the womb. She never missed an opportunity to defend, lovingly but forcefully, their right to life.

Grier attributed her pro-life sensitivity to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who preached that abortion was an act of genocide against minorities. No wonder, she often observed, abortuaries were clustered in poor black and brown neighborhoods. The statistics today confirm her observation: In 2013 there were more black babies aborted in New York City (29,007) than were born here (24,758), according to a report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

In 2013 there were more black babies aborted in New York City (29,007) than were born here (24,758).

The values Archbishop Hughes and Dolores Grier cherished — the dignity and sanctity of human life, the importance of Catholic schools, the defense of a baby’s civil rights — were, and still are, widely embraced by Catholics. This often led Catholics to become loyal Democrats. I remember my own grandmother whispering to me, “We Catholics don’t trust those Republicans.”

Such is no longer the case, a cause of sadness to many Catholics, me included. The two causes so vigorously promoted by Hughes and Grier—the needs of poor and middle-class children in Catholic schools, and the right to life of the baby in the womb — largely have been rejected by the party of our youth. An esteemed pro-life Democrat in Illinois, Rep. Dan Lipinski, effectively was blacklisted by his own party. Last year, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez insisted that pro-life candidates have no place in the modern Democratic Party.

Last year, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez insisted that pro-life candidates have no place in the modern Democratic Party.

It is particularly chilly for us here in the state Hughes and Grier proudly called their earthly home. In recent years, some Democrats in the New York state Assembly repeatedly blocked education tax credit legislation, which would have helped middle-class and low-income families make the choice to select Catholic or other nonpublic schools for their children. Opposing the bill reduces the ability of fine Catholic schools across the state to continue their mission of serving the poor, many of them immigrants.

More sobering, what is already the most radical abortion license in the country may soon be even more morbidly expanded. For instance, under the proposed Reproductive Health Act, doctors would not be required to care for a baby who survives an abortion. The newborn simply would be allowed to die without any legal implications. And abortions would be legal up to the moment of birth.

The “big tent” of the Democratic Party now seems a pup tent. Annafi Wahed, a former staffer to Hillary Clinton, recently wrote in this newspaper about her experience attending the Conservative Political Action Conference. She complimented the conservative attendees, pointing out that most made her feel welcome at their meeting. They listened attentively to her views — a courtesy, she had to admit, that would not be given to them at a meeting of political liberals.

The “big tent” of the Democratic Party now seems a pup tent.

I’m a pastor, not a politician, and I’ve certainly had spats and disappointments with politicians from both of America’s leading parties. But it saddens me, and weakens the democracy millions of Americans cherish, when the party that once embraced Catholics now slams the door on us.

To Archbishop Hughes, Dolores Grier, and Grandma Dolan, I’m sorry to have to write this. But not as sad as you are to know it is true.

Cardinal Dolan is archbishop of New York.

Read more:

Rob Kardashian Is Ready To Bounce Back For Real ‘More Active’ Now Following Public Weight Struggle!

Move over Khloé because Rob Kardashian is working on his Revenge Body!

As we reported, the KUWTK brother turned 31 on Saturday and posted a photo of him and daughter Dream Kardashian where the father of one looks noticeably slimmer (above).

According to a People source, the Arthur George sock designer — who has publicly battled weight gain, depression, and type 2 diabetes — “needs to get his eating in check” though he has been “more active” lately.

Luckily, the USC graduate has lots of support from his loved ones. The insider continued:

“Everyone hopes this time he can turn himself around… He’s been doing better and has been spending a lot more time around his family, which is good for him.”

Despite his nasty split from ex Blac Chyna, who wished him happy birthday over the weekend, Rob is doing everything in his power to give him and his daughter a better life.

“There is a lot of sympathy for Rob — he fell hard for Chyna… He’s trying to focus on Dream and being a good dad to her. Dream is the sweetest little girl and loves Rob.”

You got this, dude!

[Image via Rob Kardashian/Twitter.]

Read more:

MIT Unleashes a Hypnotic Robot Fish to Help Save the Oceans

Like a miniaturized Moby Dick, the pure-white fish wiggles slowly over the reef, ducking under corals and ascending, then descending again, up and down and all around. Its insides, though, are not flesh, but electronics. And its flexible tail flicking back and forth is not made of muscle and scales, but elastomer.

The Soft Robotic Fish, aka SoFi, is a hypnotic machine, the likes of which the sea has never seen before. In a paper published today in Science Robotics, MIT researchers detail the evolution of the world’s strangest fish, and describe how it could be a potentially powerful tool for scientists to study ocean life.

Scientists designed SoFi to solve several problems that bedevil oceanic robotics. Problem one: communication. Underwater vehicles are typically tethered to a boat because radio waves don’t do well in water. What SoFi’s inventors have opted for instead is sound.

“Radio frequency communication underwater just works for a few centimeters,” says MIT CSAIL roboticist Robert Katzschmann, lead author of the paper. “Acoustic signals in water can travel for much longer and with much less energy consumption.” Using sound, divers can pilot the robot fish from almost 70 feet away.

Problem two: classical robot electric motors, known as actuators, can be clunky, and the movement they produce can be stuttery. But SoFi belongs to a burgeoning class of “soft robots,” which are, well, generally soft, and use air or oil to locomote.

But SoFi’s tail contains two hollow chambers that a pump injects with water. “All you do is cycle the water back and forth,” says Katzschmann, “and that causes the undulation and the wiggling of the soft tail.” That beautifully natural movement makes for a robot that can swim with the fishes without spooking them. Contrast that with robots that use jet propulsion, which gives a reef collective panic attacks.

Problem three: swimming is energetically expensive. In particular, fish need to hang tight at certain depths, but constantly correcting by swimming up or down is inefficient. So fish have evolved a gas-filled organ called a swim bladder, which allows them to achieve neutral buoyancy. (Sharks, by the way, have massive livers that give them some buoyancy.)

SoFi uses its own swim bladder of sorts, a cylinder that compresses and decompresses air with a piston. On top of that, the machine doesn’t have all the empty, airy chambers a typical robot might. "The compartments that usually would be air-tight, air-filled electronics compartments, we filled with oil," says Katzschmann. That helps give the robot structural integrity and allows it to reach depths of 60 feet by better controlling its internal pressure.

What the researchers have landed on is a truly fishy robot, both in form and function. And that could be a big deal for fish biologists of the near future. In their initial studies, the researchers found that fish would sometimes swim alongside their robot, all curious-like. “Other times they were not at all distracted by anything, while us as divers, if we would get close to those fish they would just swim away instantaneously," says Katzschmann.

For the time being, SoFi is remote-controlled. But the idea is that future versions would use machine vision to lock onto individual fish and follow them around, all without raising suspicion. That could help scientists study schooling dynamics, or monitor the health of fish populations in increasingly unhealthy oceans. “It could help us with the problems of fish avoidance and fish attraction that are associated with other forms of monitoring with robots and divers,” says Northeastern’s Hanumant Singh, who develops autonomous underwater vehicles but was not involved in the research.

Bonus: Unlike Moby Dick, SoFi will never turn on its enemies or make us read 600-page novels about itself.

More Weird Wired Robots

Read more:

Cities with sexually suggestive names will get a big gift from Pornhub

Did your city make the cut?
Image: Mashable composite: Pornhub/Getty Images

Never say that the porn industry doesn’t have a great sense of humor. 

If all of those punny parodies weren’t proof enough, take Pornhub’s new “Premium Places” initiative, which is shining a new light on all those sexually-tinged city names that make you quietly giggle.

It may be tough to call towns like Rectum (in the Netherlands), Dildo (in Newfoundland, Canada), and Cummings (a small town in Georgia) home, but now residents of places whose names illicit mocking from strangers are getting a gift from the altruists at Pornhub. These so-called “Premium Places” will get free lifetime access to Pornhub’s paid Premium subscription service.

Pornhub VP Corey Price expounded on the new project in a press release, saying:

“With the proliferation of online adult entertainment, many people have become very well-versed in its vernacular and sexual sayings. Unfortunately, this has made towns with sexually suggestive names the butt of many more jokes. Here at Pornhub, we think a name is worth celebrating, rather than subjecting to incessant ridicule.”

You can find more details here, including a map of all the cities and towns that have already been labeled as “Premium Places” — like Analândia, Brazil and Climax, Michigan. 

If you currently live in a city with a very unsexy name (like, say, Fort Worth, Texas), you might want to use this opportunity to  scope out a new place to live where you’ll get free premium porn (like Fort Dick, California!). 

Or better yet, let’s all move to Orgy, France.

Read more:

Scott Pruitt Just Gutted Rules To Fight The Nations Second Biggest Toxic Pollution Threat

WASHINGTON ― The Environmental Protection Agency announced plans Thursday to scrap Obama-era rules tightening restrictions on disposal of coal ash, the toxic byproduct from coal-fired power plants that has caused major water contamination problems across the country.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt billed the new proposal as a bid to give states more independence over coal ash disposal, though he moved to reconsider the 2015 regulation in September at the request of fossil fuel utilities.

The EPA’s announcement makes no mention of the risks coal ash poses to human health and the environment. Rather, the agency justified its move by noting it is expected to save the utility sector between $31 and $100 million annually.

“Today’s coal ash proposal embodies EPA’s commitment to our state partners by providing them with the ability to incorporate flexibilities into their coal ash permit programs based on the needs of their states,” Pruitt said in a statement.

Coal-fired power plants in the United States produce roughly 140 million tons of coal ash per year, containing toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, selenium and other carcinogenic substances. The waste product is typically stored in wet ponds, nearly 46 percent of which operated without liners to prevent hazardous chemicals from seeping into groundwater, according to 2012 data released by the EPA.

Living within a mile of a wet coal ash storage pond poses a greater health threat than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, raising the risk of cancer to one in 50, an EPA study from 2010 found. Children are particularly at risk of learning disabilities, birth defects, asthma and cancer, with 1.54 million living near such storage sites, according to EPA data cited by the Sierra Club.

“This is the second biggest toxic pollution threat in our country, and we need to clean it up – not make things easier for polluters,” Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans said in a statement. “People living near more than a thousand toxic coal ash sites are at risk. They face contaminated drinking water, toxic dust in the air, and serious health threats just because the EPA is choosing to side with polluters over the public.”

In 2014, the EPA catalogued 158 cases where coal ash compromised water quality, including 22 that involved recycled waste product. And a government study in 2012 estimated that the damage to fish and wildlife at 21 disposal sites came at a cost of more than $2.3 billion, “enough money to construct 155 landfills with state-of-the-art composite liners and leachate collection systems.”

The rule change marks the Trump administration’s latest rollback of clean water regulations  at a time when drinking water contamination crises are proliferating across the country. In February 2017, less than a month after taking office, President Donald Trump signed a bill to allow coal companies to dump waste into streams. In June, the EPA moved to repeal the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule that extended 1972 Clean Water Act protections to roughly 20 million acres of wetlands and streams. The agency formally suspended the rule on Jan. 31.

Scrapping the only federal rules on coal ash presents a major problem  in the face of storms, floods and other extreme weather made more frequent and intense by climate change. When Hurricane Maria made landfall over Puerto Rico last year, flood waters swelled the river in the city of Guayama, wreaking havoc on the city’s 42,000 residents and distributing its five-story-tall tower of coal ash.

Coal ash in particular has long been a hot-button issue in the utility industry. In 2014, Duke Energy, one of the country’s biggest power companies, spilled nearly 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River, causing one of North Carolina’s biggest environmental disasters in its history. In 2016, then Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed a bill that dramatically watered down legislation forcing Duke to clean up its coal ash pits without requiring the company to excavate the waste or provide clean water to residents near the pond. Yet, two years later, the company is still battling environmentalists and regulators in the state as the utility seeks to pass the cleanup costs onto ratepayers in the form of a price hike.

In a separate legal fight over coal ash, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s biggest public utility, last month appealed a federal judge’s order to clean up decades of coal ash environmentalists say poisoned water in the Volunteer State. Eighteen states and an alliance of big corporate interests urged an appeals court to overturn the decision last month.

Gutting the EPA’s rules on coal ash pollution takes some pressure off the utilities, but thrusts the industry back into the sort of “regulatory uncertainty” Pruitt vowed to alleviate. In 2014, before the EPA passed its coal ash rule, the American Coal Ash Association, a trade group, complained about “regulatory uncertainty that has impeded the beneficial use of coal ash for half a decade.”

It’s unclear whether Pruitt’s new rule promotes recycling coal ash for other uses. Coal ash can be used to pave roads, though the environmentalists say even that poses pollution risks. And last year, Purdue University researchers announced new technology to sift rare earth elements ― highly-valued components used in electronics and renewable energy hardware ― out of coal ash waste.

Thomas Adams, executive director of the American Coal Ash Association, said he hopes the next part of the EPA’s announcement will include changing a rule that mandates companies to go through a risk evaluation when stockpiling more than 12,400 tons of coal ash for anything other than road projects. The EPA set the threshold in 2015 based on what Adams called an “arithmetic error” that he argued hurts the market for using coal ash in cement manufacturing or to fill structures such as building foundations. He said he hopes the EPA will raise the limit to 75,000 tons.

“It [the rule] depresses the market,” he told HuffPost by phone.

Thursday’s announcement is part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to end a perceived “war” on coal waged by the Obama administration. Last year, the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group petitioned the EPA to roll back the Obama-era coal ash rule, calling it ”burdensome, inflexible, and often impracticable.” The organization of some 80 utilities warned that regulating coal ash disposal would “result in significant economic and operational impacts to coal-fired power generation,” and could even force power plants to shut down.

The EPA did not respond to a request for comment.

Read more:

Did These Computer Scientists Solve the Cuban Sonic Attack?

A technical report from the University of Michigan offers a stunningly simple theory for the source of the Cuban sonic attack: a pair of eavesdropping devices too close to each other and tripping the ultrasound that ironically was supposed to make their presence quiet.

More importantly, it might not have been done with malicious intent.

It doesnt prove its the cause, Kevin Fu, an associate professor at the University of Michigan and one of the co-authors of the study, cautioned. Its a correlation. But to us, it seems like a strong correlation.

A recap: Last September, the State Department recalled 21 American employees from the U.S. embassy in Havana. These employees, along with three Canadians, reported dizziness, cognitive difficulties, headaches, and hearing loss, among other medical issues, according to an official statement made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The victims of what was being termed a sonic attack reported hearing a high-pitched sound that made them physically ill.

In December, the AP reported that patients showed unprecedented neurological damage, with hearing loss, memory problems, and cognitive issues. This prompted further speculation as to what the sonic terror device was: Some thought it was an advanced Russian tool that was sneaked into the embassy; others thought it was poisoning. A Cuban panel of scientists thought the psychogenesis was brought about by stress.

To add to the confusion, doctors werent sure either what was going on. In a preliminary report published in JAMA, physicians treating the patients could only say a novel mechanism caused the neurological damage. A companion report in JAMA published last month came to no conclusion as to what could possibly be causing the neurological damage patients had suffered.

But in the technical report published from the University of Michigan on Thursday, Fu and his colleagues came up with a totally different, less spy-novella-ish technical mishap, not a sonic attack at all.

In fact, Fu and his co-authors were accidental investigators of the Cuban sonic attacks. Fus daytime job is researching computer security and privacy at the University of Michigan; hes also chief scientist at the health-care security company Virta Labs.

I look at how security can fail, he told The Daily Beast. My laboratory studies how sound waves can cause bizarre malfunctions in computer systems.

About six months ago, the AP released a video of the sound, recorded by a victim at the embassy. (Warning: This sound might be painful to some people.)

Fu and his team were working on a project testing the audibility of ultrasound in another project, but the AP video caught their eye.

At the time, people were talking about ultrasound [being a theory as to what the sound was], Fu said. But it didnt make sense. Ultrasound is inaudible [to humans], and you wouldnt hear it.

So Fu and his co-authors set to work analyzing the five-second blip of sound captured by the APs source. Fu and his co-authors decided to reverse-engineer the ultrasonic signals necessary to generate the high-pitched tone, attempting to craft ultrasound with mathematical properties such that you can choose the audible byproduct.

Thats difficult to parse, but what Fu and his colleagues were trying to figure out were the combination of ultrasonic tones that would not only be able to create something that was discernible to the human ear but would replicate the tinny, high-pitched sound captured by the APs source. They knew it wasnt a single tone, but that there had to be multiple tones that rang together as one. Fus team was positive this was the case, because they looked at the spectral signature, or the variance in the wavelengths the tone was emitting.

What they measured came out to be a 7 kHz tone that can be listened to here: (Warning: This sound might be painful to some listeners.)

Thats 7,000 vibrations a second, Fu said. Its high-pitched, and its a sound that any adult or child can hear.

Fu and his team had figured out how an ultrasound tone could be audible to the human ear. But what could possibly have created that sound?

While ultrasound might make you think of pregnant women, it's in our everyday lives. The common use of ultrasound is for motion detection, Fu said, particularly in industrial settings. Those lights that stay on in office rooms? Theyre usually able to detect movement (much like the detection of a fetus and its minute movements) in energy-efficient structures to keep the lights on only when there is a moving, living, breathing human in it. Sit still long enough and the lights might shut off, mistakenly thinking that no one is in the room. These sensors are also emitting sound, but its at the ultrasound level, in the 32 kHz range, which is normally outside of human earshot.

In an article Fu and one of his co-authors wrote for The Conversation, the authors point to other ways ultrasound can turn up in an industrial setting: museum recordings and security settings that are intended to not bother those outside a setting but respond to those within one; electronic pest repellants that dont affect humans but annoy rodents and/or bugs; noisemakers designed to affect teens with better hearing than adults in the event of a riot.

But what if the ultrasound here got tripped up by an interruptionperhaps a pair of eavesdropping devices whose transmission got tangled over what was supposed to be an inaudible ultrasonic link but instead became audible?

Fu and his colleagues tested this theory by having an eavesdropping device record conversations that were then sent over to a surveillance team via ultrasonic link, which was supposed to be inaudible to the human ear. But Fus group also dropped another otherwise-inaudible ultrasonic device in the vicinity of the first device, creating interferencewhats known as intermodulation distortionthat could lead to the 7 kHz tinny sound the team replicated and identified in the APs sound recording.

It doesnt prove that this is what happened in Cuba, Fu cautioned. But it does show that theres a reasonable probability that its an accident rather than someone causing harm [intentionally].

The technical paper Fu and his co-authors published is groundbreaking in that it offers a viable explanation for what happened to the 24 embassy workers. Its an alternative hypothesis to the sonic-weapon theory, of someone trying to cause harm, Fu said. Its a theory that seems a little more practical in that it could be bad engineering.

It seems like a reasonable hypothesis.

So many parts of the story seemed primed for a Hollywood thriller: that the embassy workers got sick by virtue of a sound, that the sound seemed targeted at certain times, that only some of them were able to hear it while others werent.

Fu said the dual-eavesdropping-device theory could readily explain these oddities. For one, Theres very little consensus on whether airborne ultrasound can cause harm, Fu pointed out, saying some research indicates that the answer is yes, others say no. He also said that because ultrasound isnt usually audible, standards for how loud it can be before it causes harm vary by country. In Canada, for example, the accepted level is 110 dB, the equivalent of putting your head next to a chainsaw, Fu said.

But to Fu, the most interesting part and nuance is that ultrasound can create the audible byproducts and even lower frequencies than can be heard. That can in turn lead to unusual neurological symptomsheadaches, dizziness, disorientation. Sound familiar?

The JAMA study from last month theorized ultrasound was potentially a culprit, noting:

Ultrasound (>20000 Hz)specifically high-intensity focused ultrasoundis known to induce heating and coagulative necrosis of brain tissue. This characteristic has recently been exploited to stereotactically and noninvasively produce focal lesions in the treatment of movement disorders. However, the technical challenges in using ultrasound waves for nonlethal attacks include the rapid absorption of ultrasound by surrounding air and a requirement for close proximity to the source to induce injury.

Christopher Muth and Steven Lewis, JAMA

(The Daily Beast reached out to the authors of the companion JAMA report that described the symptoms the patients faced and the fact that they seemed to suffer neurological damage. The authors declined to comment.)

As for the argument that some people were able to hear the sound but others were not, Fu also provides an explanation of varying auditory capabilities, most likely traceable to the simple demographic factor of age. As we get older, our hearing deteriorates. Fu offered a story of doing an experiment one day while playing a couple ultrasonic tones. A couple students down the way said, Please turn the annoying sound off, he recalled. Fu had no idea what they were saying, until he looked at a device he had on that indicated that soundwaves were being generated at the 15 kHz level. Everyone said they could hear it and it was really annoying, Fu, who is 42 and reported normal age-related hearing loss, said. But I couldnt hear a thing.

Fu and his colleagues submitted the technical report to the Department of State some days ago, but hasnt heard back. He said that while its not probably going to be submitted to a journal because it would be difficult to peer review (the field is tiny and Fu said the experts capable of peer reviewing the report are limited to him and his co-authors, thereby making a peer review moot), the hypothesis makes sense to him.

It just seems like the simplest solution, he said.

Read more:

Demi Lovato Removes All Her Makeup In Video, And The Result Speaks For Itself

For those not in the know, Demi Lovato is a singer, songwriter and actress, known being a prominent champion of positive body image, who also speaks openly and honestly about her own struggles with an eating disorder and mental health.

Adding to her journey of self-acceptance and refreshingly human and positive messages to her fans, Demi has made a video called “Demi Lovato, Unfiltered: A Pop Star Removes Her Makeup,” for Vogue as part of their American Women: Transformers series. Turning the traditional makeover on its head, Demi instead gets a makeunder, as she slowly strips away her makeup to reveal the beauty underneath.

“I think society tells us we need makeovers, but why can’t we embrace the beauty that we naturally have?” She told Vogue. However, that’s not to say that she doesn’t enjoy the glamor which comes as part of her job. “I love makeup. I love doing my hair; I have extensions, but there’s a time and a place for everything, and natural beauty needs to be celebrated.”

You could argue that for a young, beautiful millionaire, going natch and looking great with it comes quite a bit easier than it does for the average woman. Some commenters certainly didn’t buy it. For others however, she remains one of the few celebrities that people can really relate to as they follow her ups and downs on social media, where she strips bare her insecurities and urges her fans to embrace themselves as they are.

Scroll down to see Demi go from glam diva to girl-next-door, and completely own her bare beauty in the video below. Don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments!

Singer, songwriter and actress Demi Lovato just filmed a short clip for Vogue

But this time instead of the full makeup that she usually comes with…

And a team of makeup artists helping her out…

To achieve results like this

…she did it all in reverse

After starting with full makeup, she sat in front of the camera and started to remove it

Here’s the clip itself

Some didn’t buy it though

But others loved it

Read more:

Under Fire and Losing Trust, Facebook Plays the Victim

On Tuesday morning, Facebook employees were quiet even for Facebook employees, buried in the news on their phones as they shuffled to a meeting in one of the largest cafeterias at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Mark Zuckerberg, their chief executive officer, had always told them Facebook Inc.’s growth was good for the world. Sheryl Sandberg, their chief operating officer, had preached the importance of openness. Neither appeared in the cafeteria on Tuesday. Instead, the company sent a lawyer.

The context: Reports in the  and thethe previous weekend that Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm that advised President Trump’s electoral campaign on digital advertising, had effectively stolen personal information from at least 50 million Americans. The data had come from Facebook, which had allowed an outside developer to take it before that developer shared it with Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook tried to get ahead of the story, announcing in a blog post that it was suspending the right-leaning consultancy and that it no longer allowed this kind of data sharing. Its users—a cohort that includes 2 billion or so people—weren’t ready to forgive. The phrase #DeleteFacebook flooded social media. (Among the outraged was WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, who in 2014 sold Facebook his messaging app for $19 billion.) Regulators in the U.S. and Europe announced they were opening inquiries. The company’s stock fell almost 9 percent from March 19-20, erasing about $50 billion of value.

QuicktakeFacebook and Cambridge Analytica

In most moments of crisis for the company, Zuckerberg or Sandberg have typically played damage-controller-in-chief. This time, the employees got all of 30 minutes with Paul Grewal, the deputy general counsel. the news reports were true—a blame-deflecting phrase that struck some as odd—Grewal told them, Facebook had been lied to. Cambridge Analytica should have deleted the outside developer’s data, but it didn’t. Reporters were calling this a breach, but it wasn’t, because users freely signed away their own data and that of their friends. The rules were clear, and Facebook followed them.

One employee asked the same question twice: Even if Facebook played by its own rules, and the developer followed policies at the time, did the company ever consider the ethics of what it was doing with user data? Grewal didn’t answer directly.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment for this story, referring to a January post by Zuckerberg stating the CEO’s aim to get the company on a “better trajectory.” On Wednesday afternoon, Zuckerberg published a post promising to audit and restrict developer access to user data. “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you,” he wrote. “I've been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn't happen again.”

Read more: Silicon Valley Has Failed to Protect Our Data. Here’s How to Fix It

Of course, Facebook has weathered complaints about violating user privacy since its earliest days without radically altering its practices. The first revolt came in 2006, when users protested that the service’s news feed was making public information that the users had intended to keep private. The news feed is now the company’s core service. In 2009, Facebook began making users’ posts, which had previously been private, public by default. That incident triggered anger, confusion, an investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and, ultimately, a consent decree. In 2014, the company disclosed that it had tried to manipulate users’ emotions as part of an internal psychology experiment.

As bad as each of these may have seemed, Facebook users have generally been unfazed. They’ve used the service in ever-greater numbers for greater amounts of time, in effect trading privacy for product. They were willing to give more and more data to Facebook in exchange for the ability to connect with old high school friends, see pictures of their grandkids, read only the news that they agree with. The concept was dubbed Zuckerberg’s Law in 2008, when the CEO argued at a conference that each year people would share twice as much information about themselves as they had the year before. Notions of privacy were eroding, Zuckerberg said in 2010. “That social norm,” he added, “is just something that has evolved over time.”

For a while, the only thing Facebook needed to do to keep growing was to remove barriers to downloading and using the product. By 2014, it had reached almost half the world’s internet-connected population, and Zuckerberg realized the only way to expand further was to add people to the internet. While Facebook invested in internet subsidy programs in developing countries, it also went on an acquisition binge, buying up popular social software makers such as Instagram and WhatsApp.

These moves led to annual revenue growth of about 50 percent, with most of the increase coming from mobile ads, and converted the company’s Wall Street doubters. Last year, even as Facebook was forced to acknowledge that it had played a role in the Russian disinformation campaign during the election of Trump, investors pushed its stock price up 53 percent.

But the big blue app, as employees call Facebook’s namesake service, hasn’t changed much in years. The company has tweaked its algorithm, at times favoring or punishing clickbait-style news and viral videos, but most people use the service the same way they did two or three years ago. And some people are simply over it. In North America, Facebook’s daily user counts fell for the first time in the fourth quarter, and time spent on the site declined by 50 million hours a day. Facebook claimed that this was by design: Zuckerberg was focusing on helping users achieve “time well-spent,” with the news feed de-emphasizing viral flotsam.

The company positioned its new algorithmic initiative as a reaction to a study co-authored by one of its employees, arguing that while Facebook could be bad for users' mental health if they used it passively, more active use was actually good for you. The study could be viewed as a rare show of corporate transparency or a novel way to goose engagement.

Some of the moves, however, look even more desperate. Now, when people stop going on Facebook as often as usual, the company sends them frequent emails and text messages to encourage them to re-engage. It’s also getting more aggressive about suggesting what users should post.  According to some employees, the focus on time well-spent just means the company will point to metrics such as comments and personal updates as signs of growth, rather than genuinely improving the user experience.

In the long run, Facebook wants to make its product even more immersive and personal than it is now. It wants people to buy video chatting and personal assistant devices for their homes, and plans to announce those products this spring, say people familiar with the matter. It wants users to dive into Facebook-developed virtual worlds. It wants them to use Facebook Messenger to communicate with businesses, and to store their credit-card data on the app so they can use it to make payments to friends.

Employees have begun to worry that the company won’t be able to achieve its biggest goals if users decide that Facebook isn’t trustworthy enough to hold their data. At the meeting on Tuesday, the mood was especially grim. One employee told a reporter that the only time he’d felt as uncomfortable at work, or as responsible for the world’s problems, was the day Donald Trump won the presidency.

BOTTOM LINE – As its share price tanks and regulators circle, Facebook is struggling to answer basic questions about its next moves, even from its own employees.

Read more:

Mindfulness Is Going Mainstream Because of Science

In a pristine office with huge windows overlooking midtown Manhattan, just steps away from the hustle and bustle of Penn Station, the transcendental meditation teacher Bob Roth sits not in flowing garb, but the blazer/pants combination that wouldn't put him out of place on the streets of New York. Roth often invokes his choice of attire as the reason why he is able to convince skeptics that meditation isn't "make believe woohoo."

"Look, I'm not a do-gooder type," the CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, which helps to teach mindfulness and meditation to prisons and low-income schools, told The Daily Beast. "How much do I have to believe in gravity to know it works? My memory was better, my sleep was better, and I was less uneased [after transcendental meditation]. It works."

Across the nation, mindfulness and meditation are becoming increasingly part of daily routines and less associated with alternative culture. Everyone from corporate executives looking to wring out every last ounce of productivity in a day to the mom in the park with her kids is exalting meditation and its supposed mental and physical benefits.

But does it work?

We don't quite know, because mindfulness and meditation haven't been studied for as long as diseases, for example, or other exercise techniques. The most difficult part of studying mindfulness (the practice of focusing on the present; meditation is the instrument by which that mindfulness can be achieved, perhaps by focusing on slow, methodical breaths or thinking of a single concept) is that it's nearly impossible to measure how a person has gotten calmer, more focused, and more compassionate with breathing exercises. How do you measure feeling more in the moment?

The fuzziness of the science hasn't stopped mindfulness and meditation from becoming more mainstream. Last month, Roth released a book, Strength in Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation, that includes glowing notes from celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Russell Brand about how Roth (referred to as "Meditation Bob") has offered them a simple way towards clarity and focus. (Disclaimer: Roth is the meditation teacher of The Daily Beast's editor-in-chief, John Avlon). Roth said he's seen an uptick in clients because of what he termed "the epidemic of stress." "You can't get away from anything," he noted. "You go to a medicine cabinet and reach for Xanax, Adderall, whatever. But there is no magic pill with no side effects that can make you feel less stress."

What makes mindfulness especially appealing to some is the idea that it is this magic pill, that a combination of a few spare moments, deep breathing, and perhaps a mantra, one can achieve a sense of calm no pharmaceutical company can duplicate.

If you meditate, you're less of an asshole. But it's hard to prove that with science.
Dan Harris

Which makes the skepticism of mindfulness so rampant, so vigorous, and so good for science. Mindfulness, after all, can take various forms: Some have argued for mindfulness while washing dishes, noting every determined scrub to wash away grease and crumbs; others recommend waking up and sitting in bed and simply noticing how the body feels. That it doesn't necessarily have a formalized method and seems to over-promise on a basic premise of feeling calmer, more rejuvenated, and sharper by simply breathing can certainly seem like an insane proposition.

But that very insane proposition has a growing legion of devotees who are pointing to the emerging young neuroscience as a reason why it works. Dan Harris, an anchor at ABC News, has literally written the book for skeptics who don't quite believe that this mindfulness stuff works. His most recent book, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, follows the more lengthily titled 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually WorksA True Story. He also hosts a popular podcast produced by ABC, 10% Happier, where he talks weekly to celebrities and normal people alike who practice mindfulness.

But Harris wasn't always a fan of mindfulness, and in fact, he wouldn't have even considered what he thought of as "complete hippie nonsense" had it not been for an on-air panic attack in 2004.

"I assumed I didn't have the attention span," he told The Daily Beast. But after his panic attack, Harris was desperate to change and address not only his anxiety but what he later admitted to be probably induced by drug use, including cocaine and ecstasy, habits he'd picked up to deal with depression after reporting tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, and Palestine.

Harris turned to mindfulness and meditation after reading a book by spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle and wanting to control what he frequently referred to as "the zoo inside your head." He dove in, researching and practicing, and found that the emerging science of mindfulness "comforted" him into easing intothen embracingmindfulness. "Science is the lingua franca of our culture," he said. "And it shows that our brains change from meditation. It's exercise for the brain."

But is it?

The Emerging Neuroscience of Mindfulness

In short, the science of mindfulness is burgeoning, but promising. Studies have been small and focused on measuring brain activity through fMRI machines, but they've shown fundamental changes in brain architecture that prove slowing down can actually heighten our mind's awareness and response rates.

Richard Davidson, a psychologist at the University of WisconsinMadison and founder of the university's Center for Healthy Minds, has pioneered this research, and worked to make the neuroscience of mindfulness one that is taken seriously. Part of the reason why it's taken so long for mindfulness to be studied seriously is simply that we've been waiting for technology to catch up. "Over the past ten or 12 years, there has been a vibrant interest in sectors of the neuroscience community in studying the impact of meditation, and we now have tools [to do so]," he told The Daily Beast. "We can look at brain structure and function and study people repeatedly over time to see how practicing mindfulness and meditation impact the brain and change behavior and experience."

Davidson said the field has also become more complex and scientifically sound due to its dual nature: basic and translational research, relying on not only the technical neurological reports that inform what exactly is happening in the brain but also field insights and self-reported surveys from participants. That combination of hard science and personal reporting has overwhelmingly shown that mindfulness is beneficial intellectually and emotionally.

For example, in 2013, Davidson and a research team had 49 volunteers practice mindfulness over eight weeks. Before and after the training, the researchers induced psychological stress with a test and inflammation on the forearm with capsaicin cream, taking immune and endocrine measurements to see how their body reacted with and without mindfulness training. At the end of the eight weeks, Davidson and his team found that despite equivalent levels of stress hormones induced, the group that underwent mindfulness training had a "significantly smaller post-stress inflammatory response." "These results suggest behavioral interventions designed to reduce emotional reactivity may be of therapeutic benefit in chronic inflammatory conditions." The idea of mind over matter might seem like wishful thinking but Davidson's research in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity showed that there was a substantive health benefit to being able to channel thoughts in a productive, aware manner.

Davidson's studieshe's co-authored nearly 30 studies on the topic over his career, and countingaren't the only ones on mindfulness and how they seem to have some effect on how the brain works, perhaps priming it to work better. But there's also a lot of research that can't seem to make a case either way for mindfulness. A 2014 meta-analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine of 47 trials and more than 3,500 people came to frustratingly no conclusions about mindfulness on a variety of health indicator:

We found low evidence of no effect or insufficient evidence of any effect of meditation programs on positive mood, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, and weight. We found no evidence that meditation programs were better than any active treatment (ie, drugs, exercise, and other behavioral therapies).

Goyal, Singh, and Sibinga, 'JAMA Internal Medicine'

Harris remains a skeptic about the science of mindfulness despite the fact that he practiced it regularly, and said he continued to read the most recent research as much as possible. "The science [of mindfulness] is in its early stages," he said. "It's been sometimes hyped in an unconstructive way, and there's been an appropriate backlash against the hyping." Davidson agreed with this sentiment, saying that media reports of meditation often spoke highly of how it offer tantalizing health benefits like compassion and stress reductioncharacteristics that researchers certainly want to study and are attempting to understand, but are far more difficult to measure than changes in brain chemistry. As Harris noted, "If you meditate, you're less of an asshole. But it's hard to prove that with science."

Harris doesn't have a scientific background, but both he and Davidson brought up the fact that while mindfulness has been marketed as a "natural" alternative to antidepressants, it's important to work with a physician, psychiatrist, and/or therapist about depression and anxiety and what a person's individual best course of action is. Davidson noted that meditation can certainly help but shouldn't be seen as an end-all cure. Harris also remarked that his own personal experience that it's important to not vault mindfulness and meditation as a magical cure, especially in the beginning when it's difficult to do. "Meditation is not going to solve all your problems."

One of the biggest problems of the study of mindfulness as a field is the fact that there isn't a uniform way by which people can describe mindfulness and meditation. There are many practicesfrom transcendental to more rudimentary "focus and breathe" practicesof varying intensities, practiced by a wide demographic of people. "Just like sports is a word that refers to many practices, so too it is with meditation; different kinds of meditation changes the brain in different ways," Davidson said.

The tiny community of scientists who are attempting to understand how mindfulness affects the brain have had to be creative in their study design to make their experiments rigorous, believable, and above all, replicable. Davidson described his study design as one that is similar to drug studies: "One group is meditating, the other is doing something to improve wellbeing but not meditating," he said. "We ask whether meditating caused these changes in the brain and in health. We have to make sure they're not simply correlates. Using rigorous randomized trials, we can definitely ascertain that meditation is causing these changes and is not ancillary."

That, in a nutshell, is the challenge scientists are grappling withbeing able to prove that practicing attention and self-reflection in a very specific way can change the brain in measurable ways. Proving this used to be impossible, but in an age where magnetic resonance machines are widely available to peer into the brain's electrical activity and where medical measurement of indicators is better than ever before, there's reason to believe that we are incredibly close to proving how mindfulness can alter the architecture of the mindor not.

It's a profound act of rebellion. It's not raging against the machine; it's pausing against the machine.
Kelly Carlin

Indeed, Davidson and others have found positive effects to the brain from mindfulness, though even Davidson admitted that the scientific study of meditation and mindfulness are in its infant stages. Another meta-analysis, this time in Brain and Cognition in October 2016, found that even eight weeks of mindfulness practice is as effective in bringing long-term structural changes in brain architecture: "Demonstrable functional and structural changes in the prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex, insula and hippocampus are similar to changes described in studies on traditional meditation practice," the study authors conclude.

Indeed, Davidson's work has noticed similar structural changes in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus areas. The prefrontal cortex processes complex social behavior and decisionmaking and is instrumental in developing our personality and reactions to situations we're faced with. The hippocampus is a co-worker in this regard, lying on each side of the brain and acting as the crux of emotion, memory, and neurological activity. Together, the two may be affected by mindfulness's focus and attention, a universal similarity across practices that scientists have only recently been able to track.

"One of the opportunities we have today is to track plasticity in both the brain and the body with unprecedented precision," Davidson said. "These can change very dynamically even after just a couple hours of training; you can see structural changes occurring.

"It's wild, we didn't think it could happen that quickly."

Davidson said that future work will have to hone in on tracking exactly when and how these changes occur, and whether the genome, which constitutes our DNA and is instrumental in determining the plasticity of the brain, can be regulatedhuge, because if mindfulness and meditation can turn on or off genetic expression, it can fundamentally change not only our health but our aging and immune processes at a micro level without the need for invasive technology or medication.

That science, however blurry, seems to suggest that at the very least, mindfulness needs to be investigated more to come up with both a clearer idea of exactly what's going on in the caverns of the brain when we stop, breathe, and focus.

The fact that science supports this has moved the mindfulness movement from the sphere of insanity to potential life hack. And with the boost of science, it's become much more accepted.

Meditation Goes Mainstream

Davidson, the prominent neuroscientist who has studied mindfulness, has been meditating and actively practicing mindfulness for 40 years, and said that the practice has been key to not only helping him work but also inform his research. "Yes, I find tremendous benefit," he said. "I lead a very active and busy life. I have 100 people working and living in a competitive environment. It helps me enormously."

Davidson's busy schedule is a striking theme found among proponents of meditation and mindfulness: Almost every single person who spoke about their experience in mindfulness pointed to it being a reaction to and helpful aid in their busy schedules. And everyone blamed technology and social media as one of the driving reasons why they looked to mindfulness as not an escape, but a way to deal with modern life.

Kelly Carlin (the daughter of comedian George) is a meditation teacher that said that certainly grief of losing her mother more than 20 years ago made her turn to mindfulness as a way to try to make sense of the world. She went to a Vietnamese zen master and almost immediately saw the benefits. "When you do a behavior in your life, there are consequences," she said. "You're more calmer, you're more centered, you're better able to handle stress." Carlin said that in the past, she'd had panic disorders, anxiety, and depression, but her practice has helped ease those conditions. And her personal experience backs up the brain restructuring that Davidson found in his research: She reported feeling "less reactive, with more time and space to be less judgmental about the thing that's happening and choosing your response then."

The very thing that broke the camel's back and made Carlin think about teaching meditation and mindfulness in the first place was feeling "on" all the time. "The first thing that mindfulness teaches is to stop and pause," she said, regardless of discipline. "That is the exact opposite of what we do at work and our lives. Mindfulness rewires your brain, it does not need to be in full chatter mode or brewing over the past.

"It's a profound act of rebellion," she added. "It's not raging against the machine; it's pausing against the machine."

Harris, for his part, has a far simpler means by which he knows meditation and mindfulness is working for him, and while the emerging science of it certainly helped buy him into the practice, it's not the structural changes in his brain that he's staying on for. "Are you less of an asshole?" he said. "All you have to do is ask your spouse or other people. We might start meditating because we think our prefrontal cortex will change, but we keep meditating because we're less of an asshole to ourselves and others. Our inner weather is balmier, and that's not scientific, but that's okay."

What Harris put so simply"Are you less of an asshole?"is perhaps the underlying, unspoken benchmark for why more people are becoming fans of mindfulness and meditation, and what makes it increasingly appealing to people who aren't necessarily "alternative." Roth said his clientele includes Hollywood celebrities, but also includes "normal" peopleteachers, parents, corporate executives. He pointed to his blazer and jeans more than once and said, "I'm not what you'd imagine a meditation teacher to be!" What made Roth, Harris, Carlin, and millions of others more interested in mindfulness hasn't been made measurable yet, but they're okay with it.

Davidson, for his part, thinks the adoption of mindfulness as part of a daily routine is going to go from roll-your-eyes-at-the-health-nut to accepted, unquestioned behavior, the way a person won't budge heads for changing into shorts and going out for a jog. He said that history was a good indicator of this. "The percentage of the population that engaged in physical exercise was much smaller than it is today [decades ago]," he pointed out before making a . "People exercise because scientific research shows benefits. We will see a day when mental exercise will be commonly practiced as today, as personal mental hygiene."

That day could be very soon.

Read more:

Viagra Could Significantly Cut The Risk Of Colorectal Cancer

If Viagra and butts make you giggle, then find yourself a quiet place to read this article: We’re about to talk about both. Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University say a small, daily dose of the little blue pill may reduce one’s risk of colorectal cancer, which, believe it or not, is the third leading cause of cancer death in the US.

Don’t go running to the pharmacy just yet: This study was done on mice genetically predetermined to have colorectal cancer. Nonetheless, researchers say with clinical testing, it could have the potential to prevent colorectal cancer.  

Sold as the brand name Viagra, sildenafil works by inhibiting the enzyme phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) to relax the muscle cells around blood vessels, allowing them to more easily fill with blood. It’s true that heightened blood flow is mostly associated with the bedroom, but sildenafil is also known to help treat a number of ailments outside of the pants, including pulmonary hypertension, altitude sickness, Raynaud’s phenomenon, sexual issues associated with antidepressants, and even in treatments for premature infants with severe respiratory failure.

Colorectal cancer usually begins as an abnormal clump of cells, called a “polyp”, found on the intestinal lining. These little masses can become cancerous, and are often without symptoms. By placing Viagra in the drinking water of mice that had colitis (an inflammation of the colon and a risk factor for colorectal cancer), researchers found that the drug can cut the formation of polyps in half. PDE5 works by breaking down cyclic GMP, a chemical known to affect the intestinal lining, so there is more of it to go around.

“Giving a baby dose of Viagra can reduce the amount of tumors in these animals by half,” said Dr Darren Browning, cancer researcher, in a statement

But just how it works, the researchers aren’t sure. What they do know is that increased cyclic GMP appears to suppress some of the excessive cell proliferation in the gut and causes an increase in normal cell differentiation – the process whereby a cell changes from one type to another. It also naturally kills off harmful cells, a process called apoptosis. Treatment didn’t remove existing polyps and researchers say targeting cyclic GMP could be a good prevention strategy in high-risk patients.

The prescription drug linaclotide, which is used to treat constipation and irritable bowel syndrome, had similar effects to Viagra, but comes with diarrhea. Browning says it would probably make treatment intolerable for patients. 

The study was published in Cancer Prevention Research

Read more:

Visionary physicist Stephen Hawking dies

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionLooking back the life of Stephen Hawking

World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76.

He died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday, his family said.

The British scientist was famed for his work with black holes and relativity, and wrote several popular science books including A Brief History of Time.

At the age of 22 Prof Hawking was given only a few years to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease.

The illness left him in a wheelchair and largely unable to speak except through a voice synthesiser.

In a statement his children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, said: “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today.

“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.”

They praised his “courage and persistence” and said his “brilliance and humour” inspired people across the world.

“He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”

A book of condolence is due to be opened at Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge, where Prof Hawking was a fellow.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionProfessor Brian Cox on the legacy and wonder of Hawking’s work

Prof Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology as a union of relativity and quantum mechanics.

He also discovered that black holes leak energy and fade to nothing – a phenomenon that would later become known as Hawking radiation.

Through his work with mathematician Sir Roger Penrose he demonstrated that Einstein’s general theory of relativity implies space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes.

The scientist gained popularity outside the academic world and appeared in several TV shows including The Simpsons, Red Dwarf and The Big Bang Theory.

He was portrayed in both TV and film – recently by Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, which charted his rise to fame and relationship with his first wife, Jane.

The actor paid tribute to him, saying: “We have lost a truly beautiful mind, an astonishing scientist and the funniest man I have ever had the pleasure to meet.”

Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Prof Hawking in a BBC drama, said he was “a true inspiration for me and for millions around the world”.

Image copyright BBC/PA
Image caption Stephen Hawking was portrayed on TV and film by Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne

His most famous book – A Brief History of Time – has now shot to the top of the Amazon Best Sellers list.

The Motor Neurone Disease Association, of which Prof Hawking had been a patron since 2008, reported that its website had crashed because of an influx of donations to the charity.

Factfile: Stephen Hawking

  • Born 8 January 1942 in Oxford, England
  • Earned place at Oxford University to read natural science in 1959, before studying for his PhD at Cambridge
  • By 1963, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given two years to live
  • Outlined his theory that black holes emit “Hawking radiation” in 1974
  • In 1979, he became the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the Cambridge – a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton
  • Published his book A Brief History of Time in 1988, which has sold more than 10 million copies
  • In the late 1990s, he was reportedly offered a knighthood, but 10 years later revealed he had turned it down over issues with the government’s funding for science

Tributes have poured in for Prof Hawking since the announcement of his death.

Prof Lord Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, who was at university with Prof Hawking when he was diagnosed, said his friend had “amazing willpower and determination”.

Prime Minister Theresa May called him a “brilliant and extraordinary mind” and “one of the great scientists of his generation”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn praised the scientist for his “determination to explain the mysteries of the cosmos” and his “burning passion to protect our National Health Service.”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web, said: “We have lost a colossal mind and a wonderful spirit. Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking,” he said.

The vice chancellor of the University of Cambridge – where Prof Hawking had studied and worked – Professor Stephen Toope, said he was a “unique individual” who would be remembered with “warmth and affection”.

Prof James Hartle, who worked with him to create the Hartle-Hawking wavefunction to explain the Big Bang, said Prof Hawking had a “unique” ability to “see through all the clutter in physics” and get to the point.

He told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “My memory of him would be… first our work together as scientists and, second, as a human being whose whole story is a triumph over adversity [and] who inspired a lot of people, including me.”

The comedian and presenter of the BBC’s Stargazing Live Dara O’Briain said the scientist had an “immeasurable life” and “one of the few people I would call a hero of mine”.

Theoretical physicist, professor Jim Al-Khalili, from Surrey University said Prof Hawking had a tremendous sense of humour.

He told BBC Radio Surrey: “He was a fun loving guy. Inside that shell, inside that body that was paralysed, was someone who was full of vigour, full of passion for life.”

Hawking’s discoveries

  • With the Oxford mathematician Roger Penrose, he showed that if there was a Big Bang, it must have started from an infinitely small point – a singularity
  • Black holes radiate energy known as Hawking radiation, while gradually losing mass. This is due to quantum effects near the edge of the black hole, a region called the event horizon
  • He predicted the existence of mini-black holes at the time of the Big Bang. These black holes would have shed mass until they vanished, potentially ending their lives in an explosion that would release vast amounts of energy
  • In the 1970s, Hawking considered whether the particles and light that enter a black hole were ultimately destroyed if the black hole evaporated. Hawking initially thought that this “information” was lost from the Universe. But the US physicist Leonard Susskind disagreed. These ideas became known as the information paradox. In 2004, Hawking conceded that the information must be conserved

British astronaut Tim Peake said Prof Hawking “inspired generations to look beyond our own blue planet and expand our understanding of the universe”.

Gian Giudice, head of theoretical physics at the European nuclear research laboratory CERN, said Prof Hawking had a “great impact” on the centre’s research, adding: “A giant of our field has left us, but his immortal contributions will remain forever.”

Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak said: “Stephen Hawking’s integrity and scientific dedication placed him above pure brilliance,”

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Stephen Hawking arrives on the red carpet with former wife Jane Hawking (L) and daughter Lucy Hawking (R).

In his 2013 memoir he described how he felt when first diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

“I felt it was very unfair – why should this happen to me,” he wrote.

“At the time, I thought my life was over and that I would never realise the potential I felt I had. But now, 50 years later, I can be quietly satisfied with my life.”

Speaking to the BBC in 2002, his mother, Isobelle, described him as a “very normal young man”.

She said: “He liked parties. He liked pretty girls – only pretty ones. He liked adventure and he did, to some extent, like work.”

Did you ever meet Stephen Hawking? Share your memories of him by emailing

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

Or use the form below

Read more:

Trump Issues Broad Ban on Transgender People in the Military

Trump Issues Broad Ban on Transgender People in the Military

Updated on

  • Move sparks immediate outrage from advocacy groups, Democrats
  • At least four lawsuits have been filed to overturn the ban

President Donald Trump moved to ban transgender people from the U.S. military in most circumstances, the latest in a series of actions that have met resistance from courts though may resonate with his most ardent supporters as midterm elections approach.

Trump’s statement was immediately denounced by civil-liberties groups and Democratic leaders. It capped a week in which the president followed through with his campaign pledge to impose sweeping tariffs on Chinese imports, and ousted his national security adviser, who was seen as a moderating influence, in favor of John Bolton, a hero of the right.

Trump said in the statement late Friday that the new policy would bar those with gender dysphoria. The term describes transgender persons uncomfortable with their biological sex, resulting in significant distress or difficulty functioning, according to a Feb. 22 memo to the president from Defense Secretary James Mattis. Persons with gender dysphoria "may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery," Trump said in his statement.

“Transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition are disqualified from military service,” according to the Mattis memo.

‘Nuanced’ Exceptions

The plan is less broad than a ban the president proposed in July that touched off a legal confrontation and reignited a cultural debate that has already seen fierce disagreements and campaigns in some states to require that students use school restrooms corresponding to their gender at birth.

The administration Friday asked a federal court in Maryland to lift its order against Trump’s prior transgender policy, saying that “far from a categorical ban,” the new rules would turn on gender dysphoria and contain “nuanced” exceptions allowing some transgender individuals to serve. The administration asked for a ruling from U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis in Baltimore by May 23.

In announcing the earlier ban with a flurry of tweets in July, Trump cited threats to troop readiness and morale, as well as costs associated with medical services as reasons to reverse President Barack Obama’s policy allowing transgender people to join the armed forces.

In August, Trump followed with a directive to the military to reject openly transgender people as new recruits, and for Mattis to decide how to handle transgender personnel already serving in the armed forces.

Mattis Memorandum

In the Feb. 22 memo, Mattis said “there are substantial risks” to allowing service by those with gender dysphoria, and their inclusion could “impose an unreasonable burden on the military that is not conducive to military effectiveness and lethality.” The document outlined “limited circumstances” permitting service by transgender persons with gender dysphoria.

Opponents, some of whom had been fighting the administration in court, were quick to responded to Trump’s latest move.

“The policy effectively coerces transgender people who wish to serve into choosing between their humanity and their country," Joshua Block, a senior staff lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project, said in a statement.

Aaron Belkin, the director of the the Palm Center, a California-based institute that researches the military service of sexual minorities, said there was "no evidence to support a policy that bars from military service patriotic Americans who are medically fit and able to deploy."

Pelosi Responds

“Cowardly, disgusting,” is how Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat and the House minority leader, described the ban in a statement. “No one with the strength and bravery to serve in the U.S. military should be turned away because of who they are."

In the 2016 campaign, Trump actively sought the support of socially conservative groups, some of whom supported the bathroom access restrictions, while also promising to “fight for” the gay and transgender community.

Gregory T. Angelo — president of Log Cabin Republicans, a group that advocates for equal rights for the LGBT community — said in a statement that the policy appeared to allow "continued open service of current transgender soldiers," tantamount to an admission by the Pentagon that "there is ultimately no difficulty with the status quo" and that the policy is reverse engineered and may succeed only in "stoking culture wars."

More Challenges

Civil-rights advocates said while some transgender service members might be permitted to continue to serve under the announced policy, the exceptions seemed unclear and the policy was likely to foster a hostile climate for those who do wish to remain in the military. They said they would continue to fight the policy in the courts.

At least four lawsuits have been filed seeking to overturn the ban, and several courts issued preliminary injunctions while the cases proceed. In November, Garbis, the federal judge in Baltimore, called the president’s tweets announcing the change in policy “capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified.”

And last week, a federal judge in Washington said that the Trump administration had failed to identify evidence it might use to defend the policy. That judge, Marsha Pechman, criticized the administration’s earlier claims that no such information could be identified because the policy was not in effect.

Care related to gender reassignment costs the Pentagon $2.4 million to $8.4 million annually, the larger number a little more than 0.1 percent of the military’s entire health-care bill, according to a 2016 Rand Corporation study. By contrast, the military spent $84 million on Viagra and other drugs for erectile dysfunction for active-duty troops, eligible family members and retirees in 2014 alone, the Military Times reported.

Read more:

Buying Viagra: What you should know

Image copyright Getty Images

Men can now buy the impotence pill Viagra Connect without a prescription at some UK pharmacies.

Health experts hope it will mean more men get help for erectile dysfunction – a condition thought to affect up to one in five adult men, 4.3 million in the UK.

Like any medication though, the drug can cause side-effects and should not be misused or abused.

What should men consider before buying and trying the little blue pills?

Who can have it?

Viagra Connect is only for men who have impotence.

No-one under the age of 18 can buy it, although women might be able to buy it on behalf of their partner if the pharmacist is satisfied it is appropriate to dispense it.

And it will not be sold to men who are not medically fit enough to have sex. This includes men with severe heart or blood vessel problems.

As a rule of thumb, men who become very breathless or experience chest pain when doing light exercise, such as climbing two flights of stairs, should not take these pills.

Can it be bought off the shelf?

No. You will need to ask the pharmacist for it, who will then check it is safe for you to take.

A packet of four pills will cost £19.99.

Do men wanting to buy have to talk to someone and be examined?

You can ask at the pharmacy counter for a quiet word or to have a conversation in a private room if they prefer – most pharmacies now have private consultation facilities.

The pharmacist will ask about symptoms, general health, and any other medications you might be taking. They should not ask personal questions about your sex life or sexual preferences.

You should not need a physical examination.

Will it work?

In many cases yes, but it is not effective for everyone.

The drug relaxes the blood vessels in the penis to help blood flow and will help achieve an erection in response to sexual stimulation.

It can be taken with or without food, although it may take a little longer to start working if you have just had a big meal.

You should take it about an hour before you plan to have sex.

Do not take it with grapefruit or grapefruit juice, because this can affect how the medicine works.

And do not take more than one 50mg tablet per day.

If it has been some time since you were able to get or keep an erection, it may take a couple of attempts before you are able to achieve one.

Drinking lots of alcohol can also make it more difficult to get an erection.

What if it is too strong?

Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you think it is too strong – the drug’s effects last too long or are too powerful.

Prolonged and sometimes painful erections lasting longer than four hours have been occasionally reported by men taking the drug.

Although unlikely, if this does happen, seek immediate medical assistance.

What other side-effects might there be?

Very common (may affect more than one in 10 people):

  • headache

Common (may affect up to one in 10):

  • dizziness
  • colour tinge to vision or blurred vision – some people start seeing a blue hue
  • hot flushes
  • blocked nose
  • nausea

Stop taking the pills and seek immediate medical attention if you have a serious side-effect such as:

  • chest pain
  • sudden decrease or loss of vision
  • an allergic reaction (eg difficulty breathing, wheeze and swelling of the lips, eyelids or face)
  • a seizure or fit

Drug clashes

People on nitrate pills for angina should not take Viagra Connect. That also goes for people taking recreational poppers (amyl nitrite).

There is also a clash with a medicine called riociguat and an HIV medication called ritonavir.

Make sure you tell the pharmacists about any treatments you are taking so they can check it will be safe for you to also have Viagra Connect.

Pharmacists should advise men to book a follow-up appointment with their doctor within six months of starting on Viagra Connect because erectile dysfunction can sometimes be a sign of other underlying conditions, including heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Can I get it anywhere else?

GPs can prescribe it. And some pharmacies will be selling it online, after a virtual consultation.

Always check that the seller is reputable. Drugs from unregulated sellers may be fake, ineffective and unsafe.

Related Topics

Read more:

I’m mentally ill and I will not be your mass shooting scapegoat.

In the wake of yet another act of domestic terrorism, Donald Trump’s proposed solution was not gun control, but “tackling the difficult issue of mental health.”

He tweeted, “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior.”

I am not quoting this out of context. That was the clear angle of his comments on the matter — that this was an issue of one mentally ill individual, not cause for large-scale gun reform. It was a marked difference from his reactions to acts of terrorism committed by a brown Muslim man, wherein he called for immediate legislative action.

But that’s what mental illness is: the ultimate conversation killer.

Nothing makes people uncomfortable like the idea that the human brain is as vulnerable and fallible an organ as any other.

That’s why we like to make it sound like an anomaly — one that makes you immediately, inherently bad. We are attached to the idea that to have a flawed brain is to have a flawed character, mostly because it takes the work out of examining and interrogating our bad behavior. People who do bad things do them because they are crazy, we reason, not because they are people. The adversary is not our own flawed norms, but rather an individual outsider whose crimes are of an external origin.

According to Trump, the Parkland shooting didn’t happen because it’s ridiculously easy to obtain an unconscionable range of lethal weaponry in this country. It’s not because we’ve fostered a culture where men feel powerful and entitled enough to exact violent revenge on others who have “wronged” them.

No, it’s because the dude was “crazy.” Nothing to see here! Just another “deranged individual” who couldn’t possibly have been acting with a shred of his reality intact. We don’t share our reality with people like that, and theirs has nothing to do with ours — so the only problem, really, is that those kinds of people exist in the first place.

Society clings to the delusional idea that there is evil lurking in a brain merely because it is a brain that is different.

We’ve been vilifying mental illness for as long as we’ve been telling stories with villains in them. Where do all the bad guys in “Batman” go when they’re caught? An asylum. The Joker was deemed insane, and poor Two Face was the smart and sensible Harvey Dent before injury and trauma rendered him “deranged.”

Some of the villains of “Harry Potter” are the Dementors, aka physical embodiments of depression. Of course, Voldemort himself was a bad apple from the start, the nonconsensual product of a love potion — never mind that more complicated bit about his being aided and abetted by the wizarding media and government. (Sound familiar?)

While it’s certainly true that there are mentally ill people who do bad things, we are also the heroes, the bystanders, the victims — the human beings who make up every part of every story.

1 in 25 adults lives with a serious mental illness (I’m one of them!), and 1 in 5 experience some form of mental illness like anxiety or depression in any given year. Only 3–5% of violent acts can be attributed to this huge portion of the U.S. population, yet neurodiverse people are 10 times more likely than their neurotypical counterparts to be victims of violence.

Anyone with a modicum of sense could tell you that the stereotype simply doesn’t add up.

The issue here has far less to do with mental illness than it has to do with the very human proclivity for violence, hate, and destruction.

Mentally ill people are certainly capable of such things, seeing as we are just as human as anyone else. But we’re also capable of the equally human virtues of compassion, empathy, and creation — often in ways that are informed by our experiences living with and being marginalized because of mental illness.

And if we dig a little deeper than the “crazed” antagonists of popular culture, we can find mental illness woven between the lines of our heroes and saviors and all the normal people that fill up the gaps, no matter how convinced we may be that mental illness is monstrously abnormal.

We don’t talk about how Harry Potter’s PTSD made him a resilient and passionate agent for change. We forget Batman’s phobic origins and his many parallels to the Joker. Hannibal Lecter is what a certain beloved band might call a “psycho killer,” but Clarice and Will both serve as protagonists with far-from-typical neurologies of their own.

We struggle to see the diverse and deeply relatable experiences of mentally ill people already imprinted onto our stories because we only ever look for them when we’re trying to find someone to blame.

Mentally ill people are not separate from us — they are part of us.

1 in 25 people is about eight people in every full movie theater, three in every church congregation, and two in the average college classroom. Rarely are we the armed and murderous person who walks in and massacres all of those people. We are far more likely to kill ourselves than we are to kill another person. If there’s any mental health problem in this country, it’s a severe lack of accessible and affordable mental healthcare, which — last I checked — the Trump administration is actively seeking to make even more inaccessible.

Mentally ill people aren’t the problem. The people in power are — from Trump to the NRA to the “lone wolf” white male terrorists our sensationalist media encourages and excuses.

They’re just pointing at us so that people will stop looking at them.

This article by Jenni Berrett originally appeared on Ravishly and has been republished with permission. More from Ravishly:

Read more:

Australia Is On Track To Become The World’s First Country To Eradicate Cervical Cancer

Australia is on track to become the first country in the world to eradicate cervical cancer. With some more hard work, scientists are now predicting that cervical cancer could eventually become a disease of the past.

A woman dies of cervical cancer every 2 minutes. In 99.9 percent of cases, it is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Thanks to a massive vaccination program targeting this common infection, HPV prevalence among Australian women aged 18 to 24 has dropped from 22.7 percent to just 1.5 percent over the last 10 years, as reported in a new study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

This vaccination, combined with extensive cervical screening, is leading researchers to predict that cervical cancer will be almost non-existent in Australia in a few decades’ time. 

“We are forecasting that over the next 30-40 years, rates of cervical cancer will drop from around the current 930 cases a year in Australia to just a few,” lead author Professor Suzanne Garland, Director of the Centre for Women’s Infectious Diseases at the Royal Women’s Hospital, said in a statement.

“The research is showing a decline in rates of the cancer-causing HPV; however due to the delay between contracting HPV and cervical cancer developing, we expect it to be a few more years before we see a steep decline in rates of cervical cancer,” she added.   

Remarkably, only 53 percent of women in Australia are vaccinated against HPV, however, they managed to achieve these remarkable results due to the “herd effect”, also known as “herd immunity”This is a form of immunity that occurs when the vaccination of a significant portion of a population manages to dampen the spread of a disease enough to protect those who are not vaccinated. After all, practically all sexually active people come into contact with HPV.

“Our national HPV immunisation program for both boys and girls, combined with our cervical cancer population screening, means we are well positioned to be the first country to effectively end this deadly cancer,” added Professor Garland.

A handful of countries across the world have a widely available vaccination program for women, fully financed by national health authorities. In the US, the HPV vaccine can cost around $400 for the full regimen, according to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals.

Although rates of HPV and cervical cancer remain high in the developing world, the researchers are hoping their research will underpin the importance of these vaccination programs.

“The effectiveness of the vaccine and a lower cost is likely to make it possible for us to eliminate the disease in low socio-economic countries too,” Professor Garland added.

Read more:

Yoga with Adriene’s founder won YouTube with her message of self-love — and self-deprecating humor

Adriene Mishler isn't the only star of Yoga with Adriene. Her fans love her sidekick, Benji the blue heeler, almost as much as they love downward dog.
Image: yoga with adriene/Mashable composite

Adriene Mishler exudes plenty of mushy-gushy spiritual thinking, but the yoga evangelist embraces something else, too: self-deprecating humor.

That’s part of what has made her so accessible to her 3.2 million YouTube subscribers. When she mentions self-love or chakras, she bookends it with “Okayyyy, Adriene,” or when she directs you to sit in a cross-armed-cross-legged pretzel of a pose as you lift your head, she mumbles, “This is like Ariel on the rock, speaking to my generation, a little mermaid joke.” 

It’s why her fans call her goofy and authentic, an overused cliche in the YouTube world, but they really mean it. They insist! There’s just something about Adriene. 

If you’re already rolling your eyes, take a deep, cleansing breath. It’s worth trying to wrap your head around why this particular woman has the top six videos when you search “yoga” on YouTube and dominates Google search.

Adriene has been hosting free yoga videos on Yoga with Adriene since 2012.

Image: Yoga with Adriene

At the moment, Adriene is taking mental notes about Peru. When the 33-year-old tells me she rearranged her schedule to take adult Spanish classes so she can teach yoga when she visits Spanish-speaking countries, I mention one of her fans in Peru already translates her videos into Spanish. A Peace Corps volunteer there leads about 25 students, ages 5 to 84, in an hour-long flow, Monday through Friday.

“Wow, I just got the chills,” Adriene says.

You see, one of Adriene’s other fans from the Netherlands, who followed her yoga classes on a European tour like a Deadhead, recently quit her job as a vice principal and moved to Peru, where she founded a nonprofit teaching yoga to underserved children, with Yoga with Adriene’s motto, “Find What Feels Good,” at the core. It’s called Con Pazion, and Adriene’s sponsor, Adidas, donated $10,000 to the budding organization on her behalf. Yoga with Adriene fans have also donated, with some now sitting on Con Pazion’s board.

“It’s all starting to fall into place somehow,” Adriene says. 

Leonie van Iersel, the Yoga with Adriene fan who founded Con Pazion (center), and her students.

Image: COn Pazion

Although her mother is Mexican-American, Adriene never learned Spanish as a child. She jokes that she probably knows more Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language used in yoga practice, than Spanish. When she was in high school, she took American Sign Language instead because she had deaf friends. 

While she’s excited to learn, it means she has to give up something she’s done for a decade, even after her meteoric YouTube rise: teach yoga, IRL, on Saturday mornings. 

For yoga instructors, a Saturday morning studio slot means you’ve made it. And moving on fills her with bittersweet nostalgia. 

“I used to joke that the only people who would come to my classes are my friends and my mom, and of course I would never let any of them pay.”

“Yoga with Adriene” was the most googled workout in 2015. She won a 2016 Streamy Award in the Health and Wellness category, and in January of this year Google searches for “Yoga with Adriene” reached an all-time high — spiking by 40 percent since November 2017. 

But she didn’t start out intending to be an internet sensation. When she was 19, she’d sub, teach kids’ classes, and lug around a jam box and burnt CDs all over her hometown of Austin — anything to teach yoga.

“I used to joke that the only people who would come to my classes are my friends and my mom, and of course I would never let any of them pay, and then I’d end up paying rent at the studio where I was teaching and not making any money,” she said. 

She wouldn’t disclose her YouTube revenue, but according to analytics firm SocialBlade, Yoga with Adriene pulls in anywhere from $3,000 to $45,000 a month. (It’s a big range, but YouTube estimates are often like that due to complicated ad schemes.) That doesn’t include intake from her subscription video service, Adidas sponsorship, events, or merchandise. She’s currently writing a book about her relationship with yoga and planning her own yoga teacher training program.

Yoga with Adriene encourages viewers to “find what feels good.”

Image: Yoga with Adriene

Back when Adriene was losing money on her yoga classes, she taught children drama and acted on the side. It was on an indie movie set where she met Chris Sharpe, the film’s director, who’d later become her business partner and the Greg to her Dharma.  The movie was about a girl band in a post-apocalyptic world. At first Adriene passed on it — she had auditioned for Juilliard, she had trained in New York, she wanted to do theater — but was convinced when she heard her friend was part of the cast. That friend later married Sharpe and now has her own YouTube cooking channel. 

“It never got finished and I do thank god for that because we had quite the get-ups,” Adriene says, giggling.

After the movie fell apart, Chris emailed Adriene in 2010, pitching a yoga YouTube channel. But the idea just sat there, gestating for two years until the duo made Yoga with Adriene’s first video. The actor in Adriene wanted to nail every moment, but Chris encouraged her to relax and act like Mr. Rogers inviting people into her home. After that, it clicked. 

All Adriene wanted to do was provide free at-home yoga for the masses when most classes cost between $15 and $20. It took her awhile to warm up to the social media circus and SEO-focused video titles. Her library of under 30-minute videos is diverse, to say the least: There’s yoga for mornings, bedtime, teachers, depression, golfers, disasters, a broken heart. You name it, she’s probably got it. And her blue heeler, Benji, is often seen lounging around, sometimes snuggling up on the mat as she maneuvers around him.

“I was nervous to take yoga out of its sacred space and slapdash it into this digital space,” says Adriene. “That’s why it took forever for me to title any video ‘Yoga for weight loss’ or ‘Yoga for flow.’”

But it’s titles like those that likely pushed her to the top of Google and YouTube search.  

“It’s very savvy how she structured it,” said Allon Caidar, a YouTube metadata expert and founder and CEO of TVPage, a video commerce platform. Adriene focuses on keywords and has more than one video about highly-searched topics, he points out. Despite multiple high-profile YouTuber scandals (ahem Pewdiepie, ahem Logan Paul), Caidar predicts that marketing budgets focused on influencers like Adriene, especially in the lifestyle and health sectors, will grow this year.

Adriene jokes that one April Fools’ Day she wants to upload the same video with two titles: one focused on self-love and another on weight loss to test which gets more views. 

“Just to kind of prove a point,” she says. “With the titles, I’m using the platform to bring more people to the mat.”

Yaiza Varona, a 39-year-old in the UK, found Adriene because of her high ranking. She was browsing for a yoga video on YouTube, clicked the first one, and now she’s a Yoga with Adriene disciple. 

“If she said paint yourself blue, I’d do it. At this moment, I trust whatever she says because it feels so right,” the music composer says. “I’m not that much into yoga as a philosophy, but she brings it down to Earth. She focuses so much on enjoying being in your body.”

Megan-Eileen Waldrep, the Peace Corps volunteer in Peru, says it may sound silly, but to her, Adriene feels like a friend. 

“She makes jokes or weird references and then says under her breath, ‘I don’t know why I said that,’ which is hilarious. It’s an unedited flow of her stream of consciousness and yoga,” the 25-year-old from Chicago says.

There are critics who deride Adriene for being “that YouTube yogi,” though. 

“They’re judging a book by its cover, and they don’t understand that I’ve poured my whole little heart and soul into trying to be mindful of how I share this information,” she says. 

Adriene is used to pouring her heart and soul into things. She’s been doing it since she was a kid. Over Christmas, she was laughing with her dad about how she spent hours as a child recording her own theater and dance shows on VHS. Decades later, she’s still filming her own productions, only now she has a core staff of four.

Adriene’s been in some indie movies, she plays a journalist in Rooster Teeth’s Day 5, and has voiced characters like Lois Lane and Supergirl for DC Universe Online. She’ll keep acting even as she expands her yoga business, she says. It’s a dream she can’t shake.

You may see her at an event with hundreds of people doing yoga in a cavernous room — she uses a special mic because she had two vocal cord surgeries due to a benign tumor — but you’ll also still get a free video on YouTube every week. And if you watch those videos, you’ll be in on the joke when the floor creaks beneath your feet, just like Adriene’s does at home.

“I would love for us to look back and go, ‘Remember when yoga was this thing you went to at the gym, and now it’s like brushing your teeth, washing your vegetables, taking a shower, something that you do in your home regularly,'” she says. “We’re not far from that. I’d like to look back and know that I did my part to trailblaze that offering.”

Read more:

Why Midwives Are Fast Becoming More Popular Than OBGYNs

Midwives often come up in conversations of home births and even Goop moms, often deemed problematic. But theyre fast becoming an effective primary and reproductive health care option as womens access to healthcare (especially if theyre low-income) is rolled back.

The rising profile and respectability of midwives has also sparked debate over whether they can be part of major public health solutions in the United States. But certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives independent practice within the healthcare system is still limited, varying by state.

Independent has become a dirty word, Lisa Kane Low, president of the American College of Nurse Midwives and associate professor at the University of Michigans School of Nursing, said. Powerful organizations such as the American Medical Association, according to Kane Low, take the word independent to mean not within any kind of health care structure that supports interaction and collaboration.

A first-of-its-kind study published last month in the journal PLOS One found states where midwives are more integrated into the system also reported better maternal care outcomes.

Advocates for untethering midwives from physicians say the stigma around independence hurts women, especially as physicians organizations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have supported their full scope, autonomous practice, as qualified, accountable providers who work collaboratively with ob-gyns in an integrated maternity care system that promotes seamless access to appropriate care.

When you are in the trenches together, we support each other. It doesn't feel like there's a turf war. It feels like we are all working together.
Holly Smith, California Nurse Midwives Association

If a nurse midwife is trained appropriately to provide well woman services or primary care services, we support that, Dr. Hal Lawrence, ACOG's CEO and EVP, told The Daily Beast. A model of team-based care, which ACOG supports, does not mean a doctor must always supervise a midwife.

But doctors and nurses dont make the legal cut, and the power struggle for midwives has run deep. A century ago, midwives were subordinated as physician specialization grew. Dr. Joseph DeLee, considered the founder of modern obstetrics, declared childbirth a pathologic process, introduced forceps, sedatives and episiotomies and denounced midwives as a relic of barbarism.

The United States attitude toward midwives differs from other developed countries, including Canada, Australia and England, where midwives lead the obstetric system with stronger birth outcomes.

Currently, full supervision requirements in five statesCalifornia, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Floridaand partial supervision requirements in dozens of others limit the services midwives can provide, and where they can provide them. This restriction can especially hurt low-income and rural communities, according to Kane Low. In 27 states and D.C., certified nurse-midwives can legally practice without physician supervision.

Something that always has been a core part of midwifery is going where we are needed, Sheri Mateo, secretary of the California Nurse-Midwives Association, told The Daily Beast. More midwives would do that if we werent tethered to physicians. By allowing certified nurse-midwives or certified midwives to practice independently in more areas of the country, ACNM argues, women would have more access to primary and maternal health care.

What people dont realize is that there are different categories of midwives, who work mostly in hospitals and deliver less than 9 percent of births in the United States. In the U.S., becoming a certified-nurse midwife requires a person to be an advanced-practice nurse with a masters degree to meet the standards set by the tight-knit International Confederation of Midwives. A certified midwife has or receives a receive less training background in a health-related field (not nursing), graduates from an accredited midwifery education program, and must pass the same exams as her nurse peers.

It boils down to who is in control, said Kane Low, whos practiced as a CNM for 30 years. And unfortunately in some states, partially through the lens of the AMA, the idea that you would be independent is turned into somehow youre going to go rogue.

A New Public Health Crisis

A doctor shortage is looming, and the U.S. has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world, especially for black women. Meanwhile, employment of nurse-midwives increased by about 23 percent between 2014 and 2016.

More than half of rural U.S. counties lack hospital obstetric services. The Wall Street Journal reported last year that women in rural areas are 64 percent more likely to die in childbirth than in urban areas. God damnit! Rural areas should only have higher concentrations of Waffle Houses! the late-night Samantha Bee joked in a skit on the maternal health care crisis in January. Maternity-care deserts also rely heavily on Medicaid, a program Republicans have long been promising to gut.

Midwives work with healthy, child-free women to provide birth control, abortions, or routine exams. About 50 percent of CNMs identify reproductive care and 33 percent identify primary care as regular responsibilities, according to the ACNM.

Critics of midwives independent practice, including the AMA, think we are trying to remove obstetrics, Holly Smith, health policy co-chair of California Nurse-Midwives Association, said.

Obstetrics include procedures like fetal screening and Caesarean sections. "We feel that we made a lot of progress in making connections with our physician counterparts, Smith added. We are attempting to change a law and a culture of care that has been around for decades and permeates the way we think about the best way to care for women during pregnancy and birth.

At the center of the debate over what to make of midwives is the political battle over womens health, on which both the government and scientific community have historically fallen short.

A 2014 editorial in the New York Times referenced British research that found midwives delivered safer uncomplicated pregnancies than doctors, and alluded to the longstanding turf war between obstetricians and midwives.

Midwives in general are huge patient advocates, and throughout the health care system, they bump into areas where women are not getting their needs met, Julia Phillippi, a CNM and assistant professor at Vanderbilt University, told The Daily Beast. Phillippi authored a 2015 paper about this very topic in the Journal of Midwifery and Womens Health.

We cost less to pay, we have good outcomes for low-risk women, Phillippi added. If you are a health system trying to care for vulnerable women who don't have health insurance, nurse midwives are often a cost-effective option.

Many women are simply unaware that they can seek primary care from a midwife.

I worked for years clinically as a midwife. We would say we work full scope… We had to stay in our lane and do OBGYN care, Mateo said. It has varied for midwives across the board, and many times we are not being allowed to function to the top of our education, to the top of our license.

Some midwives who work under doctors on a regular basis say its harmonious and not necessarily reflective of the higher-level politics. But the position of ACNM is that such restrictions create ambiguity around which provider is accountable and how power is distributed on a teamthough that might change in the future.

When you are in the trenches together, we support each other, Smith, the CNM in California, said. It doesn't feel like there's a turf war. It feels like we are all working together.

Read more:

4 Creepy Ways Everyday Life Is Turning Into Sci-Fi

The goal of any good dystopian story is to warn us about the future that we could end up with if we’re not careful. But they’re usually inspired by something that’s happening right now. Which means that while most of us are watching some cool new show in which future people live in pods and are haunted by cyber ghosts, a few unlucky SOBs are out there already living it.


Japanese People Are Having To Live In Internet Cafes

Much like America, Japan’s middle class is shrinking thanks to the upsurge in contract-only and temporary work. That makes paying rent all but impossible, so as many as 4,000 people in Tokyo alone are now living out of internet cafes — those places you thought became outdated shortly after we all moved on from 56k modems. They’re called saiba homuresu, or cyber homeless, which is a cool name for a sign of the crushingly bleak economic times.

Japans Disposable Workers, via YouTubeThe “tiny house” thing is a little less cute when taken to its logical conclusion.

And this isn’t a trendy way for young people to keep their lives simple before they get their feet on the ground. Nearly 40 percent of the cyber homeless are in their 30s, and 29 percent are in their 50s. There’s an imbalance in Japan’s economy whereby many people can’t get jobs, but those with jobs feel like they have to work themselves to death (and sometimes do) to stay in the game. And if you can’t afford a home, and have no free time to spend in one anyway, why not downgrade? Many cafes, which charge around 15 dollars a night, offer showers, laundry, and other amenities to their long-term residents. It’s kind of like living out of your car, except with much easier access to pornography. Plus you get to look like someone out of a William Gibson novel.

Japans Disposable Workers, via YouTube

Japans Disposable Workers, via YouTubeThe Depression Engine

The cyber homeless try to see the bright side of downsizing, but take a look at the ancient computers they’re stuck with and try to tell us that that’s not suffering. If you’re going to have your life destroyed by a brutal economic recession, at least you shouldn’t also have to use Windows XP.

Japans Disposable Workers, via YouTubeUpside: hardwood floors. Downside: Theyre also his bed.


Iran Has A Legal Organs-For-Cash Program

Sci-fi dystopias frequently revolve around the stark contrast between the wasteful opulence of the wealthy and the brutal desperation of the poor. One of the most popular ways to illustrate this is organ replacement for hire. Whether a poor person needs to rent an organ on a monthly payment plan in Repo Men or a wealthy person simply has their own clone murdered for spare parts like in The Island, the idea of cashing in on organ donation immediately signifies that we’re in a nightmarish dystopia.

Well, unless you live in modern Iran. Then it’s a fact of life. Iran has a legal marketplace for kidney sales, and while “kidney sale” immediately conjures images of spiked drinks and a bathtub full of ice and regret, it’s all above-board. Poor Iranians are so eager to “donate” that the streets leading to some hospitals are plastered with homemade advertisements proclaiming how healthy their signmakers are …

Shashank Bengali / Los Angeles TimesNo better way to advertise lifesaving surgery than with Sharpie on the side of a tree.

Before you write off Iran as a backwards country with inferior healthcare, it’s been argued that their system is in some regards actually better than that of the United States. For all we may squirm at the concept, Iranians in need of kidneys, well, get kidneys. Meanwhile, as obesity and diabetes rates continue to rise, America’s demand for healthy kidneys is only increasing. As of 2015, 100,000 Americans were waiting for a new kidney, and in 2014, 7,600 Americans either got too sick (or too dead) to receive one.

Shashank Bengali / Los Angeles TimesLuckily, the transplant specialists dont have to advertise like someone trying to sell a pee-stained couch … we hope.

Iran’s healthcare system saves money overall, because patients get new kidneys quickly instead of spending a long time on dialysis, and the legal framework prevents the donor from getting screwed on payment. Plus, both donor and receiver must be Iranian nationals, so you don’t see “kidney tourism.” Iran has largely managed to address their organ shortage, although information on the long-term health of the sellers is unavailable, because the future is a morally complicated quagmire of nightmares.

The system has its flaws, of course, with prospective patients making some seriously sketchy side deals to get around waiting periods. Oh, and also the whole vampiric overtone of the rich buying body parts from the poor. That’s pretty weird too.


Apple’s iPhone Factories Have Suicide Nets Lining The Buildings

Our iPhones are made in Chinese factories, of which Longhua is the largest and most ominous. About 450,000 workers live and work in the highly regulated quasi-city-state. Nobody else gets in. Delivery truck drivers must first have their fingerprints scanned, and unauthorized visitors have been beaten in the past. Why all the secrecy? Well, if you were running a secret mini-dystopia, you’d be less keen on visitors too. Longhua workers alternate 12-hour shifts and live in grey dorms a few feet from the high-pressure environment where they work. Perhaps understandably, this situation has led to mass suicides. It turns out that forcing workers to pay for running water and getting mad at them for wanting bathroom breaks is bad for morale, even if you do throw the odd potluck.

Tyrone Siu/ReutersHaving a workplace that could pass for a scene from 1984 isnt super encouraging.

Now, to be fair, Steve Jobs did highlight how the suicide rate in China was about the same as at the factory, which is only a couple steps removed from telling someone that it’s statistically unlikely to be murdered while you’re stabbing them. Nevertheless, Apple and Foxconn, the factory’s parent company, did take measures to prevent suicides. If you think that sounds nice, think more literally. No steps were taken to improve the working and living conditions, which are infamous for their relentless pace, cruel management, and blatant recruiting lies. Instead, workers had to sign pledges stating they would not attempt to kill themselves. Quickly realizing that a pinky promise didn’t mean much to someone standing on a ledge, they took one more measure: adding netting to all the tall buildings in the complex.

Thomas Lee/WiredAlternately, a quick way down from the upper floors for people trying to preserve their four minutes a day of personal time.

Shockingly, these measures haven’t really helped, as threats of mass suicide have become the workers’ only negotiating chip. In 2012, 150 of them gathered on a roof and threatened to jump if working conditions didn’t improve. It happened again in 2016 over withheld wages, which suggests that the 2012 protest didn’t go as well as it could have. Guardian journalists interviewed workers in 2017 to see if any improvements had been made, and one worker summed things up thusly: “It’s not a good place for human beings.”

The iPhone X looks neat though, huh?


The Japanese Corpse Warehouses That Deliver The Dead Via Conveyor Belt

Japan is running out of space to bury their dead, and a booming elderly population means that they’re going to have a whole lot of dead to bury. Further compounding the issue, people who have moved away from their hometowns are finding it troublesome to return to their family graves to care for them. The solution? Conveyor belts for the dead!

Alexander Martin/Nikkei Asian Review

.Tokyo GobyoObviously.

The empathetic folks at Toyota are trying to save people from the tedious job of keeping their family graves clean by providing a low-maintenance alternative, meaning that a night on the town can now feature both sushi and your father’s ashes being brought to you by the same technology. When you arrive at the urn warehouse, you scan an ID card and are directed to a private prayer booth. In under a minute, a conveyor system transfers the relevant ashes into your booth from a behind-the-scenes storage area.

Kazuhiro Kobayashi/The Japan TimesAll while enjoying a quiet Buddhist ceremony hosted by a vacant-eyed robot.

A typical conveyor-fed urn warehouse holds 5,500 remains in just over 20,000 square feet, and a slot is roughly half as cheap as a traditional grave site. The only major downside is that it looks like Ghost In The Shell meets Beetlejuice.

Chunichi Shimbun/The Japan TimesHonor your loved ones memory with the gift of high-volume automated storage.

Oh, and that you couldn’t be sure — truly sure — that grandpa’s ghost likes hanging out in a robotic corpse warehouse for all eternity. You know old people and technology.

Tiagosvn would love to hear about the most dystopian elements of your life on his Twitter. Nick is an attorney who hopes his writing career will continue to keep him out of the courtroom.

Michael Gibson’s work is intense stuff. Check out his first graphic novel, Archangel, today!

Support Cracked’s journalism with a visit to our Contribution Page. Please and thank you.

For more, check out 15 Real Sci-Fi Technologies About to Change the World and 5 Awesome Sci-Fi Movies Technologies That’d Suck In Real Life.

Also, follow us on Facebook, it’s easy!

Read more:

Bernie Sanders To Hold Televised Town Hall On Economic Inequality

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) plans to hold a live, televised town hall on March 19 devoted to exploring the issue of economic inequality.

The town hall, called “Inequality in America: The Rise of Oligarchy and Collapse of the Middle Class,” will take place before a live audience in the auditorium of the U.S. Capitol. It will be broadcast online with the help of the event’s digital media partners, The Guardian, NowThis, The Young Turks and

The 80-minute panel discussion is an attempt to capitalize on the success of Sanders’ January town hall on “Medicare for all” that drew 1.6 million live viewers.

“The goal is twofold: No. 1 is to have a serious discussion on one of the most important issues facing our country, and that is who owns America, who has the power, why the middle class is declining,” Sanders told HuffPost. “We’re going to talk about extreme poverty in America.

“Then we’re going to be talking about where we go from here. How do we create an economy that works for everybody and not just the 1 percent?” 

Sanders has made no secret of his disdain for the superficial habits of mainstream media outlets in general, and television news in particular. He is convinced that the corporate ownership of these operations prevents them from holding accountable the powerful economic forces in the country.

“You tell me how often [the television news] has had serious discussion about the decline of the middle class, the impact of wealth and income inequality, what it means that people like the Koch brothers can spend $400 million on a campaign? Have you ever seen a program about that?” he asked.

But one advantage of Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign is that he now has a social media following large enough to communicate his message directly to a sizable swath of the public.

“What we want to do is to force discussion about issues of importance to the American people that the corporate media, for a dozen different reasons, will not cover,” he said.

Even before the “Medicare for all” town hall, Sanders had dramatically increased his online video presence. Short Facebook videos he has posted explaining health care and tax policies have garnered millions of views. The lengthier digital town hall format allows Sanders to go into greater depth than those short videos.

The program will consist of a four-person panel: Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), filmmaker Michael Moore, and Darrick Hamilton, an economics and urban policy professor at The New School in New York City.

As the panelists discuss what has caused rising economic inequality and how it might be addressed, they will invite guest speakers with specific expertise to join the discussion.

The scheduled guests include Catherine Coleman Flowers, a founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise Community Development Corp., an anti-poverty group; Gordon Lafer, a labor policy expert at the University of Oregon; and Cindy Estrada, a vice president of the United Auto Workers labor union. 

What do we need to do to join the rest of the world in guaranteeing health care for all people, have a livable minimum wage, build the affordable housing, make sure that every kid in this country is able to go to college regardless of his or her income, and how do we rebuild the infrastructure? Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Unlike the “Medicare for all” town hall, which was devoted to a single policy solution, the inequality town hall is expected to be more open-ended in its proposals.

Based on the way Sanders diagnoses the problem, however, the answers he intends to examine most closely are likely to come from the progressive toolkit. That presumably includes policies that Sanders himself has championed: free college tuition, expanded Social Security benefits, paid family leave, a higher minimum wage and rules that strengthen labor unions.

“What do we need to do to join the rest of the world in guaranteeing health care for all people, have a livable minimum wage, build the affordable housing, make sure that every kid in this country is able to go to college regardless of his or her income, and how do we rebuild the infrastructure?” he said of the event’s mission.

Sanders elicited criticism from supporters of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign for his message on class and economic inequality that appeared to sidestep inequalities driven by race, gender and other identities or experiences.

Sanders continues to dispute the criticism, noting his vocal opposition to racial bias in policing and his support for criminal justice reform and women’s reproductive rights.

The Vermont senator’s town hall is likely to address economic hardship in communities of color and the particular solutions that might be needed. Hamilton, Coleman Flowers and Estrada each have expertise in the intersection of racial and economic inequities.

“We would not do an event that did not include a serious discussion about the needs of minority communities,” Sanders said.

Read more:

23 Science-Backed Health Benefits Of Marijuana

States around the country — 29 of them, plus Washington DC — have legalized medical marijuana. 

The American public largely supports the legalization of medical marijuana. At least 84% of the public believes the drug should be legal for medical uses, and recreational pot usage is less controversial than ever, with at least 61% of Americans in support.

Even though some medical benefits of smoking pot may be overstated by advocates of marijuana legalization, recent research has demonstrated that there are legitimate medical uses for marijuana and strong reasons to continue studying the drug’s medicinal uses.

Even the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse lists medical uses for cannabis.

There are at least two active chemicals in marijuana that researchers think have medicinal applications. Those are cannabidiol (CBD) — which seems to impact the brain without a high— and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — which has pain relieving properties and is largely responsible for the high.

But scientists say that limitations on marijuana research mean we still have big questions about its medicinal properties. In addition to CBD and THC, there are another 400 or so chemical compounds, more than 60 of which are cannabinoids. Many of these could have medical uses. But without more research, we won’t know how to best make use of those compounds.

More research would also shed light on the risks of marijuana. Even if there are legitimate uses for medicinal marijuana, that doesn’t mean all use is harmless. Some research indicates that chronic, heavy users may have impaired memory, learning, and processing speed, especially if they started regularly using marijuana before age 16 or 17.

For some of the following medical benefits, there’s good evidence. For others, there’s reason to continue conducting research.

Jennifer Welsh contributed to an earlier version of this story.

The best-supported medicinal use of marijuana is as a treatment for chronic pain.

A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said there was definitive evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids (which are found in the marijuana plant) can be an effective treatment for chronic pain.

The report said that is “by far the most common” reason people request medical marijuana.

There’s also strong evidence medical cannabis can help with muscle spasms.

That same report said there’s equally strong evidence marijuana can help with muscle spasms related to multiple sclerosis.

Other types of muscle spasms respond to marijuana as well. People use medical marijuana to treat diaphragm spasms that are untreatable by other, prescribed medications.

It doesn’t seem to harm lung capacity, and may even improve it.

There’s a fair amount of evidence that marijuana does no harm to the lungs, unless you also smoke tobacco. One study published in Journal of the American Medical Association found that not only does marijuana not impair lung function, it may even increase lung capacity.

Researchers looking for risk factors of heart disease tested the lung function of 5,115 young adults over the course of 20 years. Tobacco smokers lost lung function over time, but pot users actually showed an increase in lung capacity.

It’s possible that the increased lung capacity may be due to taking a deep breaths while inhaling the drug and not from a therapeutic chemical in the drug.

The smokers in that study only toked up a few times a month, but a more recent survey of people who smoked pot daily for up to 20 years found no evidence that smoking pot harmed their lungs, either.

The National Academies report said there are good studies showing marijuana users are not more likely to have cancers associated with smoking.

It may be of some use in treating glaucoma, or it may be possible to derive a drug from marijuana for this use.

One of the most common reasons that states allow medical marijuana use is to treat and prevent the eye disease glaucoma, which increases pressure in the eyeball, damaging the optic nerve and causing loss of vision.

Marijuana decreases the pressure inside the eye, according to the National Eye Institute: “Studies in the early 1970s showed that marijuana, when smoked, lowered intraocular pressure (IOP) in people with normal pressure and those with glaucoma.”

For now, the medical consensus is that marijuana only lowers IOP for a few hours, meaning there’s not good evidence for it as a long term treatment right now. Researchers hope that perhaps a marijuana-based compound could be developed that lasts longer.

thematthewknot via Flickr

It may help control epileptic seizures.

Some studies have shown that cannabidiol (CBD), another major marijuana compound, seems to help people with treatment-resistant epilepsy.

A number of individuals have reported that marijuana is the only thing that helps control their or their children’s seizures.

However, there haven’t been many gold-standard, double-blind studies on the topic, so researchers say more data is needed before we know how effective marijuana is.

It also decreases the symptoms of a severe seizure disorder known as Dravet’s Syndrome.

During the research for his documentary “Weed,” Sanjay Gupta interviewed the Figi family, who treated their 5-year-old daughter using a medical marijuana strain high in cannabidiol and low in THC.

The Figi family’s daughter, Charlotte, has Dravet Syndrome, which causes seizures and severe developmental delays.

According to the film, the drug decreased her seizures from 300 a week to just one every seven days. Forty other children in the state were using the same strain of marijuana to treat their seizures when the film was made — and it seemed to be working.

The doctors who recommended this treatment said the cannabidiol in the plant interacts with brain cells to quiet the excessive activity in the brain that causes these seizures.

Gupta notes, however, that a Florida hospital that specializes in the disorder, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Drug Enforcement agency don’t endorse marijuana as a treatment for Dravet or other seizure disorders.

A chemical found in marijuana stops cancer from spreading, at least in cell cultures.

CBD may help prevent cancer from spreading, researchers at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco reported in 2007.

Other very preliminary studies on aggressive brain tumors in mice or cell cultures have shown that THC and CBD can slow or shrink tumors at the right dose, which is a strong reason to do more research.

One 2014 study found that marijuana can significantly slow the growth of the type of brain tumor associated with 80% of malignant brain cancer in people.

Still, these findings in cell cultures and animals don’t necessarily mean the effect will translate to people — far more investigation is needed.

It may decrease anxiety in low doses.

Researchers know that many cannabis users consume marijuana to relax, but also that many people say smoking too much can cause anxiety. So scientists conducted a study to find the “Goldilocks” zone: the right amount of marijuana to calm people.

According to Emma Childs, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an author of the study, “we found that THC at low doses reduced stress, while higher doses had the opposite effect.” 

A few puffs was enough to help study participants relax, but a few puffs more started to amp up anxiety. However, people may react differently in different situations.


THC may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease

Marijuana may be able to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, a study led by Kim Janda of the Scripps Research Institute suggests.

The 2006 study, published in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics, found that THC (the active chemical in marijuana) slows the formation of amyloid plaques by blocking the enzyme in the brain that makes them. These plaques kill brain cells and are associated with Alzheimer’s.

A synthetic mixture of CBD and THC seems to preserve memory in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Another study suggested that a THC-based prescription drug called dronabinol was able to reduce behavioral disturbances in dementia patients.

All these studies are in very early stages, though, so more research is needed.

The drug eases the pain of multiple sclerosis.

Marijuana may ease painful symptoms of multiple sclerosis, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Jody Corey-Bloom studied 30 multiple sclerosis patients with painful contractions in their muscles. These patients didn’t respond to other treatments, but after smoking marijuana for a few days, they reported that they were in less pain.

The THC in marijuana seems to bind to receptors in the nerves and muscles to relieve pain.

It seems to lessen side effects from treating hepatitis C and increase treatment effectiveness.

Treatment for hepatitis C infection is harsh: negative side effects include fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, loss of appetite, and depression. Those side effects can last for months, and lead many people to stop their treatment course early.

But a 2006 study in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that 86% of patients using marijuana successfully completed their Hep C therapy. Only 29% of non-smokers completed their treatment, possibly because the marijuana helps lessen the treatment’s side effects.

Marijuana also seems to improve the treatment’s effectiveness: 54% of hep C patients smoking marijuana got their viral levels low and kept them low, in comparison to only 8% of nonsmokers.

Marijuana may help with inflammatory bowel diseases.

Patients with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis could benefit from marijuana use, studies suggest. 

University of Nottingham researchers found in 2010 that chemicals in marijuana, including THC and cannabidiol, interact with cells in the body that play an important role in gut function and immune responses. The study was published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

The body makes THC-like compounds that increase the permeability of the intestines, allowing bacteria in. But the cannabinoids in marijuana block these compounds, making the intestinal cells bond together tighter and become less permeable.

But the National Academies report said there isn’t enough evidence to be sure whether marijuana really helps with these conditions, so more research is needed.

It relieves arthritis discomfort.

Marijuana alleviates pain, reduces inflammation, and promotes sleep, which may help relieve pain and discomfort for people with rheumatoid arthritis, researchers announced in 2011.

Researchers from rheumatology units at several hospitals gave their patients Sativex, a cannabinoid-based pain-relieving medicine. After a two-week period, people on Sativex had a significant reduction in pain and improved sleep quality compared to placebo users.

Other studies have found that plant-derived cannabinoids and inhaled marijuana can decrease arthritis pain, according to the National Academies report.

Marijuana users tend to be less obese and have a better response to eating sugar.

A study published in the American Journal Of Medicine suggested that pot smokers are skinnier than the average person and have healthier metabolism and reaction to sugars, even though they do end up eating more calories.

The study analyzed data from more than 4,500 adult Americans — 579 of whom were current marijuana smokers, meaning they had smoked in the last month. About 2,000 people had used marijuana in the past, while another 2,000 had never used the drug.

The researchers studied how the participants’ bodies responded to eating sugars. They measured blood-sugar levels and the hormone insulin after participants hadn’t eaten in nine hours, and after they’d eaten sugar.

Not only were pot users thinner, their bodies also had a healthier response to sugar. Of course, the study couldn’t determine whether the marijuana users were like this to begin with or if these characteristics were somehow related to their smoking.

While not really a health or medical benefit, marijuana could spur creativity.

Contrary to stoner stereotypes, marijuana usage has actually been shown to have some positive mental effects, particularly in terms of increasing creativity, at least in some contexts. Even though people’s short-term memories tend to function worse when they’re high, they actually get better at tests requiring them to come up with new ideas.

Researchers have also found that some study participants improve their “verbal fluency,” their ability to come up with different words, while using marijuana.

Part of this increased creative ability may come from the release of dopamine in the brain, which lowers inhibitions and allows people to feel more relaxed, giving the brain the ability to perceive things differently.

Cannabis soothes tremors for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Research from Israel shows that smoking marijuana significantly reduces pain and tremors and improves sleep for Parkinson’s disease patients. Particularly impressive was the improved fine motor skills among patients.

Medical marijuana is legal in Israel for multiple conditions, and a lot of research into the medical uses of cannabis is done there, supported by the Israeli government.

Marijuana may help veterans suffering from PTSD.

In 2014, the Colorado Department of Public Health awarded $2 million to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (one of the biggest proponents of marijuana research) to study marijuana’s potential for people with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Naturally occurring cannabinoids, similar to THC, help regulate the system that causes fear and anxiety in the body and brain.

Marijuana is approved to treat PTSD in some states already — in New Mexico, PTSD is the number one reason for people to get a license for medical marijuana.

But there are still questions about the safety of using marijuana while suffering from PTSD, which this study — which has taken a while to get off the ground — will hopefully help answer.

Walter Hickey / BI

Animal studies suggest that marijuana may protect the brain after a stroke.

Research from the University of Nottingham shows that marijuana may help protect the brain from damage from a stroke by reducing the size of the area affected by the stroke — at least in rats, mice, and monkeys.

This isn’t the only research that has shown neuroprotective effects of cannabis. Some research shows that the plant may help protect the brain after other types of brain trauma.

Marijuana might even protect the brain from concussions and trauma.

Lester Grinspoon , a professor of psychiatry at Harvard and marijuana advocate, recently wrote an open letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. In it, he said the NFL should stop testing players for marijuana, and that the league should start funding research into the plant’s ability to protect the brain instead.

“Already, many doctors and researchers believe that marijuana has incredibly powerful neuroprotective properties, an understanding based on both laboratory and clinical data,” Grinspoon wrote.

Goodell said he’d consider permitting athletes to use marijuana if medical research shows that it’s an effective neuroprotective agent.

At least one recent study on the topic found that patients who had used marijuana were less likely to die from traumatic brain injuries.

It can help eliminate nightmares.

This is a complicated one, because it involves effects that can be both positive and negative. Marijuana disturbs sleep cycles by interrupting the later stages of REM sleep. In the long run, this could be a problem for frequent users.

However, for people suffering from serious nightmares, especially those associated with PTSD, this can be helpful, perhaps in the short term. Nightmares and other dreams occur during those same stages of sleep. By interrupting REM sleep, many of those dreams may not occur. Research into using a synthetic cannabinoid — similar to THC but not the same — showed a significant decrease in the number of nightmares in patients with PTSD.

Additionally, even if frequent use can be bad for sleep, marijuana may be a better sleep aid than some other substances that people use. Some of those, including medication and alcohol, may potentially have worse effects on sleep, though more research is needed on the topic.

Cannabis reduces some of the pain and nausea from chemotherapy and stimulates appetite.

One of the most well-known medical uses of marijuana is for people going through chemotherapy. There’s good evidence that it’s effective for this, according to the National Academies report.

Cancer patients being treated with chemo suffer from painful nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. This can cause additional health complications.

Marijuana can help reduce these side effects, alleviating pain, decreasing nausea, and stimulating the appetite. There are also multiple FDA-approved cannabinoid drugs that use THC, the main active chemical in marijuana, for the same purpose.

Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider

Marijuana can help people who are trying to cut back on drinking.

Marijuana is safer than alcohol. That’s not to say it’s risk-free, but cannabis is much less addictive than alcohol and doesn’t cause nearly as much physical damage. 

Disorders like alcoholism involve disruptions in the endocannabinoid system. Because of that, some people think cannabis might help patients struggling with those disorders.

Research published in the Harm Reduction Journal found that some people use marijuana as a less harmful substitute for alcohol, prescription drugs, and other illegal drugs. Some of the most common reasons patients make that substitution are that marijuana has less negative side effects and is less likely to cause withdrawal problems.

Some people do become psychologically dependent on marijuana, and it is not a cure for substance abuse problems. But from a harm-reduction standpoint, it can help.

Still, it’s worth noting that combining marijuana and alcohol can be dangerous, and some researchers are concerned that this scenario is more likely than one in which users substitute a toke for a drink.

Medical marijuana legalization seems to reduce opioid overdose deaths.

While there are a number of factors behind the current opioid epidemic, many experts agree that the use of opioid painkillers to treat chronic pain has played a major role. It’s very risky to take powerful drugs that have a high risk of causing overdose and high addiction rates. Marijuana, which can also treat chronic pain, is far less risky.

Several studies have shown that states that allow medical marijuana have fewer opioid deaths. This effect seems to grow over time, with states who pass these laws seeing a “20% lower rate of opioid deaths in the laws’ first year, 24% in the third, and 33% in the sixth,” according to Stat News.

It’s hard to say that deaths went down because of medical marijuana legalization and not other reasons. But because the effect seems to get stronger the longer marijuana remains legal, researchers think marijuana is a likely cause of the decline in opioid deaths.

Read the original article on Business Insider. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Copyright 2017.

Read next on Business Insider: The highest-valued marijuana companies of 2017 reveal 2 key insights about the booming industry

Read more:

Rick Ross Reportedly Put On Life Support

We have an update on Rick Ross‘ health scare, and it’s not good.

According to the latest from TMZ‘s source, the rapper is on a kind of life support serving the function of his heart and lungs.

ECMO, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, runs the blood outside the body and oxygenates it artificially before cycling it back in.

And it means this is a very serious situation right now.

[Image via Diego Corredor/Media Punch.]

Read more:

Donald Trump Sticks With Ban On Most Transgender Troops

President Donald Trump announced Fridaythat he’s sticking to his ban on transgender people in the military, even though the Pentagon showed little enthusiasm for the proposal.

In a memo released Friday night, the White House said that transgender individuals are “disqualified from military service except under limited circumstances.” The full ban was set to officially take effect Friday, though a pair of federal courts in December ordered the U.S. military to allow the recruitment of transgender citizens into the armed forces despite Trump’s declaration.

“Transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria ― individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery ― are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances,” the memo says.

Trump’s decision to keep the ban comes one month after a Washington Post report suggested that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis would urge Trump to allow transgender citizens to continue serving in the military.

Mattis delivered his recommendations to Trump in late February, but their conversation remained private.

In a statement following the memo, the White House said Friday’s announcement allows Mattis to “implement a new policy developed through extensive study by senior uniformed and civilian leaders, including combat veterans.”

The White House added that Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen have concluded that the “accession or retention of individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria … presents considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality.”

The Trump administration’s controversial transgender military ban has faced opposition at every corner since Trump announced the policy change in a series of surprising tweets last summer.

In July, Trump said he was banning transgender citizens from the armed forces because of the supposed “burden” of their “tremendous medical costs.” (Transition-related care costs the military only a fraction of its overall budget. The Department of Defense spends tremendously more on Viagra for erectile dysfunction than it does on transgender medical costs.) 

His tweets, which reportedly took the Pentagon by surprise, were followed by an official White House memo sent to the departments of defense and homeland security that provided details and a timeline for his proposed ban. 

The memo required the armed forces to stop accepting transgender recruits by Jan. 1 and halt the use of federal funds for transition-related care for military personnel by March 22.

Despite the memo, the Pentagon began accepting transgender recruits again on Jan. 1, complying with federal court orders calling for a halt to the ban while it was being legally challenged.

In late February, the U.S. military accepted its first openly transgender recruit to sign up for service since Trump’s pronouncement. The Department of Defense confirmed that the recruit had signed a contract for service in the military and would be attending basic training in the coming months.

Even with this new announcement, the Defense Department said it will continue to allow transgender people in the military as ordered by federal courts in several cases challenging the ban.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told HuffPost that the “DOD will continue to access and retain transgender individuals in compliance with the court orders.”

The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the policy on Friday night, insisting that federal courts handling four challenges to the ban, including an ACLU challenge, have blocked the military from carrying it out.

“What the White House released tonight is transphobia masquerading as policy, for the sole purpose of carrying out President Trump’s reckless and unconstitutional ban,” the civil rights organization tweeted.

“It undermines the ability of trans service members to serve openly and military readiness as a whole.”

The Justice Department said in a statement that it supports Trump’s decision to keep some transgender individuals out of the military and called on the federal courts to lift the orders that challenge the new policy.

“Consistent with this new policy, we are asking the courts to lift all related preliminary injunctions in order to ensure the safety and security of the American people and the best fighting force in the world,” the statement reads.

This article has been updated with a statement from the Justice Department and Department of Defense.

Read more:

Here’s The Thing About Your Family That Could Make You A Better Person

Sisters. They’re great for having built-in best friends, chatting all night, and of course, “borrowing” clothes.

My sister and I are definitely all of that for each other, and in fact, that’s the case for all of the sister duos and trios in my life. If you have a sister, you probably know just how special they are. Whenever you need a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear, they’re always there.

And as it turns out, studies show that having a sister could actually make you a better human being!

“They help you develop social skills, like communication, compromise, and negotiation,” said Alex Jensen, assistant professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University and the author of research into sibling relationships, said according to Huffington Post. “Even sibling conflict, if it is minor, can promote healthy development.”


A 2010 study even showed that having a sister can benefit mental health. The study found that participants with sisters had fewer feelings of guilt, self-consciousness, and fears.


According to Jensen, “What we know suggests that sisters play a role in promoting positive mental health, and later in life they often do more to keep families in contact with one another after the parents pass.”

Research also shows that brothers who have sisters are better at communicating with the ladies later in life. Practice makes perfect, after all!


“Some research suggests that having a sibling who is a different gender from you can be a real benefit in adolescence,” Jensen said. “Many of those sibling pairs become closer during the teen years because they become good sources of information about the opposite sex.”


Read more:

The Shirk Report Volume 465

Welcome to the Shirk Report where you will find 20 funny images, 10 interesting articles and 5 entertaining videos from the last 7 days of sifting. Most images found on Reddit; articles from Facebook, Twitter, and email; videos come from everywhere. Any suggestions? Send a note to


Later that day
Good guy police officer
When Putin offers you tea
This week in parenting
This week in old people Facebook
Pretending there’s an incoming fly ball
Pretending to work when the boss walks by
When Stephen met Jim
Ice cream definitely
– These signs have just the right level of passive aggressiveness: Bathroom | Museum
This will never get.. old (•_•) / ( •_•)>âŒâ– -â–  / (âŒâ– _â– )
Not all heroes wear capes
Do you remember your first heartbreak?
Look at this teacher’s handwriting
Cat like reflexes
Some parting thoughts
Until next week


Why Earth’s History Appears So Miraculous
Reddit and the Struggle to Detoxify the Internet
Stephen Hawking, science’s brightest star, dies aged 76
Happiness report: Finland is world’s ‘happiest country’ – UN
These Twins, One Black and One White, Will Make You Rethink Race
You Can Have Emotions You Don’t Feel
Astronaut’s gene expression no longer same as his identical twin, NASA finds
The movie star who doubled as a groundbreaking inventor
The Perfect Selfishness of Mapping Apps
The Market Can’t Solve a Massacre

5 VIDEOS + epic rap battle


Read more:

With Teen Mental Health Deteriorating Over Five Years, There’s A Likely Culprit

The Conversation

With teen mental health deteriorating over five years, there’s a likely culprit

Around 2012, something started going wrong in the lives of teens.

In just the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of U.S. teens who felt useless and joyless – classic symptoms of depression – surged 33 percent in large national surveys. Teen suicide attempts increased 23 percent. Even more troubling, the number of 13- to 18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31 percent.

In a new paper published in Clinical Psychological Science, my colleagues and I found that the increases in depression, suicide attempts and suicide appeared among teens from every background – more privileged and less privileged, across all races and ethnicities and in every region of the country. All told, our analysis found that the generation of teens I call “iGen” – those born after 1995 – is much more likely to experience mental health issues than their millennial predecessors.

What happened so that so many more teens, in such a short period of time, would feel depressed, attempt suicide and commit suicide? After scouring several large surveys of teens for clues, I found that all of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.

All signs point to the screen

Because the years between 2010 to 2015 were a period of steady economic growth and falling unemployment, it’s unlikely that economic malaise was a factor. Income inequality was (and still is) an issue, but it didn’t suddenly appear in the early 2010s: This gap between the rich and poor had been widening for decades. We found that the time teens spent on homework barely budged between 2010 and 2015, effectively ruling out academic pressure as a cause.

However, according to the Pew Research Center, smartphone ownership crossed the 50 percent threshold in late 2012 – right when teen depression and suicide began to increase. By 2015, 73 percent of teens had access to a smartphone.

Not only did smartphone use and depression increase in tandem, but time spent online was linked to mental health issues across two different data sets. We found that teens who spent five or more hours a day online were 71 percent more likely than those who spent less than an hour a day to have at least one suicide risk factor (depression, thinking about suicide, making a suicide plan or attempting suicide). Overall, suicide risk factors rose significantly after two or more hours a day of time online.

Of course, it’s possible that instead of time online causing depression, depression causes more time online. But three other studies show that is unlikely (at least, when viewed through social media use).

Two followed people over time, with both studies finding that spending more time on social media led to unhappiness, while unhappiness did not lead to more social media use. A third randomly assigned participants to give up Facebook for a week versus continuing their usual use. Those who avoided Facebook reported feeling less depressed at the end of the week.

The argument that depression might cause people to spend more time online doesn’t also explain why depression increased so suddenly after 2012. Under that scenario, more teens became depressed for an unknown reason and then started buying smartphones, which doesn’t seem too logical.

What’s lost when we’re plugged in

Even if online time doesn’t directly harm mental health, it could still adversely affect it in indirect ways, especially if time online crowds out time for other activities.

For example, while conducting research for my book on iGen, I found that teens now spend much less time interacting with their friends in person. Interacting with people face to face is one of the deepest wellsprings of human happiness; without it, our moods start to suffer and depression often follows. Feeling socially isolated is also one of the major risk factors for suicide. We found that teens who spent more time than average online and less time than average with friends in person were the most likely to be depressed. Since 2012, that’s what has occurred en masse: Teens have spent less time on activities known to benefit mental health (in-person social interaction) and more time on activities that may harm it (time online).

Teens are also sleeping less, and teens who spend more time on their phones are more likely to not be getting enough sleep. Not sleeping enough is a major risk factor for depression, so if smartphones are causing less sleep, that alone could explain why depression and suicide increased so suddenly.

Depression and suicide have many causes: Genetic predisposition, family environments, bullying and trauma can all play a role. Some teens would experience mental health problems no matter what era they lived in.

But some vulnerable teens who would otherwise not have had mental health issues may have slipped into depression due to too much screen time, not enough face-to-face social interaction, inadequate sleep or a combination of all three.

It might be argued that it’s too soon to recommend less screen time, given that the research isn’t completely definitive. However, the downside to limiting screen time – say, to two hours a day or less – is minimal. In contrast, the downside to doing nothing – given the possible consequences of depression and suicide – seems, to me, quite high.

It’s not too early to think about limiting screen time; let’s hope it’s not too late.

Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology, San Diego State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Read more:

20 Bizarre Facts About Money You’ve Definitely Never Heard Of

Money. It makes the world go round.

And makes most of us pretty miserable in the process. After all, between phone bills, cable packages, rent, health insurance, food, and pet expenses, that nonsense adds up! More and more, all of that stuff is done online, leading to this bizarre phenomenon when money seems like a more amorphous thing than literal, physical dollars and cents.

Most of the time these days, we just watch that number in our checking account dwindle. But did you ever stop to think about how weird money is? Like, “Here, we invented these little pieces of paper that you have to exchange with people to feed yourself and live.” I get it and all, but it’s still pretty odd if you ask me. Anyway, want to know what’s even weirder? These 20 facts about money that you probably never knew about.

1. A penny costs 2.4 cents to make.

2. More than 2 million Americans survive on just $2 per day.

3. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing uses 9.7 tons of ink each day to print money. That has to be expensive.

4. Just five percent of those who buy lottery tickets account for 51 percent of total ticket sales. That’s a lot of tickets.

5. Let this sink in: Gambling generates more money each year than movies, spectator sports, theme parks, cruise ships and recorded music combined. Dang.

6. Grab the hand sanitizer! Ninety-five percent of bills are absolutely covered in bacteria.

7. Ever see a dollar bill within one inch of its life? A bill can withstand 800,000 folds before it tears from use.

8. The Monopoly man’s doing better than us, since more Monopoly money is printed per year than actual money.

9. Have money in your wallet? There’s a good chance there’s cocaine on it. Ninety percent of bills have traces of the white powdery stuff on them.

10. Back to my previous point, only about 8 percent of global currency is physical printed money.

11. Pablo Escobar once lost a cool $10 mill to hungry rats.

12. The largest U.S. bill ever was for $100,000. I’ll take 10.

13. When it comes to counterfeiting U.S. currency, North Korea is the biggest offender. Shocking.

14. Before the Secret Service followed the president around, their original job was actually to fight counterfeiting.

15. Kids are rollin’ in it today! The average household allowance for chores is $65. I could’ve gotten so many lip glosses with that.

16. Americans spend $117 billion on fast food per year because of course we do.

17. Crushing debt comes early now! People today start going into credit card debt as early as high school.

18. This little design on the $1 bill is a nod to the original 13 colonies.

19. Everything is terrible and 96 percent of people working in the U.S. today will not be able to retire by the time they’re 65.

20. If you have 10 bucks in your pocket and no debt to speak of, including any standing credit card debt, then congrats! You’re wealthier than a quarter of Americans.

Read more:

28 Before & After Photos That Prove Your Weight Is Meaningless

Most of us worry about our figures from time to time, and usually, this is very much related to the number we see on the scales.

Well, sometimes weight is truly just a number, and these women will prove it to you. Compiled by Bored Panda, these transformations show that weighing yourself isn’t always the best way to see whether or not you are actually getting fitter, and you definitely don’t need to starve yourself or go on a very strict diet to see the actual difference.

Even though these photos show that you can maintain your weight and still look stunning, some people did choose the other path and their results are inspiring nonetheless. Different physiques require different choices!

Scroll down to see how incredible these women look without losing a single pound!

Read more:

Cindy McCain to The View: Im Tired of Trump Bullying My Husband

Last week, after President Donald Trump got the CPAC audience to boo her father for voting against the Republican Partys Obamacare repeal, Meghan McCain held her tongue on The View. She said she wanted to wait to address the issue with her mother and this morning they were ready to talk.

When Cindy McCain joined the show as a guest co-host on Wednesday, she began by giving an update on the health of her husband, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has been battling brain cancer for the better part of a year.

Hes doing OK, she said. Chemo and radiation is a very tough customer. It does so much good, but it also does a lot of damage. She also described her husband as tough as a boot.

Then, they got to the question at hand. Meghan McCain began by revealing that after a report came out that Trump was physically mocking her father behind closed doors, she got a personal call from the president and Melania Trump in which they attempted to clear the airif not necessarily apologize.

I really was under the impression this sort of fight between our families and between him and my father, especially at this particular moment, would end, she continued. Even though Trumps latest criticism was ostensibly about policy, Meghan called it incredibly hurtful, adding, I feel, quite frankly, very naive to have believed that this would be any different.

You should never believe anything he says, her co-host Joy Behar chimed in.

Attempting to shift the focus to her husbands achievement, Cindy McCain said Trump fails to understand all of the positive things Sen. McCain has done for the country, even over the past year. But more importantly, she said, we need more compassion, we need more empathy, we need more togetherness in terms of working together. We dont need more bullying, and Im tired of it!

The feud between the two men dates back nearly three years to the moment when Trump said McCain was only considered a war hero because he was captured during Vietnam. I like people that werent captured, okay? Trump said at the time, hammering what many falsely believed would be the nail in his own campaigns coffin.

Heres the issue with this man, his ego does not allow for someone else to have accolades, The Views Whoopi Goldberg told the McCains, who nodded along in agreement. He knows that people love your dad. Whether they agree or not, people love your dad, because they know that hes knows what right and will stand up.

Read more:

6 Emotions You Had No Clue Actually Had Names

Have you ever had a weird feeling or emotion that you couldn’t really describe? Of course you have. Otherwise “That feeling when …” followed by an extremely specific set of circumstances wouldn’t be a meme your mom shares on Facebook. There are a ton of emotions that most people (or even languages) don’t have words for. In fact, the Germans have a word for the desire to have a word for everything: alleworterhabenfreude. So let us help you label these hidden desires, anxieties, and itches, so you’ll be prepared during any future therapy sessions or police interrogations.


L’Appel Du Vide: The Sudden Urge To Kill Yourself

Picture yourself on the landing of a stairwell, or a rooftop, or atop a cliff after a long hike. Some of us will take in the view, snap a pic for the Insta fans, and then be on our way. And some of us will have a weird flash in our brains: JUMP. And you don’t have to be suicidal for it to happen.

The French, in their ever-melodramatic way, call this feeling l’appel du vide, or “the call of the void.” In English, it’s known as high place phenomenon, or HPP (much more boring, we know). But that name is bit misleading, as you can experience HPP anywhere danger could happen. You might want to jump onto train tracks, jerk your car toward a barrier, or ask a cop to take a look at the black flashlight you’re keeping in the waistband of your low-hanging pants. Anywhere the balance between life and death is laid bare, the void will come a-calling.

Annnnd suddenly this makes sense.

But here’s the good news: Having these feelings means you want to live, dammit! As bizarre as it sounds, research suggests that this may be our subconscious overreacting to danger signs, fabricating a fake threat like your mom telling you not to touch electrical outlets because the energy monster will kill you. So the next time you feel the urge to do something fatal, know that you either love life too much or not enough. Like with jumping, there’s no middle ground.


Skin Hunger: Craving Physical Contact

Even if you aren’t a touchy-feely-huggy kind of person, you hopefully have one or two people in your life allowed to rub up on you every now and then. Even the most standoffish among us need to feel occasional skin-on-skin touch. Otherwise, we might start to experience something called skin hunger — the urge to touch bodies and have our bodies be touched. If you find yourself suddenly wanting to hug casual acquaintances, fist-bump strangers, or cuddle with Ruth in HR, you might be experiencing skin hunger.

In our contemporary standoffish culture, we should really take skin hunger more seriously, as there are so many benefits to getting touched often enough, and serious downsides when you don’t. Depression is the obvious one. Even otherwise well-adjusted people can get seriously depressed without plenty of skin-on-skin contact. Studies have found that even getting a quick massage can greatly decrease feelings of depression.

Wavebreakmedia/iStockMeaning that, in a way, every massage comes with a happy ending.

Another side effect of skin hunger is less obvious but more dangerous: aggression. A study found that French teens, who live in a “high contact” culture, touched each other more often when hanging out and were less likely to be aggressive than American teens. But the easiest place to spot how inhuman a skin-starved person can get is solitary confinement in prison. Not being touched is a specific element of their punishment, and prolonged withdrawal will emotionally and psychologically scar prisoners. And mental instability is not something incarcerated people need any more of.

Part of the problem is that we are now so connected online, but more isolated in real life. You can’t receive a hug from your Facebook friends, no matter how convincing the emojis are getting. It’s simply an essential part of nature. Baby monkeys in lab tests will even prefer a fake monkey mother that can give physical contact and support over one that is made of wire but gives food. Intimacy over food, huh? Turns out those old pizza delivery guy pornos were wholesome after all.


Gigil: The Overpowering Desire To Squeeze Something Cute

When holding a baby or playing with an adorable puppy, have you ever had the sudden compulsion to squish them? And not even because they bit you (damn babies), but because they are just too darn cute and you want to hug them so tight they explode? No, you’re not a psychopath (well, maybe). Everyone gets this feeling from time to time. In Tagalog, they call it gigil, but in English it’s known as “cute aggression.”

Gigil elicits genuine aggressiveness in the body. One study into the emotion gave participants some bubble wrap and told them they could pop as much as they wanted, which already makes this the most fun study ever. They then split the subjects into three groups and showed them cute pictures of animals, funny pictures, or plain old normal pictures. The study found that those who looked at the cute pics popped a lot more bubble wrap, as if their hands were automatically seizing up as a response to something they would want to hug and squeeze — to death, apparently.

Another study had people look at pictures of babies of varying cuteness and recorded their reactions. Not only did people have more nurturing feelings toward the cutest babies, but they also had more aggressive responses, such as wanting to pinch their cheeks or “eat them up.” Fortunately, these feelings are completely harmless. Researchers believe that this might a compensation mechanic, that we get so overwhelmed by the omg so kewt sensation that our body injects some nice, bitter aggression so we don’t go into emotional diabetic shock. It’s similar to how we cry during triumphant moments or touch ourselves inappropriately during funerals.

No? Just us?


Frisson: Beauty-Induced Skin Orgasms

Everyone has that special bit of music — it could be anything meaningful to you, but it’s probably Adele — which never fails to give them a little shiver up the spine and exciting goosebumps on the arms. This is called a “skin orgasm,” better known by the French term frisson, because there’s nothing more French than combining artistic beauty and sexy time tingles.

While frisson happens most often when you are listening to something that moves you, that isn’t the limits of its powers. You can also be physically overwhelmed when looking at a beautiful piece of art, watching a great movie scene, or touching someone else. Scientists think frisson might be something that stuck around from when we were shaggier. Back in our cave-dweller days, when all we had was thick layers of hair keeping us warm, we were very susceptible to unexpected cold breezes. In order to deal with them, our bodies learned to react to a sudden rush by giving us goosebumps to trap a layer of air to assist in keeping us warm. Nowadays, there are plenty of things potent enough to send shivers down our spines other than the cold, like when we’re watching that scene in Return Of The King when Aragon tells the hobbits they bow to no one and great now we’re crying again.

And not just because this makes us remember how terrible the Hobbit movies were.

Research has shown that anywhere from 55 to 86 percent of the population has experienced frisson at some point. There’s even a personality trait called “openness to experience” which causes certain people to feel aesthetic chills more often. Such people tend to have very active imaginations, think about their feelings a lot, love pretty things and the great outdoors, and are always trying new stuff like they’re the world’s most emotionally healthy junkies.


Deja Reve: Believing Your Dreams Predict The Future

We’ve all know about deja vu, when you could swear this isn’t the first time you’ve seen that woman in a green hat eating seven hard-boiled eggs. Fortunately, most of us know it’s fantastical nonsense. The idea that you’re reliving a moment is nothing but your brain playing a trick on you. Not like, say, when you dream about something and it actually happens only days later. That’s legit magic, right?

Deja reve (meaning “already dreamed”) is deja vu‘s less famous cousin. This happens when you suddenly think that what is happening has already occurred in a dream you only half-remember. Sadly for all us would-be oracles, deja reve works exactly the same as deja vu — you feel a false sense of familiarity, and your brain makes the logical assumption that it must be a memory. And since remembering dreams is like remembering real events, only more difficult and less reliable, deja reve is the perfect excuse for both skeptics and people who have a crystal ball on their Amazon wish list to accept the weirdness.

In fact, dreams are such an easy scapegoat for deja vu that almost everyone blames them for it. A study that surveyed college students found that 86 percent of them believed they had relived events that had first happened in their dreams. Another study found it was even more common, with 95.2 percent of participants claiming they’d experienced deja reve. And 7 percent said their dreams come true every week, which must get freaky if they ever dream about being murdered by a clown with an erection.


Hundreds Of Others, Because The English Language Is Emotionally Stunted

This list has barely scratched the surface of emotions we have no words for, because there are hundreds of them. One researcher found at least 216 foreign words for emotions that have no English equivalent. So like a therapist who’s noticed there’s only a minute left of the session, let’s rattle some other complex emotions we haven’t dealt with yet.

There are some that are immediately recognizable once someone tells you what it means. For example, the Koreans have the word …

… which means your mouth is bored. It’s that “peckish” feeling you get when you aren’t hungry, but feel like eating to pass the time or avoid doing something else — talking, most likely.

Koreans also have a similar word for hand boredom …

… which means you want to do something like crafting. We’re still holding out hope that they eventually discover eye boredom, explaining why we consider naps a valid way to kill some time.

Want some more? The Germans have schnapsidee, which is the phenomenon wherein you come up with the most brilliant plan ever despite being completely hammered. They also have sitzfleisch (literally “sit meat”), the specific fortitude used to sit through very boring things. Gula is Spanish for when you want to eat solely for the taste, a common desire among gourmands and cannibals. And the Bantu people of Africa have mbukimvuki, the sudden desire to burst out into a musical performance, which we could probably translate as “Bollywood syndrome.”

So why is it so important to know such words? Because some scientists think that when you don’t have a word for something, you might not be as likely to feel it. So maybe try to remember those 216 words. Your life (and vocabulary) will be all the richer for it.

At this point it might also be worth just investing in a French-English dictionary.

Support Cracked’s journalism with a visit to our Contribution Page. Please and thank you.

For more, check out 9 Foreign Words the English Language Desperately Needs and 6 Foreign Words So Dark There Are No English Equivalents.

We got lots of words for you on Facebook.

Read more:

The outrage over Jim Carrey’s tweet is sparking a debate about body-shaming.

Jim Carrey, a blockbuster actor known for being both hilariously weird and emotionally effective on-screen, doesn’t make many movies anymore. These days, he’s more interested in making art.

And he hasn’t exactly been quiet about politics, either. On March 17, 2018, Carrey posted a controversial tweet with a grotesque drawing of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, accompanied by the word “monstrous.”

“This is the portrait of a so-called Christian whose only purpose in life is to lie for the wicked. Monstrous!” Carrey wrote to his nearly 18 million Twitter followers.

In response, Fox News and several other conservative media outlets are framing Carrey’s comments and portrait of Sanders as “disgraceful” and “terrifying.” They’ve also called the tweet “body-shaming” and “bullying.”

Body-shaming and bullying are serious issues. But is that really what’s going on here?

Chances are, you’ve seen a number of stories about bullying and body-shaming in recent years — and probably several of them came from us.

The reality is, we’re all insecure about our appearances to varying degrees and unrealistic expectations from the media, sexism, and bullying have all contributed to a very real problem that’s worth calling out when it happens.

After all, recent studies have shown that fat-shaming isn’t just mean, it can involve serious health risks for those who experience it. And one recent study claims that an overwhelming 94% of teenage girls experience fat-shaming at some point in their formative years.

But this simply isn’t one of those cases. While Carrey’s portrait of Sanders certainly isn’t flattering, it’s clearly more a political critique or a critique of the job she does than a personal insult about her physical appearance. There’s a long history of using unflattering portraits of political figures to make a point that has nothing to do with their real-world body shape, size, or appearance.

Trying to frame political criticism of the White House press secretary as body-shaming only distracts from the real problem, one that these same media outlets rarely seemed concerned about when the alleged target isn’t one of their political allies.

Carrey himself has addressed the supposed backlash, tweeting out a satirical painting he did of Trump to make his point. But that hasn’t stopped a number of people from calling him out.

Liberals and progressives alike should be called out when they’re hypocritical on such a significant issue.

Body-shaming and bullying aren’t limited to one side of the political spectrum.

In politics, many on the left have fallen into attacking Donald Trump for his appearance. As we’ve written before, there is no shortage of things to criticize Trump for — and going after his weight isn’t necessary or productive.

More recently, The New Yorker was criticized by Fox News and others for its cover depicting a nude Trump. That seems more fair, even though many find it hard to defend the most powerful man in the world who himself has a long history of body-shaming vulnerable women.

If Carrey was doing that here with Sanders, we’d be first in line to criticize him for that.

Political figures are fair game for criticism. Treating any attack as personal is a distraction from the real issues.

It’s not always easy to draw the line on acceptable criticism of public figures.

Making direct threats against their safety is a clear red line no one should cross. However, it’s clear here that a number of people are using the shield of “body-shaming” and “bullying” as a way to distract from valid criticism of Sanders and her boss.

We’re not saying Carrey’s commentary was kind, but it’s well within the bounds of political criticism. And that’s something everyone should defend, even when it’s their team that’s being targeted.

Read more:

Heres Why I Refuse To Take Birth Control (And You Should Too)

Yegide Matthews / Unsplash

Should girls in general be on birth control? As a 26-year-old millennial woman, still single and still dating–these questions are unavoidable.

I met someone on OkCupid last year, we’ll call him Jim. He had green eyes, an infectious smile, and adventurous spirit; which is exactly what I liked and wanted. I am prone to worry and feelings of anxiety despite my longing to explore and create; I wanted to emulate that carefree, adventurous, and fearless spirit that he harbored. He was also from upstate New York while I was born and raised in the city — we were complete opposites. He is tall and Caucasian, and I am mixed (both Hispanic and Asian) and petite with darker features.

Our first few dates were great –we went to Central Park, chatted at a café, had dinner, went to an outdoor concert, ect. We had similar tastes in movies and music and I got the sense that we were both intrigued by each other.

It was refreshing to meet someone new that I actually really liked for the first time in a while.

After a week of dating the question came up as we were hanging out in his Brooklyn apartment. “Are you on birth control?”.

I’ve never been on birth control, it seems to be the thing to do nowadays and the thing for girls to be expected to do if they are sexually active but after researching for myself I made the decision to never use it. A substance that creates chemical changes to my body and hormones which then puts me at risk for blood clots, heart attack, stroke, ect. didn’t seem appealing to me. I also didn’t agree with the moral and societal aspects of taking the pill. It seemed counter-intuitive and yes, sexist.

“No, are you on birth control?” I joked.

He seemed confused and we had a discussion and many discussions thereafter about birth control. He thought it was normal and common for girls to be on birth control and on some deeper level I’m sure that he also thought that they were solely responsible for birth prevention. Guys get a free pass on this one apparently.

He was five years younger than me and had no idea or knowledge about the pill other than that it prevents the girls he has sex with from getting pregnant. Essentially, he can ejaculate inside them without consequence.

Thankfully, I was born and raised in a household that promotes equality for the most part and I grew up naturally wanting to see this world to be more equal for everyone. From my experience, we’ve come a long way but unfortunately we still have a long way to go. I still see the inequalities even with my relatives, I see it in school, and I also see it where I work currently. I am proud to call myself an activist and yes, the f-word: an intersectional feminist.

I used to volunteer at a feminist bookstore and out of nowhere found myself reading books on the history of birth control. About how many female patients suffered and some even died during the early stages of birth control development. Many of the test subjects were women of color. It sickens me to the core when the recent birth control study for men, although 98% effective (studies were administered shots over a period of time) was cut because a few men complained of mood swings and side effects that many women experience today with their birth control. It was also interesting to see that a majority of the men administered shots said that they would take it again –save for those few men that complained of side effects women regularly experience.

Women who take birth control experience these common side effects: mood swings, depression, cramping, nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness, bleeding between periods, weight gain, and changes in sexual desire, to name a few. Blood clots, heart attack, stroke are side effects that can cause death with certain types of birth control.

So why does society deem it okay and “normal” for women to experience these side effects but men don’t have to? The birth control shot exists for men, but we give them a free pass and cut studies for men because a few complained of mood swings.

We still live in a sexist society after all.

Another reason why I will never take birth control is because one of my long term friends from college went to the ER last year due to a blood clot. She almost died and was in the ICU for days, the doctors found a correlation with the blood clot attributed to her birth control–birth control that she had taken since she was 16 years old. She wasn’t sexually active, it was mostly used to regulate her period but still– my friend almost died because of the pill.

The fact that the FDA and pharmaceutical companies allow these life threatening contraceptives to be on the market for women because we deem it a woman’s job to prevent birth instead of the man (who impregnates the woman in the first place) makes my stomach turn in disgust. In contrast, the first signs of discomfort and complaints from a few men lead to the contraceptive and study being cut altogether, and are thus prevented from being put out on the market.

Back to Jim–all of his ex-girlfriends took birth control, and they were also all Caucasian as far as I know. He got away with many things it seemed, he didn’t have to worry about much. I spent a few months on-and-off dating him and also educating him in the process, not just about birth control and sexism, but also about my race and my culture. I remember on one occasion he called me white (my skin) and I had to correct him (my skin is actually tan) and tell him that I’m a mixed American and proud of being mixed. American’s aren’t solely white folks I reminded him.

What people don’t realize is that even though women are on birth control –that doesn’t protect anyone from STDS/STI or HIV/AIDS. Currently STD rates are at an all time high (which is another reason why I opt for condoms instead of birth control). According to the center for disease control and prevention–In 2016, Americans were infected with more than 2 million new cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia, the highest number of these sexually transmitted diseases ever reported. At least half of these occur in sexually active young people between the ages of 15 and 24.

This freaks me out! And it should freak everyone else out as well. Just because there is a pill for birth prevention doesn’t mean there is a pill for STD prevention. Wearing condoms is courteous to you and your partner and others. You also never know what you can contract from others because men can’t get tested for HPV but are carriers. With Jim having unprotected sex with his ex-girlfriends, there was no way I was going to take that risk.

All in all, birth control is a woman’s choice –whether you want to take it or don’t want to take it. But for me it just doesn’t appeal or coincide with who I am. I would also suggest for women everywhere to do research on their birth control and to be more vocal about male birth control. For men as well, my hope is for more men to advocate for male birth control and to also continue to advocate for equality for women on all fronts. If men had birth control it would help many things. It would alleviate anxiety from both partners, it would be more effective in preventing pregnancies (provided if both used protection), and it would be incredibly effective in preventing abortions and reducing the number of abortion procedures taken each year.

At one point, Jim was trying to get me to agree to an abortion if he ever got me pregnant; that really annoyed me. My answer: no and no. Condoms are the way to go. Sure enough, he ended up buying a box of condoms, thank god! And until pharmaceutical companies decide to put male birth control out on the market, I won’t ever be on birth control.

Read more:

This Is How To Date When Youre A Woman With Anxiety

No matter how you try and rationalize it, being a girlfriend with anxiety is hard. Being anyone with anxiety is hard.

I’m not sure anxiety ever gets easier to deal with. From my experience, the second you think you’ve mastered it, it evolves. It begins to take shape in a new form that’s different and scarier than the first. The worst part is, you’re never prepared.

It makes you feel like a bad daughter, a bad sister, a bad friend, a bad girlfriend, and an all-around bad person. You feel defeated.

While being a girlfriend with anxiety is hard, I think I’m learning and I think I’m getting better at. At least I hope so… maybe a little bit each day. So here’s what I’ve learned and I hope you can take it with you as you begin to date with anxiety.

Find someone who understands and respects mental health.

My best friend dated a guy who said, “mental health isn’t real…it’s a way of seeking attention in relationships.” The second she told me, I knew it wasn’t going to work out. If you struggle in terms of mental health, you must find someone who not only understands, but is ready to take on the journey with you. It’s scary, yes. But trust me, when you find that person, you won’t feel ashamed about yourself anymore­–you will feel safe and you will feel loved.

Be transparent, even if it’s hard.

For the first six months of my relationship, I hid my anxiety. I would call my mom from the car outside his house, explaining to that I was so nervous I thought I needed to come home. It’s hard to handle on your own. Once you feel comfortable, be open about your anxiety and how it manifests itself within you. Opening up is hard. But hiding this aspect of yourself is harder and it doesn’t deserve to be shunned.

Let them help you.

For as long as I can remember, battling anxiety was something I did on my own. I could figure it out, so I can continue to handle it without help. But if someone has fallen in love with you and is committed to helping you carry your “baggage”, the best thing you can do is let them. While they may not know how at first, with time, they will become your ally. Trust them. Let them see the good, the bad, and the ugly. How can you expect them to help if you refuse to let them in?

I understand how it feels, thinking you’ll never find someone that will love you because of how your brain has decided to work. But you are worthy of love. No amount of anxiety should keep that from you.

Read more:

Finland is the happiest country in the world, says UN report

Nordic nations take top four places in happiness rankings, with annual study also charting the decline of the US

Finland has overtaken Norway to become the happiest nation on earth, according to a UN report.

The 2018 World Happiness Report also charts the steady decline of the US as the worlds largest economy grapples with a crisis of obesity, substance abuse and depression.

The study reveals the US has slipped to 18th place, five places down on 2016. The top four places are taken by Nordic nations, with Finland followed by Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

Burundi in east Africa, scarred by bouts of ethnic cleansing, civil wars and coup attempts, is the unhappiest place in the world. Strikingly, there are five other nations Rwanda, Yemen, Tanzania, South Sudan and the Central African Republic which report happiness levels below that of even Syria.

For the first time the UN also examined the happiness levels of immigrants in each country, and found Finland also scored highest.

Finland has vaulted from fifth place to the top of the rankings this year, said the reports authors, although they noted that the other three Nordic countries (plus Switzerland) have almost interchangeable scores.

The report, an annual publication from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said all the Nordic countries scored highly on income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. The rankings are based on Gallup polls of self-reported wellbeing, as well as perceptions of corruption, generosity and freedom.

Sign up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

The UN placing is the latest accolade for Finland, a country of 5.5 million people that only 150 years ago suffered Europes last naturally caused famine. The country has been ranked the most stable, the safest and best governed country in the world. It is also among the least corrupt and the most socially progressive. Its police are the worlds most trusted and its banks the soundest.

That Finland is the top scorer is remarkable, said Meik Wiking of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark. GDP per capita in Finland is lower than its neighbouring Nordic countries and is much lower than that of the US. The Finns are good at converting wealth into wellbeing.

In the Nordic countries in general, we pay some of the highest taxes in the world, but there is wide public support for that because people see them as investments in quality of life for all. Free healthcare and university education goes a long way when it comes to happiness. In the Nordic countries, Bernie Sanders is not viewed as progressive he is just common sense, added Wiking, referring to the leftwing US politician who galvanised the Democrat primaries in the 2016 presidential election.

In Britain, figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest people have become happier in recent years. But the UN ranking places the UK in a lowly 19th place, the same as last year but behind Germany, Canada and Australia, although ahead of France and Spain.

The UN report devotes a special chapter to why the US, once towards the top of happiness table, has slipped down the league despite having among the highest income per capita.

Americas subjective wellbeing is being systematically undermined by three interrelated epidemic diseases, notably obesity, substance abuse (especially opioid addiction) and depression, said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University in New York, and one of the reports authors.

Despite African countries getting the worst happiness scores, one west African nation has bucked the trend. Togo came bottom in 2015 but was the biggest improver in the 2018 report, rising 18 places. Latvians and Bulgarians are also reporting higher levels of happiness.

Venezuela recorded the biggest fall in happiness, outstripping even Syria, although in absolute terms it remains a mid-ranking country. The report notes that Latin American countries generally scored more highly than their GDP per capita suggests, especially in contrast to fast-growing east Asian countries.

Latin America is renowned for corruption, high violence and crime rates, unequal distribution of income and widespread poverty, yet has consistently scored relatively highly in the happiness report. The authors attributed this to the abundance of family warmth and other supportive social relationships frequently sidelined in favour of an emphasis on income measures in the development discourse.

Meanwhile, the greatest human migration in history the hundreds of millions of people who have moved from the Chinese countryside into cities has not advanced happiness at all, the report found.

Even seven-and-a-half years after migrating to urban areas, migrants from rural areas are on average less happy than they might have been had they stayed at home, according to John Knight of the Oxford Chinese Economy Programme at the University of Oxford and one of the contributors to the UN report.

Top 10 happiest countries, 2018

(2017 ranking in brackets)

1. Finland (5)

2. Norway (1)

3. Denmark (2)

4. Iceland (3)

5. Switzerland (4)

6. Netherlands (6)

7. Canada (7)

8. New Zealand (8)

9. Sweden (10)

10. Australia (9)

The 10 unhappiest countries, 2018

(2017 ranking in brackets)

147. Malawi (136)

148. Haiti (145)

149. Liberia (148)

150. Syria (152)

151. Rwanda (151)

152. Yemen (146)

153. Tanzania (153)

154. South Sudan (147)

155. Central African Republic (155)

156. Burundi (154)

Read more:

“You Cant Fix Her”: To the Man Whose Wife Has Anxiety

For someone who doesn’t live with anxiety, it can be difficult to understand and care for someone who does. It isn’t choosey in whose mind it captures, and it’s relentless in its efforts to destroy any peace one might have.

Mommy-blogger and mother of two Laura Mazza knows the feeling. The “Mum on The Run” took to Facebook on Sunday to encourage and inform “the man whose wife or partner has anxiety.”

“You might have heard that she has anxiety from sitting by her side in a doctor’s office, holding her hands while the tears steam down her face. You might have seen her get angry and explode because she’s overwhelmed. Wondering where this rage has come from. You might have seen her sit quietly staring into the distance with a panic in her eye.”

Laura says whether a man guessed his leading lady had anxiety, or she told him, there are some important things every man in this situation needs to know.


“Anxiety isn’t a one size fits all, it isn’t consistent and it isn’t always easy to tell. You might think she’s just snapped at you, but it was anxiety that did it, you might think she’s angry, but it’s the anxiety that’s got a choke hold, you might think she’s not enjoying herself when you go out and it’s your fault, but it’s not. It’s anxiety.”

She breaks down the thought process of someone like herself—a loving and caring woman whose mind has a tendency to play tricks on her, and get the best of her. She explains the things that from the outside just don’t make a whole lot of sense.

“You know how she can’t understand when she asks you what are you thinking, why you would respond with ‘nothing’…it’s because she never thinks nothing. Her thoughts replay like a freight train in her head full steam ahead, over and over. It’s exhausting for her. It’s why she’s tired.

There isn’t a day that goes by where she doesn’t think. She thinks about everything, and usually it is the worst case scenario. She worries that something will go wrong. That some days if she leaves the house, something will happen. Kidnapping, deaths, falls, cars spinning out of control, that’s why she can’t just leave the house or just go out, even though you’ve suggested it with good intentions. But it’s not so easy. That’s why when she’s home alone or out by herself she will text you a million times, telling you her every move or telling you everything that’s going wrong, she knows you can’t change anything, she knows you feel helpless, but so does she, that’s why she needs to share it with you, otherwise her head will explode with panic.

Sometimes she wonders why you’re with her, and if you knew she had anxiety would you still be there, do you regret it? Being with her? Do you wish you were with someone else that didn’t have this vice around their neck?”

After sharing some things that men in this scenario “need to know,” she informs them of what they can, and should do.

“I want you to know I see that this is tough on you, tough to see your loved one hurt, tough on you, the pressure for you would be immense. But don’t think for a second she doesn’t see you, don’t think for a second she doesn’t worry about you too. She even gets anxiety about you. She knows it’s not your fault, and she knows you want to fix her and in the way that means you help her, but you can’t fix her. She’s not broken.”

Anxiety is tough, and it has a horrible way of overtaking relationships, special occasions and everyday outings. But it’s not something to “fix.”

“But you can help her, you can loosen the vice. You can see what gets too much for her, the crowds of people or bed time, dinner time, see it and help her by holding her hand and tell her you’re with her. Do it with her, take over, tell her to sit down for a while and breathe. 

If you see her struggling with appointments, reschedule them for her, encourage her to take it slowly. Too much is overwhelming for her, even though she has good intentions. Don’t make her feel bad for missing an appointment, a party, whatever. She wanted to go, but she couldn’t. She already feels bad. Tells her it’s okay. Take the kids out for a play when you see her struggling, encourage her to take time out for herself. If the kids are awake all night and she’s worse if she has less sleep, get up with her, take over. Tell her to go back to bed.”

Even with all of her advice, Laura acknowledges that the solution will be different almost every single time. It won’t always be obvious, but there is still one thing you can do that will help every time.

“Sometimes the answer won’t be so obvious. Sometimes she won’t even know the answer is to what she needs, but so long as [you’re] patient with her, she will feel your love.

She or you won’t benefit if you get frustrated, it’ll just escalate and make both of you miserable. She doesn’t want her anxiety to define your relationship and when you are patient, you’re telling her you’re willing to do the same.”

The mother of two reiterates how heartbreaking anxiety is for the person who lives with it, saying she wishes she could just “feel free.”

“Free of the voice that follows her listing all her insecurities.”

Laura closes with a heartfelt message to all of those men who are seeing this, reminding them that they too are loved, and cherished, and appreciated—even when mental health prevents their loved one from expressing that.

“She appreciates you, she loves you. She’s vulnerable and scared. But she chose you to share her biggest deepest scar tissue that resides in her heart, and she knew the day she met you that you were the one worthy enough to see her in all her imperfections. She will love you with that whole heart, and you know she will because she’s already listed the pros and cons…and just as you are by her side she will be fiercely loyal to yours. Forever and ever, you just to need take her hand and tell her, ‘I am with you.’


A wife, a woman and a mumma who has anxiety.”

Read Next On FaithIt
These Love Stories Are Kingdom-Romantic, and They’ll Change Your View on Marriage Forever

Read more:

This Bench Absorbs More Air Pollution Than A Small Forest

It’s no secret that London’s air is grimy as hell. Within just one month, “the Big Smoke” reached its air pollution limit set by the EU for the whole of 2018. But a novel piece of urban furniture hopes to serve as a footsoldier in the capital’s big battle to “go green”.

Germany-based tech startup Green City Solutions has recently “planted” a CityTree outside the pubs and organic supermarkets of Glasshouse Street in London, a short walk from the notoriously busy Piccadilly Circus. It’s a kind of hybrid between a city bench, a pollution-sucking filter, and an environment-tracking smart device. 

It works using a combination of plants and mosses that naturally remove dust, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone gases from the surrounding air. It’s also hooked up to the “Internet of things”, providing data on pollution levels, soil humidity, air temperature, and water quality. On top of all this, it’s been designed to be resistant to vandalism and features solar panels that satisfy all of its electricity demands.

Although only small, this device claims to have the same benefit of up to 275 real trees by filtering the air of up to 240 tonnes (265 tons) of carbon dioxide per year, plus all the other nasty fine-matter particulates and nitrogen dioxide found in inner-city pollution.

While this bench alone is not going to address all of London’s wheezy woes, it serves as a great example of how design and technology are taking up the challenge of solving our planet’s environmental problems.

“There is no simple solution, so alongside our work to reduce carbon emissions from our buildings and reduce the number of vehicles on our roads, we want to test and learn from new technology,” James Cooksey, Director of Central London at The Crown Estate, said in a statement.

London is just the latest city to have its own CityTree. So far the startup has installed over 20 CityTrees in urban areas, including Berlin, Oslo, Paris, Drammen in Norway, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Hong Kong, as well as Newcastle in the north of the UK.

“Our ultimate goal is to incorporate technology from the CityTree into existing buildings,” Zhengliang Wu, co-founder of Green City Solutions, told CNN last year.

“We dream of creating a climate infrastructure so we can regulate what kind of air and also what kind of temperature we have in a city.”

Read more:

The Bitter Truth About Fighting Chronic Pain Without Opioids

If you’ve tried to get painkillers from your doctor recently, or read literally any news story about white rural America, you know that we have an opioid epidemic. Fortunately, it turns out there is a clear, simple solution to the problem. Here’s a quote from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, breaking it down for the rest of us simple-minded shits:

“The plain fact is, I believe — and I am operating on the assumption that this country prescribes too many opioids — I mean, people need to take some aspirin sometimes and tough it out a little. That’s what General Kelly — you know, he’s a Marine — he had a surgery on his hand, a painful surgery … he goes, ‘I’m not taking any drugs. It did hurt though.’ He did admit it hurt. But, I mean, a lot of people, you can get through these things.”

As someone who lives with awful chronic pain, I of course agree with him. Sometimes you do have to just tough it out. It really is that simple. I’m not being sarcastic at all. Allow me to share my inspirational story.

Note: Former Cracked editor John Cheese is now the editor in chief of The Modern Rogue!


Simply Plan Your Entire Life Around The Pain

When I was a kid, I had a diving accident that did permanent damage to my neck and back. The details aren’t important — it really is the kind of thing that could have happened to any sensible person — but the result was that from ten feet in the air, I landed headfirst on a sandbar that was covered by just a couple of feet of water. I was completely vertical, like a goddamn Tom And Jerry cartoon. It hurt. And I didn’t even get the dignity of a wacky *boing!* sound.

As a result, for the last 30 years, I’ve dealt with chronic back pain. At its worst, it feels like a star collapsed inside my body. Sometimes, though, it changes gears and feels like someone hammered a red-hot nail into my neck and left it there. When that happens, sneezing or coughing will send a lightning bolt up my spine, a jolt of agony that makes me feel like I’m going to piss my pants. That can last for weeks. I’ve had broken bones that didn’t hurt like this. Other times, the muscles will suddenly get so weak that they just turn to Jell-O. Here, try this: Drop to the floor and do crunches until you physically can’t anymore, and then keep doing them for several more minutes. The muscle death you feel, coupled with that pulsating burn? That’s what I feel on most days, from sunup to sundown.

But I of course can power through it without the help of my painkiller prescription, via the irrepressible power of the human spirit. It just takes a little extra planning if I know I’m going to be doing anything extreme, like being on my feet for a couple of hours. For example, I recently took my daughter to the mall for some birthday shopping. After an hour and a half, I physically couldn’t walk anymore. By the time we got back to the car, I thought I was going to have to beg a stranger to help cram me into the driver’s seat, urging them to press on through my screams. Had I planned better, I could have simply quadrupled my dose of aspirin and Skyped with my daughter from the car while she shopped.

That’s the key to pain management: planning ahead and not doing the thing that causes you pain, and also remembering that nearly all things cause you pain. For instance, I pace when I talk on the phone. I can’t help it. This means a 20-minute phone call can potentially seize up my back so completely that I have to execute the sitting process in slow, gentle stages, looking like a GIF loading on a spotty LTE connection.

Of course, if I was smart, I would just stop talking on the phone forever. Or I could plan ahead by taking a few aspirin and toughing through that shit like a tank. I just need to cue up some Jeff Sessions and remember his inspirational words: “But, I mean, a lot of people, you can get through these things.”


Let Societal Scorn Work Its Magic

Over the past eight years, my wife has been through the following:

— An injury that resulted in two knee surgeries

— Her ACL torn right in half, resulting in a third

— Chronic migraines that regularly send her to the ER

Fucking brain surgery

When her ACL popped, she couldn’t touch her foot to the floor without crying so hard that she was close to vomiting. After the first doctor visit, they sent her home with two ibuprofen and a pair of crutches. It wasn’t until a week later that they did a scan and saw the tear. Between this and her original surgeries, the doctors said she’d likely be in pain for the rest of her life. Yet any time she complains to them about the pain, they look at her like she’s trying to bullshit her way into some sweet, sweet drugs. As if she went into the joint and popped that ligament with a pair of bolt cutters just so she’d have the pretense to take an occasional flight on Opioid Airlines.

I get the same. Any time I have to ask for pain medication, it’s followed with a suspicious look and “Are you sure the ibuprofen isn’t helping?” I understand. Even though I’m just asking for weak-ass Tramadol (a synthetic opioid specifically designed to be less addictive), you can still get hooked on that. I’m aware that addicts fake their way into prescriptions all the time. I also know that they sell them on the streets, and to be perfectly honest, I’d have an easier time buying the pills off of them than getting them from an actual doctor. The doctor is the only one who will judge me as a piece of shit.

Fortunately, feeling like a scumbag addict is a great motivator for staying away from opioids, despite the fact that they do take away 100 percent of my pain and allow me to physically function through an average day. Politicians say you’re just weak. Perspective employers see you as a potential pill-popping train wreck. Co-workers and subordinates look at you like you’re Dr. House. Friends and family will compare your pain to theirs and blow it off. (“Your back hurts? That’s nothing. I lost three fingers working at the guillotine factory. You don’t see me suckin’ down pain pills”) I simply have to measure the physical pain against the psychological/emotional pain and realize that the latter is greater. Problem solved.


Trust The Professionals To Let You Know When To Endure Excruciating Pain

The absolute best way to stay away from opioids is to let the medical profession do what it’s currently doing: restrict the everloving shit out of them in a completely arbitrary way. For instance, did you know that CVS announced in late 2017 that they would be limiting opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply? And that patients would have to try the immediate-release pills before switching to the much more effective extended-release pills that chronic pain sufferers need? Thank. God.

Here I was, worried about my own willpower and aspirin-taking toughness, when all I had to do was wait for doctors and pharmacies to step in and say, “We got ya, buddy. We will fucking die before letting you abuse your medication.” I wish they’d take it a step further and just have me come in every time I need an individual pill. Just hand it out at the counter with a little cup of water, like Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Of course, “seven-day supply” doesn’t really have much of a meaning. My wife’s 30-day supply of Tramadol is 30 pills. Take a look at the instructions:

Now, if we’re talking about someone who has pain once per day during a specific four-hour time span, that is definitely a 30-day supply. But if we’re talking about someone who is dealing with chronic pain, then taking the recommended dosage makes that bottle last seven to ten days. And that, my friends, is one hell of an awesome way to beat opioid dependence. Just make them up and vanish for 20 days per month. No more worrying about willpower. No need to toughen up. It’s totally out of your hands. “You’re out already? Well that sucks. You shouldn’t have taken what we told you to take. Oh well. Come back in 20 days, and we’ll get you some more. In the meantime, here’s some aspirin. How’s your toughness?”


Don’t Worry, Self-Care Is Your Ticket To Complete Opioid Freedom

Have you ever shopped for computer chairs at an office supply store? They always have little tags with a single-digit number on them. If you never looked up what those mean, they’re “suggested hours of use.” So if the tag says “5,” they’re saying, “Don’t sit in this for more than five hours per day, you lazy, computer-using turd.” I routinely work in a computer chair for 18 hours a day. There are no computer chairs with a rating of “18”.

Office Depot“Intensive” rated doesn’t even meet half of that.

In order to prevent my vertebrae from permanently fusing together, I follow the rule of thumb to get up and walk around for five to ten minutes every hour. And that will absolutely work for all of you too, because you also work from home and have no boss who will walk over and say, “Every time I see you, you’re walking around aimlessly, doing nothing. Do you want me to fire you?”

Now, if you’re one of the rare people who does have a boss (loser), you should just explain to them that experts recommend that you stand for two to four hours during your work day, and you’ll either need two desks (one for sitting and one for standing) or a sitting-to-standing desk for your office. Those generally only cost around $400. They should be fine with that.

Duro-Med“How about an $11 hemorrhoid pillow instead?” “But I don’t … *sigh* whatever.”

If you work in physical labor, you’ll need to do the opposite, taking plenty of breaks to get off your feet. The great thing about physical labor is that it’s a job known for its reasonable, empathetic supervisors and flexible project deadlines. They will have absolutely no problem with you pulling up a chair once every hour for some pain prevention. There is no way they’ll say, “I didn’t hire you to sit on your ass. Get back to work or allow me to go spend the three minutes it would take me to find a replacement.”


You Will Definitely Become Tough

Here’s the thing about chronic pain: It doesn’t just affect you or your throbbing body part. It turns you into a dick, because it’s impossible to maintain a positive, healthy state of mind when all you can concentrate on is *throb, throb, throb, throb, throb*. Unless you’re showing exaggerated physical signs or you outright tell someone about how much pain you’re in, other people have no idea why you’re being a douche. They just think, “Man, screw that dude.” People in my situation usually know what it’s like to ask for a promotion and be interrupted with, “I’d really love to give you the position, but you really are a piece of shit, Chad.”

Also, chronic pain is often linked with depression, and the two feed off of each other like the Auryn, only made out of human shit. The pain makes the depression worse, and the depression robs you of the motivation and energy to manage the pain. It’s a perpetual motion machine that often ends with goddamn suicide. “How tragic, he was always so sad for some reason.” YES, MAYBE IT WAS BECAUSE THE ENTIRE TOP HALF OF MY FUCKING BODY WAS ON FIRE.

The upside is that if you survive a few decades of this, you’ll be tough as hell. You could be catapulted anus-first into a cactus made of metal and be like, “Pfft. Just give me a couple of aspirin. I’ll be fine.” Hell, Jeff Sessions may even put you in one of his speeches.

“I knew a writer who couldn’t walk the length of one shopping mall,” he’ll say. “His pain was so severe that he only slept a few hours per night. It gave him chronic depression. He had been in the hospital multiple times for nervous breakdowns. His kids learned to not ask him to go on long trips, because he couldn’t physically handle the car ride. But by God, he didn’t take opioids, because that man, he was as tough as a leather dildo.”

You can find John and lots of your favorite writers at The Modern Rogue, where he is editor in chief. You can also follow him on Twitter.

And heck, maybe leatherworking could be a fun hobby to take your mind off the pai–nah, not really.

If you loved this article and want more content like this, support our site with a visit to our Contribution Page. Please and thank you.

Read more:

Stephen Hawking Dies At 76, And Heres How The Internet Responds

British Physicist Stephen Hawking, the most iconic and brilliant scientist of his generation, has died aged 76.

Despite a long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks the nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain, leading to paralysis, Hawking was able to bring to light several groundbreaking theories in the field of quantum physics, while making the complex field accessible to millions through a series of bestselling books.

Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 1963, after experiencing difficulties with his movements in his final year at Oxford University. He was given just two years to live by doctors at the time, but went on to live with it for more than 50 years, an incredibly long time for an ALS sufferer. Unfortunately there is still very little known about the causes of ALS, and currently no cure. You may remember the successful awareness raising campaign for ALS that went viral a couple of years back, the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge.’ $115 million dollars were raised for research into the disease, resulting in some important discoveries.

Devastated by his diagnosis, Hawking nevertheless continued his work while his physical capabilities declined. Despite all of the setbacks he encountered, he always found ways to overcome them. He got around in a motorized wheelchair, and was able to communicate through an automated speech system, which gave him his iconic, computerized voice.

As well as his achievements in the field of quantum physics, and his determined quest to find a ‘unified theory’ that would aid us in our goal to gain a ‘complete understanding of the events around us, and of our own existence,’ Hawking’s celebrity helped to popularize and bring cosmology to a whole new generation of people.

His bestselling books and appearances on TV shows such as The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory helped to promote an enthusiasm for science that will endure well beyond his passing. He has opened the door for present and future scientists through his brilliant theories and discoveries, his determination in the face of adversity, and his inspiration to millions of people all over the world. He will be sorely missed.

Stephen Hawking has passed away at age 76

View More Replies…

Read more:

Billy Graham on Why Its OK to Skip Church

It’s a pretty popular Christian blog topic these days to discuss the importance of attending church physically for the sake of communion with believers and collective worship.

In the era of all-things-streaming, we all know how easy it is to slip into the comfort of watching church online from our computer screens or TVs. I mean why get all dressed up and force yourself through that awkward meet-and-greet session with other humans, when a bed-head appropriate service in your PJs is just the click of a button away?

The Sunday struggle is REAL—for me at least.

But what do you do when it’s physically hard to attend or be active in your church? Is that a legitimate excuse, or does God expect you to ‘suck it up’ and participate in the sufferings of Christ by making it to your spot in pew three?

As always, Billy Graham had a response chock-full of wisdom when a concerned man wrote him a letter regarding this very topic.

As Kathie Lee Gifford elaborated on yesterday in her tribute to the late evangelist, Graham was a man who took redemption as seriously as he did sin and grace as seriously as he took justice; and thus, he was never one to lead through blaming or guilt-shaming—and certainly not a legalist who thought missing a Sunday service would land you in the lake of fire.

This preaching style bled through in Graham’s response to a man named R.L. who asked, “Is it wrong from me to just watch our church’s service on TV?”

While of course not an advocate of forgoing church altogether for any flimsy excuse, Graham graciously replied that they are times (such as this one) where it is okay to skip church, without feeling guilt-stricken.

He also shared some advice on what people in R.L.’s situation can do under these circumstances to still remain grounded in the faith and connected to the body of believers.

Read what he had to say below: 

“DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: I’m older and not in very good health, and it’s getting harder and harder for me to get around. Is it wrong for me to just watch our church’s service on TV? I miss seeing my friends, but it’s very difficult for me to make it to church now, especially since I gave up driving. — R.L.

DEAR R.L.: God knows your limitations, and he doesn’t look down on you because you can’t do everything you once did. (Incidentally, I commend you for realizing it was no longer wise for you to continue driving. I’m sure it was a difficult decision, but it was the right one. and one we’ll all face eventually.)

Be thankful, however, that you aren’t completely cut off from your church but that you’re still able to worship with them through television and hear God’s word as it is preached. Remember, God’s word is not limited by distance or confined only to a building. As the Bible says, “The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword … it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

At the same time, I urge you to do whatever you can to maintain contact with your church. Drop your pastor a note, explaining why you don’t attend as often as you once did, and saying you’d welcome a visit. In addition, stay in contact with your friends in the congregation and let them know you’re praying for them.

Finally, turn your heart and mind to Christ and the hope we have of heaven because of him. Sometimes, I’m afraid, older people become overly absorbed with their present problems. Don’t let this happen to you, but “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is” (Colossians 3:1).”

Source: The Kansas City Star

Read Next On FaithIt
Why the Church Doesn’t Need Any More Starbucks

Read more:

WHO launches health review after microplastics found in 90% of bottled water

Researchers find levels of plastic fibres in popular bottled water brands could be twice as high as those found in tap water

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water after a new analysis of some of the worlds most popular bottled water brands found that more than 90% contained tiny pieces of plastic. A previous study also found high levels of microplastics in tap water.

In the new study, analysis of 259 bottles from 19 locations in nine countries across 11 different brands found an average of 325 plastic particles for every litre of water being sold.

In one bottle of Nestl Pure Life, concentrations were as high as 10,000 plastic pieces per litre of water. Of the 259 bottles tested, only 17 were free of plastics, according to the study.

Scientists based at the State University of New York in Fredonia were commissioned by journalism project Orb Media to analyse the bottled water.

The scientists wrote they had found roughly twice as many plastic particles within bottled water compared with their previous study of tap water, reported by the Guardian.

A colourful microfibre of plastic found in bottled water. Photograph: Abigail Barrows

According to the new study, the most common type of plastic fragment found was polypropylene the same type of plastic used to make bottle caps. The bottles analysed were bought in the US, China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Lebanon, Kenya and Thailand.

Scientists used Nile red dye to fluoresce particles in the water the dye tends to stick to the surface of plastics but not most natural materials.

The study has not been published in a journal and has not been through scientific peer review. Dr Andrew Mayes, a University of East Anglia scientist who developed the Nile red technique, told Orb Media he was satisfied that it has been applied carefully and appropriately, in a way that I would have done it in my lab.

The brands Orb Media said it had tested were: Aqua (Danone), Aquafina (PepsiCo), Bisleri (Bisleri International), Dasani (Coca-Cola), Epura (PepsiCo), Evian (Danone), Gerolsteiner (Gerolsteiner Brunnen), Minalba (Grupo Edson Queiroz), Nestle Pure Life (Nestle), San Pellegrino (Nestle) and Wahaha (Hangzhou Wahaha Group).

A World Health Organisation spokesman told the Guardian that although there was not yet any evidence on impacts on human health, it was aware it was an emerging area of concern. The spokesman said the WHO would review the very scarce available evidence with the objective of identifying evidence gaps, and establishing a research agenda to inform a more thorough risk assessment.

A second unrelated analysis, also just released, was commissioned by campaign group Story of Stuff and examined 19 consumer bottled water brands in the US.It also found plastic microfibres were widespread.

The brand Boxed Water contained an average of 58.6 plastic fibres per litre. Ozarka and Ice Mountain, both owned by Nestle, had concentrations at 15 and 11 pieces per litre, respectively. Fiji Water had 12 plastic fibres per litre.

Abigail Barrows, who carried out the research for Story of Stuff in her laboratory in Maine, said there were several possible routes for the plastics to be entering the bottles.

Plastic microfibres are easily airborne. Clearly thats occurring not just outside but inside factories. It could come in from fans or the clothing being worn, she said.

Stiv Wilson, campaign coordinator at Story of Stuff, said finding plastic contamination in bottled water was problematic because people are paying a premium for these products.

Jacqueline Savitz, of campaign group Oceana, said: We know plastics are building up in marine animals and this means we too are being exposed, some of us every day. Between the microplastics in water, the toxic chemicals in plastics and the end-of-life exposure to marine animals, its a triple whammy.

Nestle criticised the methodology of the Orb Media study, claiming in a statement to CBC that the technique using Nile red dye could generate false positives.

Coca-Cola told the BBC it had strict filtration methods, but acknowledged the ubiquity of plastics in the environment meant plastic fibres may be found at minute levels even in highly treated products.

A Gerolsteiner spokesperson said the company, too, could not rule out plastics getting into bottled water from airborne sources or from packing processes. The spokesperson said concentrations of plastics in water from their own analyses were lower than those allowed in pharmaceutical products.

Danone claimed the Orb Media study used a methodology that was unclear. The American Beverage Association said it stood by the safety of its bottled water, adding that the science around microplastics was only just emerging.

The Guardian contacted Nestle and Boxed Water for comment on the Story of Stuff study, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

Read more:

Catelynn Lowell & Tyler Baltierra Hint At Miscarriage News In Tearful Teen Mom OG Promo

Did Catelynn Lowell suffer a miscarriage??

That appears to be the situation. As you likely saw, in an episode at the end of January, Lowell happily surprised husband Tyler Baltierra with news that she was pregnant with their third child. Well, in a sneak peek for an upcoming Teen Mom OG episode, Mr. and Mrs. Baltierra broke down in tears and somberly discussed their family situation.

Related: Jenelle Evans Used Drugs While Pregnant With Her Daughter

In the video (which hasn’t dropped online yet), the 26-year-old father stated:

“I really wanted that baby.”

Oof. It certainly sounds like Catelynn lost the baby. How terribly sad for the couple.

However, this update explains why the twosome have been tightlipped about expanding their brood on social media. In fact, both Catelynn and Tyler are working on their mental health struggles currently. While Baltierra has been attending therapy, his wife has once again checked herself into a treatment facility to work on “childhood trauma.”

The MTV star has struggled quite a bit with postpartum depression following the birth of her second daughter, Novalee. Tyler and Catelynn are also biological parents to a little girl, named Carly, whom they gave up for adoption during their 16 & Pregnant days.

Thankfully, it seems that Catelynn is doing well at her mental health program. Her husband even gave the following update to fans:

So beautiful. We’re thinking of Catelynn and Tyler during this trying time.

Stay strong, you two!!

[Image via Instagram.]

Read more:

‘I felt I was being punished for pushing back’: pregnancy and #MeToo

Pregnant women are still being patronised, blamed for our bodies failings, and made to feel guilty about our choices

I spent one third of 2015 about 120 days on bed rest. I moved only to visit a hospital or doctors office, where I was scrutinised and presented with a list of concrete and potential deficiencies. There was certainly something wrong with my cervix, likely something wrong with my hormone levels, probably something wrong with my placenta, and possibly something wrong with my babys heart. Every time I was examined which was constantly a new potential problem surfaced. Having already lost two pregnancies, I was overcome by the looming possibility of catastrophe. I refused to prepare for anything more than a week in advance, as if hope were interchangeable with hubris and therefore deserving of punishment.

Throughout the pregnancy, I was grimly enthusiastic about suggestions, tests, and treatments convinced that the more I endured, the more likely I would be to bring a baby home. I injected progesterone; sustained weekly ultrasounds; underwent a special MRI scan. I attended my appointments with the obstetrician, the maternal-foetal-medicine specialist and the foetal cardiologist. Most of all, I tried not to move. I believed that stillness might give me the best chance of giving birth to a healthy infant. Also, a sense of self-preservation urged me: if I were the most careful patient, then I would not have to blame myself were a tragedy to occur. Lying flat at home, I was in a dull, perpetual panic.

That panic ended two years ago, replaced by the more welcome panic of how to care for a baby. After so much dread, not a single could-go-wrong went wrong. I will never know if the precautions helped, or if everything was fine all along. My daughter, born healthy at full term, is a toddler now, and this, the spring of 2018, is the season of my fourth pregnancy.

Four pregnancies: two losses over two years, followed by one little girl, followed by one baby, currently inside, who occupies a tentative place between a pregnancy and a living child. I assess her week by week: if she were born today, she may never take a breath; if she were born today, she would soon die; if she were born today, she might even live. Yet, for months, Ive been seeing her face, formed and shifting, on a black-and-white screen, beamed out from within me. At the least, she is and has long been decidedly present.

As soon as my now-two-year-old daughter was placed, hollering, on my chest, the bitter struggle to have her receded in my mind. But now that struggle has come back clearly, because it is repeating: specialists, scans, injections, constraints, doomsday scenarios, cautionary tales. But this new pregnancy, which began 18 months later, is occurring in a different setting, in the context of #MeToo. What once seemed like bad behaviour that women were expected to bear has been revealed as oppressive, grotesque and often criminal. Pregnancy and birth experiences do not exist outside the greater culture, but firmly within, along an ugly, interminable continuum.

I entered my recent pregnancy, which began with my personal tradition of early bleeding and confusion, during the Trump presidency, a couple of months before the Harvey Weinstein allegations. My obstetrician, a feminist who skilfully guided me through my pregnancy in 2015, recommended that I see a specialist. She didnt know much about him, except that he had a high success rate with complicated pregnancies. He used aggressive techniques, but shed heard he saved babies.

I went to the specialist for a series of intricate scans. I had 38 vials of blood taken at once; my arm ran out. The specialist diagnosed me with a mild clotting disorder. According to him, it meant that my placenta could be compromised; without treatment, it might not provide the baby enough nourishment. Or then again, it might, as it had before, with my daughter. Thats the tricky thing about pregnancy: nobody knows. If you werent so privileged, if the equipment werent so advanced, you may never learn that something about you doesnt fit the many textbook requirements, yet you may have a robust little baby anyway. Or you might lose that baby and remain mystified as to why.

Once diagnosed, I was instructed to inject a blood thinner into my stomach every day. I was also prescribed progesterone, though my levels were only on the lower end of normal, placed on pelvic rest no sex for six months and scanned every two weeks. I was still mobile, and could continue with my daily life, so I felt lucky. Or that is what I told myself. To conceive my daughter, Id spent years undergoing minor surgeries, miscarriages, fertility treatments. I figured any subsequent conception would be a similarly long, painful journey. Just in case, when I stopped breastfeeding, I visited my obstetrician to discuss birth control. Six weeks later, I was staring at a plus sign on a stick. My husband and I had been sloppy just once, but as any idiot teen knows, once is enough.

The timing wasnt ideal. Beneath a thick veneer of gratefulness, I felt a guilty, unspoken regret. In what I considered the selfish recesses of my mind, I longed to be free. The path to parenthood, as it unfolded, had been invasive and constant, shocking in its intensity, grief-inducing, medicalised and without pleasure until my girl was born. Then I felt that I belonged to her. We were physically attached to each other, breathing the same pocket of air, and it had taken me more than a year to begin working in earnest again. After so long, I finally had autonomy over my own body and then, before I knew it, someone was residing within me. But that tiny resident was the priority, I told myself. I wouldnt dare tempt the universe with complaints.

At my 20-week check, the ultrasound technician informed me that, while my baby was in perfect condition, my cervix – the portion of the uterus that stands between the baby and the world – was shortening prematurely, the condition that had caused me much grief two years earlier. The official diagnosis is incompetent cervix. In a competent female body, the cervix stays long and closed until full term, and then dilates. But in an incompetent female body, the buffoonish cervix can shorten and open early, allowing a baby to tumble out. The incompetent cervix joins a number of curious obstetric diagnoses: the inhospitable uterus, hostile uterus, hostile cervical mucus, blighted ovum. Meanwhile, men experience premature ejaculation and not inadequate testicles; erectile dysfunction, but never a futile penis. They exhibit problems, but their anatomy is not defined as lacking. Pregnant women over 35 are of advanced maternal age, just a slight improvement over the previous term, only recently defunct: elderly. Those who have suffered more than two miscarriages are known as habitual aborters. We experience spontaneous abortions. A bad habit, that impetuous self-aborting: if only we had the selfcontrol to stop.

The specialist entered the exam room and inspected the images of my bungling cervix. He would perform a cervical stitch the next day, in an emergency surgery. My obstetrician had performed a similar intervention during my prior pregnancy, but she wanted a specialist to do it this time. Sitting on the examination table, I remembered my previous experience with bed rest. My obstetrician had steadfastly declined to order it, but another doctor had encouraged me to move very little and, terrified and vigilant, I decided to obey him. I recalled how, isolated and dull, I had worked half-heartedly on the edits of a book Id spent four years researching and writing. Then, I had stayed with my mother in a building with an elevator near the hospital. Now, I was living in a third-floor walk-up with a dog, a toddler, a babysitter on the payroll and deadlines to meet. The specialist appeared unmoved by the logistics of my life. I asked what I could expect in terms of physical activity and continuing with work. He did not answer, but told me to stay still for 24 hours.

The next day, I was wheeled into an operating room, where a male anaesthesiologist commented repeatedly on a tattoo on my back and then grappled, mumbling, to insert a needle into my spine, just above my bare ass; general anaesthesia is bad for a baby, so I would be awake during the procedure. My feet and legs went dead. I was manipulated into a most undignified position, a sort of naked traction. A coterie of male medical professionals took to fixing my most intimate parts.

Later, my husband told me he knew how I must have felt. No, I said. Imagine that over the course of your lifetime a flock of people, many of them women, have prodded, inspected and peered at your nether regions. Usually annually. Sometimes weekly and sometimes, while sighing in exasperation, shaking their heads in disappointment, or nodding approvingly. Imagine, then, that for the second time in as many years a few of these women hung your legs up while you were fully conscious and sewed up your balls. My husband, a shade of pale grey, muttered that I was right: he couldnt relate.

As instructed, I didnt leave the house that week. I took a cocktail of drugs. They made me sick, but, according to the specialist, they were good for my uterus. But they might be bad for the baby. But if I didnt take them, and the baby were born early, that would be worse for her: disabling, fatal. I stopped trying to assess the situation. I wondered if I would lose the baby because of either my flawed body or my poor choices or for no discernible reason at all. I also wondered about other things: if I would get to take a walk, pursue a lead for a story, keep up contacts, honour contracts.

At my next appointment, I learned that the baby was thriving and the surgery had been successful. Nothing was guaranteed the situation could change silently and abruptly but this was good news. The specialist nodded and seemed satisfied as he inspected the ultrasound images of my insides once rebellious, but now pliant and deferential. Before he left the room, I asked again about the restrictions on my job and movement.

You care only about your work, he said, suddenly raising his voice. Youre pressuring me.

I am not a woman who shies away from conflict and have never once been mistaken for a people-pleaser. But had this interaction occurred two years earlier, I would have experienced a furtive rush of fear, convinced that I was at the mans mercy. For the sake of my baby, I would have told myself, I would do well to yield, to calm him, to agree, to defuse and then to go home and privately rage, feeling young and dumb and female. But now I saw the situation from the outside, through the lens of the feminist uprising that saturated the news. From this view, a woman was sitting on the examination table, the specialist standing before her. He was up, she was down. He was the expert, she the civilian. He had recently been elbow-deep inside her. Each time they met, only one of them was carrying a baby they could lose. And only one of them was wearing pants.

I want to know how my medical situation will affect my professional life, I said, not sweetly, and looking him straight in the eye. You told me that we would assess it this week. I want to know what to expect.

What can you expect? he said, irritated. Fine, you can expect to be on bed rest for the rest of this pregnancy.

This was punishment, I felt, for pushing back: four months confinement.

Bed rest is not widespread protocol. It is, in fact, highly controversial. Some medical experts have deemed it ineffective, unsupported by data and risky: it can cause blood clots, muscle atrophy, depression, the loss of a job or money. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists cautions against it in most cases. Many argue that its an old-fashioned recommendation made when the stubborn mystery of female biology asserts itself. Doctors and patients want a solution, and bed rest allows them to prescribe and undergo something, rather than face the disconcerting reality of the unknown.

Then again, millions of women and doctors across the world have sworn by bed rest for centuries. They consider it a tried-and-true method to keeping a baby in. They have seen it work. To give your child a better chance, you simply have to stop your life for a few months. Can you really resist? I knew about this controversy, so when the specialist insisted that bed rest was imperative, I wanted him to justify himself. I reminded myself that if I felt inferior to this man, it was only because he wished it to be so, not because it was true. I asked again for him to explain his reasoning.

He took another tack. Ive had people disregard me and they lose a baby theyve wanted for 10 years, he said. Because of an obsession with work.

A woman who wanted or needed to work, then, and in so doing defied his orders, could be said to have caused her babys death. It seemed to me that he chose to place blame on that woman to imply that she had caused her own loss, even when that loss may have been unavoidable. Though this man had made a successful business in womens health, I understood then that he didnt know a thing about the interior lives of women.

I left the clinic. I would have liked never to return. But here is the pregnant womans conundrum: we are not unto ourselves. We hold within us the beginnings of other people; were supposed to preserve our own independent humanity while growing new, dependent humanity. Its a hard balance to strike, and were led to believe any decision, mistake, slip of the mind, can have atrocious consequences. Were expected to subvert everything in our lives if necessary. Also, if not necessary.

The expectations placed upon women by the obstetric establishment especially if our pregnancies dont follow a perfect course, and often even when they do are presented as normal. The field of obstetrics requires women to enter into an absurd realm, or perhaps to simply remain within the absurd realm in which we already exist. Were subjected to methods that verge on Victorian: to remain prone, and in extreme cases tilted on a hospital bed at an angle for months at a time; to forgo work, pleasure, money; to allow painful interventions and invasive procedures; to agree to major abdominal surgery. Were told its for babys sake; anything other than blind acceptance is selfish at best, murderous at worst.

Theres no easy alternative. Decades ago, a group of midwives, frustrated that pregnancy was treated as a condition and women as incapable children, created an empowering birth ideology, encouraging women to be confident about their bodies life-giving abilities. Their devoted following has morphed into a movement, itself sometimes restrictive and dogmatic, in which women are encouraged to forgo pain medication during labour which doesnt hurt, some adherents claim, but is simply a series of powerful sensations. By following this approach, the midwives claim, a woman and her child can avoid a host of devastating health disorders, possibly caused by hospital interventions. While this can result in positive, liberating birth experiences for some, its not a safe or reasonable option for others, especially those with high-risk pregnancies or those who dont have access to properly trained midwives. Plus, some women just want the epidural.

Whatever approach you pick, there are rules, and any deviation can result in devastation. Pregnant women can ruin everything by eating sushi, ricotta or beansprouts; drinking wine or coffee; using toxic face cream; riding a bicycle; vacuuming; working a long shift; taking out the dog; sleeping on our backs; having sex; reaching climax. By caring for older kids or trying to make a living. By not having supportive partners, or enough money for babysitters, or helpful relatives. We can ruin it by being black, sick, poor, or rural all factors that make a pregnancy or labour more dangerous. By moving, or not moving, taking medicine, or refusing to take medicine. By giving birth in the hospital, or in the home. Stress is harmful. We should relax. A bath could help, but could also be perilous. I often wake at dawn, hand on stomach, feeling my baby shift. I dont know how to do right by her.

So many doctors deal in the fear surrounding pregnancy. They can impose terror upon their patients with their diagnoses, prognoses, protocols and regulations, handed down with meagre explanation, no personalisation and little consideration for the intricacies of a womans life. They are part of a system that should be tipped towards supporting a woman during a time of vulnerability, but instead removes her free will and constrains her, while making her responsible for almost any tragedy that may befall her or her baby.

Women now make up more than half of obstetrician-gynaecologists, but the field was designed and dominated by men for centuries. I dont need the specialist to know what it is to give birth, to be a woman, a mother. I dont need him to be relatable, comforting, permissive, protective or a pal, a dad, a god or saviour. I do need him to acknowledge my humanity while dispensing his expertise. I expect him, and his contemporaries, to be honest about the mysteries of pregnancy and birth honest with themselves and their patients.

For all the research and money poured into this realm of medicine, so much remains unknown, unknowable. One cannot compare two treatments of the same pregnancy, nor can one experiment on pregnant women. I cannot judge whether it is right, then, to approach complications in a pregnancy as aggressively as possible. I do know that medical restrictions can radically affect a womans life, and because of this, the choice of how to proceed should not be a doctors to enforce. A woman should be able to choose how to conduct herself, rather than do it under threat. She must not be asked to pay a ransom of her own movement and free will.

I went back to my obstetrician. After discussing my situation, she and I decided together that I would stop many of the specialists interventions. But I have still chosen to follow some of his recommendations. I administer my shots. I limit my movements when I can. But I wonder: am I erring on the side of caution, or on the side of fear?

During my last pregnancy, I didnt ruminate on how the way women are treated during birth is linked to a cultural idea that the female body must be subdued, immobilised and controlled, and if the owner of that body is good and magnanimous, if she is on her way to becoming a wonderful mother, she must capitulate to any demand placed upon her. I didnt wonder why, if growing a baby and giving her life is such a powerful act, the experience of doing so is profoundly disempowering. I didnt ponder structures or systems. I just wanted to meet my daughter.

Times were different then, even though it wasnt long ago. More women lived in a sort of collective denial, accepting the unacceptable. I was different, too. Im a mother now, and I could say Im thinking of my two-year-old, and of the better world she deserves. But, really, Im thinking these days of what I deserve, not as a mother or a pregnant woman, but just as a human being, at once apart from all of that and intimately one with it. Im thinking of how I should be treated, for the person that I was before I got pregnant, and the person I will be after I am pregnant. The person I have been all along.

Commenting on this piece? If you would like your comment to be considered for inclusion on Weekend magazines letters page in print, please email, including your name and address (not for publication).

Read more:

Remingtons Bankruptcy May Be the Tip of the Iceberg

Firearms companies face declining sales, falling stock prices and tremendous debt. Gunmaker American Outdoor Brands Corp., formerly known as Smith & Wesson, has seen its stock plummet by almost half from 2017. On Monday, Remington Outdoor Co., an iconic, 200-year-old American firearms manufacturer, announced it’s planning to file for bankruptcy.  

With Republicans in control of Washington, there’s little chance of firearm regulation—even in the face of Wednesday’s massacre in Florida. When Barack Obama was president or Democrats controlled Congress, gun sales would generally rise after a mass shooting for fear of more restrictive laws. The gun lobby pushed these worries despite a lack of significant legislative effort by the Obama administration. Now that Donald Trump is in the Oval Office, fear of new gun laws has receded, industry executives have said. And so have sales, hurting both retailers and manufacturers such as Remington.

In December, James Debney, chief executive officer of American Outdoor, said “fear-based” buying of firearms had stopped. According to data collected by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a barometer for firearms sales, January 2018 was the slowest in gun purchases since 2012. Even on Thursday, after gunmaker stocks rose in premarket trading, shares headed back down by afternoon. (The assault rifle used in the Parkland high school attack was a Smith & Wesson AR-15, police said.)

Following gun stores and manufacturers, the next victim of the industry’s political success could be distributors. Because most are privately owned, earnings data are hard to come by. Still, company debt can offer a glimpse into their financial health. The declining performance of a $140 million loan to distributor United Sporting Cos., for example, suggests there may be a problem. 

United is a private equity-owned holding company whose subsidiaries include Ellett Brothers and Jerry’s Sport Center, two gun distributors that work with more than 30,000 independent retailers across all 50 states (Sturm, Ruger & Co. says 15 percent of its sales are to the two subsidiaries). They distribute hunting and shooting-sports products, including handguns, ammunition, silencers and holsters. In 2016, Jerry’s was named “distributor of the year” by Marlin Firearms, a company owned by Remington.

A $140 million loan extended to United fell to less than half of its face value last year, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings by the loan’s holder, the business development company Prospect Capital Corp. 

Since Prospect makes loans to private companies but has issued shares to the public, it’s required to disclose its financials, even when the companies on the hook for the loan are not. In Prospect’s annual report for 2017, the company said a fair value of its loan to United was almost $47 million—about 33 percent of its face value. That was down from 94 percent in its report for the quarter ended March 31, 2017.

Michael Grier Eliasek, a director of Prospect, said in the securities filing that United had been hit by a cyclical slowdown in gun sales, as well as by the bankruptcy of a major customer, sporting goods retailer Gander Mountain. 

United and Prospect didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

“When there are elections that go a certain way, there tends to be a slowdown in sales to the firearms sector for the first six or nine months or so, and then there’s a more of a normalization thereafter,” Eliasek said in an August conference call when he was asked about the writedown, which at that time was 59 percent of face value. 

    Read more:

    7 Things You Need To Know About The Pisces In Your Life

    Rowan Chestnut / Unsplash

    Let me be the first to admit that I am no astrologer. Ask me to explain why our birthdays affect our personalities, and I won’t be able too. Although there is some science to back up how the particular month you were born in affects your personality (read here & here), there’s just not as much to defend why your particular astrological sign does. Nevertheless, I’m a believer in greater cosmic power. I’ve read a fair share about my zodiac sign, and can conclude that I am 100% a Pisces.

    So with it officially being the Pisces birthday month, I’d like to make sure that we all understand the fishes. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m under the impression that we tend to be brushed off as “complicated,” when really, we’re just a fragile, tolerant, and absolutely lovable sign. “Complicated” doesn’t quite do my fellow fishes and I justice, so here’s what it really feels like to be a Pisces, and to have one of us in your life.

    1. We are sensitive and emotional. Please be gentle with us.

    The Pisces sign is symbolized by two swimming fishes. According to, the “water sign is extremely emotional, empathic, and extraordinarily sensitive.”

    Out of all the Pisces that I have ever met, this statement holds true. I have not once come across a Pisces that isn’t sensitive. As the extremely intuitive fish that we are, we’re in touch with our feelings and the feelings of others. When there’s a shift in the current, or a change in the tide, we don’t just notice it—we feel it. We’re affected by the energy that surrounds us, as well as our environment. We’re ruled by emotions, and are the sign of heart over mind.

    2.  We’re pretty fun and get along with basically everyone

    Pisces are innately fun. Because of our perceptive nature, we can get along with anyone; blend into any crowd. We’re always open to new ideas, and we thrive off positive vibes. This makes us a fun friend to go out with, or to have around when you need a shoulder to cry on. We have an incredible ability to read people and relate to them.

    3. We may seem a bit lost and indecisive

    As fishes, we can sink or swim. Sometimes it takes a Pisces a while to focus and find the right direction. Because we are adaptable, we may aimlessly drift around for a while. To some we may appear lost or distracted, with our head in the clouds. All we really need, however, is someone or something to help ground us and our free spirit.

    4. We’re the dreamers, and have vivid imaginations

    Pisces are always dreaming. We have vivid imaginations, and we get easily swept away by our own thoughts and desires. To Pisces, the mystical world is more appealing than the real one. We like to escape reality. This is why many of pursue creative professions, allowing us to dream a bit deeper.

    5. We need time to ourselves

    As dreamers, we need “me time” to get lost in our own fantasies and restore our energy. We like spending time with ourselves just as much as with others, and we enjoy being fully absorbed in a great book or solo activity.

    6. We are affectionate, vulnerable, and a little needy

    Pisces love to love, and love to be loved. We fall hard, and wear our hearts on our sleeve. We can also be a bit needy, and are easily bruised (I repeat, we’re very sensitive).

    7. You’ll find us by the water 

    The water is our happy place, and we crave it as much as we need it. Take an unhappy Pisces to the beach, the pool, on a boat ride, or even run them a hot bath. You’ll see the difference.

    And that’s a Pisces, in a nutshell. We’re a little complicated to the outside eye, but only in the best way possible. We feel deeply, dream deeply, love deeply. We’re an intense school of fish, and you would be mistaken to not want us around.

    Happy Birthday Pisces!

    Read more: