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Link roundup about banned words & bad healthcare. January 16, 2018

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Banned words at the CDC. I guess the hope is that if you don’t talk about trans people, vulnerabilities, and science, eventually they’ll stop existing?

More than a decade of heart problems left him with a fragile cardiovascular system, and the smoke from the grenade thrown into his home by police did not help. He would never recover after the September 2015 raid, which was carried out by 22nd Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force agents in the small South Alabama town of Andalusia. Coughing up blood, Wayne Bonam was hospitalized weeks later. He died the following November.” As if his family didn’t have enough to grieve at this point, the police also took his house.

Because we don’t have a functional healthcare system in this country, breast cancer patients are relying on a 10-year-old’s bake sale to pay for their treatment. (Major kudos to the 10-year-old, but this is still hella depressing overall.)

“What autistic children actually need are parents who focus on accepting their kids’ current realities as autistic individuals, so those kids are equipped not merely to cope, but to thrive. Since the rest of the world tends to be unforgiving to kids who fall outside standard social operating parameters, it’s important that autistic kids are treated like people rather than works-in-progress by their own families.”

Over the past two decades, the U.S. labor market has undergone a quiet transformation, as companies increasingly forgo full-time employees and fill positions with independent contractors, on-call workers or temps—what economists have called ‘alternative work arrangements’ or the ‘contingent workforce.'”

“The benefit also served as a modest incentive for people to take a healthy and environmentally friendly mode of travel to their jobs.” So, naturally, the Republican tax scam axed it. Because what we really need is more tax breaks to go to millionaires with private jets.

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Erin Watches: Scandal’s final season, episodes 1-7 January 7, 2018

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I got caught up on the currently-airing Season 7 of Scandal while working on comics. (Previous reaction posts: on Dreamwidth, on WordPress.)

Everyone is still terrible. With the possible exception of…uh…I guess Marcus. (President Mellie’s ex-affair, currently Ex-President Fitz’s minder.)

High points of terribleness:

  • Cyrus is Mellie’s VP, because heaven forbid we have new characters be important on this show.
  • In the first episode, B613!Olivia is told she’ll need to have someone (a captured spy) murdered for the sake of national security, and her reaction is “hOW could you think I would DO such a thing??!?” At the start of the episode, we recap how she murdered Luna Vargas. Over the course of it, she sends a sniper to threaten a foreign leader’s elementary-age children. Yes, Olivia, how can we suggest murder to you, that’s such an insult to your stainless honor.
  • A couple episodes later, she firebombs a plane carrying a Muslim foreign leader and his teenage lesbian niece. That’s our Olivia!
  • Republicans are championing a free-college-for-all bill. Democrats are secretly scheming to block it, even though they like the idea, because they wouldn’t be able to claim the win. Because Scandal takes place in Bizarro America.
  • When an obnoxious billionaire businessman says he might “drop a couple mill” and run for President, Cyrus gives him an impassioned speech about how the office is sacred and belongs to the people. This is the same Cyrus who got the last POTUS into office by voter fraud, and the current POTUS (and himself) into office by double-murder. Much sacred, very respect.
  • Olivia keeps giving Mellie these intense, passionate speeches about “you are not alone, I always have your back, I am the only one who’s with you, I will make you a monument.” Why it doesn’t immediately segue into them making out, I do not know.
  • Quinn puts together the pieces about Olivia’s secret firebombing, then goes missing on her wedding day. Olivia assumes Quinn went into hiding to plot her downfall…and pretends to lead the team on a fast-paced search, while secretly waging an even faster-paced campaign to plant false leads and erase evidence before they get to it. Turns out Quinn was kidnapped! All Olivia’s machinations only slowed them down from rescuing her! Our hero.
  • One of those false leads prompts Quinn’s not-yet-husband to kidnap and torture an innocent man. Goody.
  • Jake (who is now B16’s #2, remember) insists that the only villains here are the kidnappers, and urges Olivia not to blame herself. Really? Because I will totally blame Olivia.
  • Oh, almost forgot to mention — Ex-President Fitz is moping around his mansion in Vermont (Marcus describes both the state and the guy as “Cold. White.”), wallowing in how lonely and powerless he is. Go join Habitat for Humanity and build some houses, you whiny moron.

Nice and hopeful links. (No, really.) December 21, 2017

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‘We are Muslims and we’d never had a Christmas tree in our home,’ says Riffat. ‘But these children were Christian and we wanted them to feel connected to their culture.’ So he bought a Christmas tree, decorations and presents. The couple worked until the early hours putting the tree up and wrapping presents. The first thing the children saw the next morning was the tree.”

“On September 26, 1983, Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov received a message that five nuclear missiles had been launched by the United States and were heading to Moscow. He didn’t launch a retaliatory strike, believing correctly that it was a false alarm. And with that, he saved the world from nuclear war.

The 1928 international treaty that outlawed conquest . . . and worked. Nations still go to war for plenty of other reasons, but conquest has screeched almost to a halt.

Letting teens sleep in would save the country roughly $9 billion a year.” Partly because they’ll do better in school, partly because of fewer sleep-deprived adolescents crashing their cars.

First baby in the US born via uterus transplant!

World hunger can be eradicated. A price has been set and estimated by the United Nations to solve this crisis – $30 billion a year. It may seem like a large sum of money, but when compared to the U.S. defense budget – $737 billion in 2012 – $30 billion seems more attainable.”

California is on fire, Puerto Rico still has no power, and also, this. December 8, 2017

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Went to a tiny local pro-net-neutrality rally on Thursday. Spent most of it holding a sign with an older woman who was distinctly not tech-savvy — wasn’t on Facebook, didn’t have a smartphone, wasn’t sure how her service provider interacted with her search engine. She does online research at home, uses email, has sent donations to the Wikipedia Foundation…but wasn’t entirely sure what the rally was about. Just that it was important.

I explained the basics, she was immediately on board. “Corporations don’t need more power.” And what really got her fired up was when we made the connection that this could slow down school and library websites. Extra fees to load your public library, or an academic journal? “They can’t be the gatekeepers of knowledge.”

So that was nice.

____

A Russian singer is believed to have been detained as part of Chechnya’s ‘gay purge’. Zelimkhan Bakayev, 26, hasn’t been seen since August 8 and his friends now think he was captured by police in capital Grozny.”

“Rights groups and other experts say the video of the slave market — although no surprise to many journalists or relief workers — is an uncomfortable reminder for Europe that its policies risk trapping the migrants in slave-like conditions.”

For what percentage of your life has the US been at war? (It’s 58.1% for me. And, of course, climbing.)

“After Rapp’s public statement, a man who was friendly with a member of the New York staff approached the magazine to talk about Spacey. At the age of 14, he says, he began a sexual relationship with the actor, who was then 24, that ended with what he describes as an attempted rape. The man is now a 48-year-old artist living on the East Coast with a long-term partner, and he wishes to remain anonymous.”

One Million Moms attacks an ad that features a cis female boxer, calling her “a man in a dress”. (There’s also an actual trans woman in the ad. They didn’t notice.)

“He was the training director of one of St. Paul’s largest security companies — a man certified on when and how to use Mace. Which left police mystified as to why Timothy Knutsen would pepper spray an autistic man in the face for eating a cookie from a Cub Foods sampler tray.” (I’m not mystified.)

“Life-changing surgery is on hold for a 2-year-old boy. His mom says it’s because of red tape between the hospital and police.” Update: the child got a transplant from being on the donor list. But that was after 2 months and 1 rushed hospitalization, and is unlikely to be as close a genetic match as his own father.

The number of homeless people in the United States has increased for the first time since 2010.”

If we’re done being thankful, here are some things we need to be angry about. November 27, 2017

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Two months after Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, a sense of desperation seems to be yielding to resignation at best. More than half of the island is still without power, and hundreds of thousands of residents are fleeing to the American mainland in an extraordinary exodus.”

“Within months, Deen’s career was back on track. There was initial backlash, but none of it stuck. He continued to make money and win awards. But we were back to the drawing board. The network refused to give us the rights to the show and wouldn’t let anyone watch the already-shot pilot. After two years, we are still not legally allowed to show it to anyone.” How the media is set up not only to excuse rapists and punish their victims, but punish random innocent people who unwittingly worked with them.

“The liver department’s clinical director is Irish. Its academic director is Spanish. The hospital recently tried to hire a German as academic head of department, but he declined: He had been awarded a high-value European grant that he could not take to Britain after Brexit.” The (totally foreseeable) real effects of Brexit on the NHS.

“Trump was reportedly considering deporting Guo until aides talked him out of it—including informing him that Guo happens to be a member of his Mar-a-Lago resort (a privilege that costs $200,000 in initiation fees plus $14,000 in annual dues). The president subsequently changed his mind.”

“ICE agents in Austin scrambled — and largely failed — to engineer a narrative that would substantiate the administration’s claims that the raids were motivated by public safety concerns. Instead, the emails detail the evolution of ICE’s public statements once it became obvious that the Trump administration’s narrative was not true.

Militants detonated a bomb inside a crowded mosque in the Sinai Peninsula on Friday and then sprayed gunfire on panicked worshipers as they fled, killing at least 305 people and wounding at least 128 others. Officials called it the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt’s modern history.”

“I’m as tired of writing it as you are reading it, but you know good and well that if [this white American terrorist] was a young Muslim — hell, if he had ever even visited a mosque in the past 25 years — that Trump would be tweeting about him right this very moment to tout how essential a Muslim ban is for American safety. […] In this case, though? Crickets.

Remember that time a white supremacist was reduced to a terrified blubbering mess when he realized he might actually get arrested? (Was that really only a few months ago?) A lot of these people are cowards at heart. They treat being Nazis like it’s LARPing. They do not expect actual consequences. Make them suffer consequences.

Puerto Rico needs help, there are still too many Americans being shot, and Trump is a vile human being. October 5, 2017

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The numbers have been in for years: “…and came back with an unambiguous conclusion: states that made it easier for their citizens to go armed in public had higher levels of non-fatal violent crime than those states that restricted the right to carry.” (Levels of fatal violent crime, to be clear, aren’t lower. They were unaffected.)

But for some people, it will never sink in until it gets personal.

The guitarist who was playing at the Las Vegas massacre finally got it: “We actually have members of our crew with CHL [concealed handgun license] licenses, and legal firearms on the bus. They were useless. We couldn’t touch them for fear the police might think that we were part of the massacre and shoot us.”

GEE, YA THINK.

Look, buddy, we could have used you five or ten or twenty massacres ago. But you’re here now, and that’s better than nothing. Maybe you can help us figure out how to talk to the kind of person you used to be.

You know, when I was in grade school, they never taught us that Puerto Rico was part of the US. It literally never came up.

“Now a former foreign disaster assistance chief under President Barack Obama, who said he was trying ‘to be balanced’ regarding Trump’s handling of the situation because he knows ‘how hard this stuff is,’ said that the report has finally made him snap — ‘so mad I could spit.’

The family had almost run out of drinking water. Their isolated community of Caonillas had received no aid from the local or federal government, residents said. And they had no way to make the perilous trek to town; the winding roads had been obliterated and six of the family’s cars had been stored in a garage that collapsed, crushing five of the vehicles and sending the sixth sliding down the mountainside and into a river.”

And Trump is showing up and chucking rolls of paper towels into the crowd, like the bouquet at the wedding, like a prize on a game show, because he thinks this is entertainment. Because he doesn’t care. Because he is a disgusting stain on the soul of humanity.

“I talked with the federal authorities two weeks ago, asking for additional federal assistance, I was told point-blank ‘no’.” September 26, 2017

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Paul Ryan’s tax postcard, explained: “The form’s simplicity makes its priorities clear: No matter what rates are applied or which deductions or credits are allowed, a worker would end up paying twice as much in taxes as an investor with the same income.

GOP sheriffs reportedly under pressure from Trump to break the law. Good on them for standing their ground. (Are Democratic sheriffs not getting credit for resisting, or simply not being asked?)

Oregon governor asked the Trump adminstratiion for wildfire support: “I talked with the federal authorities two weeks ago, asking for additional federal assistance, I was told point-blank ‘no’.”

“In the 35 years between their jobs as janitors, corporations across America have flocked to a new management theory: Focus on core competence and outsource the rest. The approach has made companies more nimble and more productive, and delivered huge profits for shareholders. It has also fueled inequality and helps explain why many working-class Americans are struggling even in an ostensibly healthy economy.

“My supervisor, for example, runs a large department. He was just promoted to a new, even more demanding position, but his position running the department will not be filled. He will now be doing what is a 60-to-70-hour job ‘on the side.’

“Virtually all the top political jobs below Carson remained vacant. Carson himself was barely to be seen — he never made the walk-through of the building customary of past new secretaries. ‘It was just nothing,’ said one career employee. ‘I’ve never been so bored in my life. No agenda, nothing to move forward or push back against. Just nothing.’

“We find that white Trump supporters randomly exposed to a black (versus a white) man in the context of soliciting their support for a housing-assistance policy were more opposed to the policy, angrier about the policy, and more likely to blame beneficiaries for their situation.

“But it’s the degree to which the alt-righters differed from the comparison sample that’s most striking — especially when it came to measures of dehumanization, support for collective white action, and admitting to harassing others online..”

“Mr. Hermansson, who was sent undercover by the British anti-racist watchdog group Hope Not Hate, spent months insinuating himself into the alt-right, using his Swedish nationality (many neo-Nazis are obsessed with Sweden because of its “Nordic” heritage) as a way in. It wasn’t always easy. ‘You want to punch them in the face,’ he told me of the people he met undercover.

“Even a single page of bullet points on the country seemed to tax the president’s attention span.” September 15, 2017

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“A self-described “email prankster” in the UK fooled a number of White House officials into thinking he was other officials, including an episode where he convinced the White House official tasked with cyber security that he was Jared Kushner and received that official’s private email address unsolicited.”

“Among [McMaster’s] biggest challenges was holding the attention of the president. […] Trump had little time for in-depth briefings on Afghanistan’s history, its complicated politics or its seemingly endless civil war. Even a single page of bullet points on the country seemed to tax the president’s attention span on the subject, said senior White House officials.”

From August: “Residents told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that at least 100 civilians had been killed [by US-led airstrikes on Raqqa] since Sunday, with 55 civilians killed in the eastern neighbourhoods of Bedou and al-Sukhani on Monday.”

And my eleven-year-old asked me what that sticker meant, and what did it have to do with Trump, and weren’t we not supposed to use words like that.”

Meanwhile, when people were lining up for a Hillary Clinton book signing (starting the night before), she sent her staff to deliver them pizzas. Imagine having someone like that in the Oval Office. Imagine.

Good news about escaping from Irma, Chechnya, and/or the KKK September 10, 2017

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The last flight out of Puerto Rico, ninja’ing its way out the narrow spiral between the body of Hurricane Irma and one of the arms. These pilots, and the people on the ground who plotted that flight, deserve some kind of medal.

“They helped him get job training. They helped him get counseling. And now, as a former white supremacist himself, he will receive training on how to help other people. It’s a very individual program and it really works.” The important work of Life After Hate (whose government funding got cut under this administration, because of course).

I was a neo-Nazi. Then I fell in love with a black woman.” It’s more complicated and less Pollyanna than the headline suggests, but the progress is genuine.

“For three months, the [Canadian] federal government has been secretly spiriting gay Chechen men from Russia to Canada, under a clandestine program unique in the world.”

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our letters could be published in the future in a more enlightened time. Then all the world could see how in love we are.

“Instead of offering aid, McCain advised them to move to a different state.” August 17, 2017

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“[Kevin Pratt-King] had asked McCain for help after being diagnosed with the same form of aggressive cancer, glioblastoma. Instead of offering aid, according to Roy’s tweet, McCain advised them to move to a different state.”

“Social workers began going door to door in San Juan housing projects, explaining that a pill could be taken daily to prevent pregnancy. Once women were told what the pill did, they signed up by the hundreds. However, these women were not informed that they were part of a clinical trial or that the treatment was experimental.”

“Side effects [of the vaginal implant] can range from chronic pain and loss of sexual function, to major complications like the implant protruding through the bladder, or bowels, even necessitating removal of organs ensnared in the mesh. It can shrink inside your body, slicing through nerve endings, tissue and organs.

If someone makes the effort of going to doctor after doctor, and all they are given is a pat on the head and told, ‘Oh, sweetie, you’ll be OK—you just need to smile more,’ that is a failure of the physicians.” Article covers both social biases (like doctors assuming a woman’s problems are psychosomatic instead of doing tests) and biological ones (like researchers only testing on male mice, leaving them with huge gaps in knowledge regarding biologically female humans).

“The Gay Men’s Chorus posed to illustrate the impact of AIDS. Those dressed in black, with their backs turned, represent those who had died.” This 1993 photo is a punch in the heart.

The military spends five times as much on Viagra as it would on transgender troops’ medical care.”

And for something more hopeful:

An experiment, recounted in comic form: If you put rats alone in cages, they’ll addict themselves to morphine. If you put them in an enriching environment with a bunch of other rats to hang out with, they’ll avoid it.

Gisella Perl, the “Angel of Auschwitz” — who got that title by providing abortions, so the Nazis wouldn’t have pregnant Jewish women to experiment on.

“As what was thought to be the largest referral service in the country, which referred an estimated half million women for abortions in its six years of existence, the [Clergy Consultation Service] had significant market power that it leveraged to reduce the going rate for an abortion.” The name isn’t a euphemism. It was literally a coalition of Protestant and Jewish religious leaders.

“Intersex advocates are rejoicing at a paper released by three former US Surgeons General. The surgeon-generals called for an end to forced medical surgeries on young intersex people.