C-sections May Not Be as Bad for Children as Previously Thought
In recent years, some parents of newborns born via C-section have introduced a new, and controversial, step to the post-partum routine. Concerned about studies that show that babies delivered this way have lower levels of immune-boosting microbes, along with research that suggests that babies pick-up this good bacteria during their trip down the birth control, they are inserting gauze into the mother’s vagina during labor and swabbing it on the baby after delivery.
Find a Tiny Bit of Solace in This Cher-ified Chick Emoji
One tiny tragedy of the presidential election is that Cher, whose campaign-season tweeting amounted to a powerful, if loopy, act of surrogacy, didn’t get to bask in a Hillary Clinton victory. If case you haven’t checked in on Cher’s feed since October, know that she is still out there fighting the good fight, tweeting her token emoji-laced mix of political commentary and well wishes for her followers.
Monday evening, the singer posted an image that appeared to be a holiday-season Cher impersonator in the form of the chick emoji, complete with long black hair, thick eyelashes, a Santa hat, and a few other merry accessories.
Need to know WHO DREW THIS— Cher (@cher) December 5, 2016
ASAP…So I Can Use it..ASAP pic.twitter.com/QiUfMUSbMj
Cher tweets in a language all her own, and sometimes trying to make sense of her is, to quote another famous Cher, like “searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie.” But here is what can be gleaned from the Cher chick image: The singer often refers to her followers as the chick and hatching-chick emojis as if they were her chickadees, and now, there is a special Cher chick to join them in virtual happy clucking. Like anyone who has ever come across a meme and asked, “fam, who did this?” Cher is simply wondering who did her the kindness of chick-ifying her. See, she admires the image very much and would like to add it to her personal collection as soon as possible; but as an artist, she understands the necessity of getting proper permission. As for what Cher wants to “use” the Cher chick for (“ASAP”)—that’s anyone’s guess. Will she 3-D–print it and turn it into a Christmas ornament for her no doubt lavish tree? Does she want to add it her online merch selection? Will she create an army of Cher chick drones and unleash them upon Trump’s America? Whatever happens, let’s all just be happy that the Cher chick exists to watch over us this holiday season.
Christie Vetoes Bill Banning Solitary Confinement for Children, Pregnant Women, and the Mentally Ill
On Monday, New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have strictly limited the state’s use of solitary confinement. Had the bill passed, state prisons would have been barred from placing vulnerable populations—including pregnant women, children, seniors, LGBTQ people, and those with mental illnesses—in solitary. The bill also would have required solitary to be utilized exclusively as a last result, prohibited solitary confinement for 15 consecutive days, and required daily evaluations of inmates in solitary. Thanks to Christie’s veto, none of those rules will apply to New Jersey prisons.
In his veto statement, Christie declared: “This bill seeks to resolve a problem that does not exist in New Jersey, because the Department of Corrections (“DOC”) in this Administration does not utilize isolated confinement, as contemplated by the bill.” I asked Alexander Shalom, a Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU New Jersey, whether this claim was accurate.
“No. It’s bullshit,” he told me. “No matter what Christie calls it, and no matter how much he denies it, the reality is that hundreds of people in New Jersey are suffering in solitary confinement every day. And by vetoing this bill, he has ensured that the most vulnerable people in New Jersey prisons will continue to be tortured in this way.”
Angela Merkel Announces Plan to Ban the Burqa in Germany
A few days after Donald Trump won the United States presidential election, the New York Times ran an article whose headline declared that “Angela Merkel May Be the Liberal West’s Last Defender.” Responding to the impending presidency of a decidedly illiberal autocrat, the piece began with a sour proclamation: “And then there was one.”
In retrospect, it was too optimistic.
Oregon Man Convicted Under Revenge Porn Law Claims It Is Unconstitutional
Oregon passed a revenge porn bill in June of last year criminalizing the “unlawful dissemination of [an] intimate image” of a person with the “specific intent” to humiliate or harm that person’s reputation. Over a year later, 31-year-old Benjamin Barber became the first individual to be convicted under the law after he uploaded explicit videos of himself and an ex-girlfriend onto multiple adult websites without her permission, according to the Washington County sheriff’s office. Now, Barber is calling the law “literally unconstitutional” and is reportedly threatening to sue the state for violations of his First Amendment rights.
A Washington County judge sentenced Barber to six months in jail followed by five years of probation on Dec. 1. The Oregonian reports that he ordered Barber to avoid all contact with the woman and destroy all images of her that he possessed; the judge also prohibited him from using a computer for non-work purposes. Barber will not, however, have to register as a sex offender.
Michelle Obama’s Festive Gucci Gown May Be One of the Last Ones We Get to Ooh and Ahh Over
During Michelle Obama’s term as first lady, Americans got used to headlines of the “Michelle Obama looks hawt” variety. She stunned in satin, she fascinated in florals, she prevailed in pleats, and gradually it began to seem ordinary that our first lady regularly turned out such high-grade looks. Now as this eight-year-long runway strut nears its end, we should pause to appreciate how good we had it: The end of the Obama administration is going to be sad for a lot of reasons, but mourning the loss of Mrs. Obama as first lady of fashion will be a not-insignificant part of it.
How Being “Mom” Became Cool
Over the past decade, many women have turned away from the what they believed was the terminally uncool term “mom,” choosing instead the rootsy “mama” in a play to project their relevancy and hipness. However, recent linguistic trends among the millennial denizens of the internet suggest this was the wrong move.
According to a story in the New York Times, calling someone “mom” has become the highest form of flattery, a softer sister to sobriquets like boss or queen, and applicable to everyone from tweens to grown women regardless of whether they care for a child. As Jessica Bennett reports, “mom” as adjective has been used to describe celebrities like Beyoncé, Ruby Rose, and Taylor Swift—who once felt compelled to remind a fan named Maddie that only her mom has earned the right to be referred to by her as “mom.” “I’m more like your crazy aunt,” Swift wrote. It’s also used among twenty-somethings to describe their more knowing and inspired friends, or anyone else they admire.
NC Gov. Calls Special Legislative Session, Setting Up Possibility of Court-Packing Power Grab
North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is not a big fan of democracy. First, McCrory signed and championed HB2, a vicious anti-LGBTQ law designed to overturn local nondiscrimination ordinances. Then, McCrory’s legislative allies attempted to censor criticism of HB2—likely because a clear majority of voters oppose the bill and support its repeal. On Election Day, McCrory lost to Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, who opposes HB2. But he refused to concede, flinging baseless accusations of voter fraud seemingly designed to let the Republican-dominated legislature ignore the results and reinstall McCrory as governor. Now, as McCrory awaits the results of a partial recount that cannot possibly close his 10,000-vote deficit, he has decided to call a special legislative session in December.
The stated purpose? To address hurricane relief funds. But many Democrats fear a darker motive: to pack the state Supreme Court with new Republican justices before the GOP loses hold of the executive branch.
The House’s Pointless Fetal Tissue Witch Hunt Is Determined to Seem Relevant
The congressional committee established to investigate an imagined black market for fetal tissue recommended Thursday that attorneys general pursue criminal charges against a Texas Planned Parenthood, along with several other health care providers and research institutions.
The elegantly named Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives has referred Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast to the Texas attorney general’s office, alleging that the health center profited from donations of fetal tissue it sent to the University of Texas for research using embryonic stem cells. The panel named several other institutions in its referrals to the offices of state attorneys general, including medical research company StemExpress and abortion clinics in Arkansas and Ohio. Rewire reported in June that the committee has also recommended that New Mexico launch a state-level criminal investigation into the way the University of New Mexico and Southwestern Women’s Options, an abortion provider, deal with fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood, it has been proved time and time again, does not profit from the fetal tissue donations it makes. The vast majority of Planned Parenthood clinics have never even sent fetal tissue to medical research institutions. But the harassment and violence the organization weathered due to the fevered imaginings of this congressional panel caused Planned Parenthood to stop accepting all (perfectly legal!) reimbursement for its tissue donations in October 2015.
Thursday’s announcement, then, is a desperate grasp for relevance from a committee that has been conducting an expensive witch hunt against Planned Parenthood and abortion care for more than a year. The panel has not uncovered any evidence that any abortion providers are selling the remains of aborted fetuses, as the Center for Medical Progress’ discredited “sting videos” claimed. Thirteen states and some local jurisdictions jumped on the GOP bandwagon and launched their own investigations, all of which yielded exactly zero instances of illegal or unethical practices.
Actually, that’s not quite true. The Houston grand jury convened to consider claims that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast trafficked in fetal tissue did end up indicting someone: anti-abortion activist David Daleiden, who orchestrated the thoroughly made-up “baby parts” scandal that caused pro-lifers across the country to hyperventilate last summer. The grand jury charged that Daleiden and his cohort had tampered with government records (a felony) and that he had tried to engage in the purchase or sale of fetal tissue. (That last charge was later dropped, but the poetic justice lingers.) Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, the same center the congressional panel attacked on Thursday, was cleared of all allegations of wrongdoing.
Even though the only indictments that have resulted from these drawn-out, aimless investigations have been against their own side, the members of the congressional panel are determined to continue. On Thursday, the House more than doubled the committee’s budget for the year, bringing it to nearly $1.6 million, in a vote along party lines. Republican Rep. Mia Love of Utah said the committee’s referrals of abortion providers to state attorneys general are “proof of potential criminal activity in the fetal tissue industry,” promising “more referrals are to come.”
Obama Supports Women in the Draft, but Congress Won’t Make It Happen
President Barack Obama announced Thursday that he believes women should be required to register for the military draft, just as men age 18 through 25 must do. This marks a largely symbolic shift in public position; Congress nixed its plan to add women to Selective Service registration two days before Obama’s declaration of support.
The Associated Press reports that Obama has been considering the issue of women in the draft since Secretary of Defense Ash Carter opened all combat positions to women almost exactly one year ago. Historically, every time drafting women has become an issue of public debate, those who oppose gender-neutral Selective Service have invoked a 1981 Supreme Court decision that exempted women from the draft because they didn’t serve on the front lines. Now that they do, the only reasons left for excluding women rest on sexist ideas of what kind of people are competent in battle, whose duty it is to protect, and who must be protected.
A White House National Security Council spokesman told the AP that Obama thinks women have “proven their mettle” in battle, so it makes no sense to draw gender barriers around the draft. The Pentagon’s press secretary said Carter agrees with the president that women should be drafted if the draft is ever reinstated—it’s been inactive since the Vietnam War—since the military has been strengthened by adding women to combat positions, thus widening the pool of qualified applicants. Top military officials and veterans in both political parties, including Republican Sen. John McCain, have said including women in the draft is only fair.
Earlier this year, it looked like Congress was poised to ax one of the few remaining barriers to women’s inclusion in the military. In June, the Senate passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act that included a provision for an all-gender draft with a vote of 85–13. That provision made it into the House of Representatives’ version, but by the time it got to the floor for a vote, it had been removed. Instead, the final version of the legislation will commission a review of the Selective Service System to see if it’s still necessary or practical to keep the draft as an option at all.
The push to include women in the draft likely failed because it was a bigger deal to legislators and constituents who opposed it than to those who supported it. Making the draft gender-neutral would make sense given the current state of the military and combat roles, but since the draft is unlikely to return anytime soon, it would matter more as a vote of confidence in gender equality than as a practical concern. Meanwhile, conservatives have made this largely hypothetical conversation a wedge issue about protecting women. Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who might have wanted to shore up support from deplorables while railing against Donald Trump in the lead-up to the election, has been among the loudest opponents of adding women to the draft. On Tuesday, he said keeping the draft men-only will “put national security ahead of unnecessary culture-warring,” thus avoiding “a fight about drafting our mothers, sisters, and daughters.”
Ted Cruz, too, has made himself a visible warrior against women in the draft. At a presidential campaign rally in February, he mock-addressed his fellow Republican candidates who would require women to register for Selective Service. “Are you guys nuts?” he said. “Listen, we have had enough with political correctness, especially in the military. Political correctness is dangerous. And the idea that we would draft our daughters to forcibly bring them into the military and put them in close combat, I think, is wrong. It is immoral.” Here, Cruz made the classic right-wing argument used to turn conservative women against feminism: that men and women are not equal, and that women should be protected. It’s the same argument Paul Ryan made when he responded to Donald Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” statement by saying that women should be “championed and revered” instead of objectified. That’s giddy Trump supporter Paul Ryan, promising to protect women while endorsing for president a man who brags about assaulting them.
At the February rally, Cruz used his daughters as reasons why including women in the draft would be stupid and cruel. “I’m the father of two little girls,” he said. “They are capable of doing anything in their hearts’ desire. But the idea that their government would forcibly put them in a foxhole with a 220-pound psychopath trying to kill them doesn’t make any sense at all.” What an apropos line of reasoning! The idea that legislators who send America’s troops to war would have to contend with the consequences of sending their own children into harm’s way is one of the main reasons for keeping the specter of an income- and status-blind draft around in the first place.