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Posted by Mark Frauenfelder

My guest on the Cool Tools Show podcast this week is Simon Quellen Field. Simon is a chemist and former Google software engineer and is the author of over a dozen books, including Gonzo Gizmos, Return of Gonzo Gizmos, Culinary Reactions, Why is Milk White, Elements Vault, Why There's Antifreeze In Your Toothpaste, Electronics for Artists and, most recently, Boom!: The Chemistry and History of Explosives. He's the author of the science toy website SciToys.com and several novels.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

Taylor Wharton LD10 Aluminum Liquid Dewar ($638)
“I’m often asked to demonstrate scientific toys and things at different science conventions, like the Google Science Fair … and one of the things that they love when I show off is all of these fun things that you can do with liquid nitrogen. And, of course, it lasts a lot longer if you keep it in a big Dewar. So, I’ve got this thing, it’s about 2 feet tall, about 10 inches in diameter, And holds 10 liters of liquid nitrogen, which I get locally from a place called Nitroderm. And we do all kinds of fun things with it. Put some liquid nitrogen in a bowl and squirt some whipped cream out of a spray can into it, freeze it really hard. Kids pop it into their mouth and crunch on it and fog comes out their nose like a dragon.”

Mastercool 90066-B Vacuum Pump ($130)
"I have a vacuum chamber, and this vacuum pump, this one does six cubic feet per minute, which is pretty good. It used to be that vacuum pumps were really expensive, but once the smog dealers needed them in order to take the Freon out of your air conditioner for environmental reasons, everybody needed one and they got cheap. But, with this vacuum pump, I can put some liquid nitrogen into a small thermos and put it in my vacuum chamber and start sucking the air and the nitrogen vapor out of that chamber. And after about a minute or so, you get solid nitrogen … and then you disconnect it and let the air rush in and in about 3 seconds, it’s liquid again.”

Tekpower TP3005T Variable Linear DC Power Supply ($80)
"It's got a nice LCD display on it and you can set the current or the voltage to be constant. And what I use it for is electroforming. You take a solution of copper salts and a few other magic ingredients. Usually, it's a proprietary mix, they don't tell you exactly what's in it. But you can start electroplating something and if you let it go, it will make a thicker plating … So, for example, suppose I took an egg. I could paint conductive paint in a pattern on the egg, like a filigree or a tree or whatever. And then I could submerge that in the plating bath and plate it for 20 minutes or so and get a thick enough copper plating that I can dissolve the egg away and now I can hold this filigreed Fabergé egg-like thing in my hand.”

Baofeng Ham Two-way Radio ($35)
“I picked this up recently, when I was going up to see the eclipse up in Oregon, and we knew that there would be so many people in these little towns that only had cell phone bandwidth for a tenth as many people as were going to be there and so, we wanted to stay in touch and be able to chat with other HAMs on the road about traffic conditions, which we also expected to be a nightmare. … And this little gadget … It’s got 128 memories that you can easily program with all of the repeaters for all of the HAM radio repeaters on the mountains and stuff and it just works … It does everything you want and it’s tiny. … It’s probably good for anywhere, 5 to 20 miles. But once you hit the repeater, now the repeaters are networked, so I can talk to people in Portland, Oregon or in San Diego.”

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Posted by Cory Doctorow

In 2016, an Internet of Things worm called Mirai tore through the internet, building botnets of millions of badly designed CCTVs, PVRs, routers and other gadgets, sending unstoppable floods of traffic that took down major internet services from Paypal to Reddit to Dyn. (more…)

[ SECRET POST #3943 ]

Oct. 20th, 2017 07:27 pm
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[personal profile] case posting in [community profile] fandomsecrets

⌈ Secret Post #3943 ⌋

Warning: Some secrets are NOT worksafe and may contain SPOILERS.


More! )


Secrets Left to Post: 00 pages, 00 secrets from Secret Submission Post #564.
Secrets Not Posted: [ 0 - broken links ], [ 0 - not!secrets ], [ 0 - not!fandom ], [ 0 - too big ], [ 0 - repeat ].
Current Secret Submissions Post: here.
Suggestions, comments, and concerns should go here.
[syndicated profile] the_mary_sue_feed

Posted by Kaila Hale-Stern

The thriller starring Michael Fassbender as a person named Detective Harry Hole chasing a killer who loves making snowmen or something is getting scorchingly critical reviews.

A few of my fave pull-quotes regarding The Snowman from Rotten Tomatoes, where it’s currently at a cringe-inducing 11%:

“The Snowman” is like if aliens studied humanity and tried to make their own movie in an attempt to communicate with us. —The Arizona Republic

“The Snowman” is ugly and nasty, but that’s not the worst of it. The worst is that it’s boring and makes no sense. —The San Francisco Chronicle

Playground snowball fights have more suspense and intrigue than “The Snowman,” the most puzzlingly bad movie of the year. —Detroit News

Completely, atrociously, perhaps even impressively, stupid. —The Globe and Mail

I know this means we should stay away—and I’ve been flinching over the film’s annoying posters in the NYC subway for months (the AV Club calls it among “the worst movie advertising campaigns of all time”)—but sometimes, when a movie gets piled on like this, I’m almost curious enough to want to go to see why. Almost.

Anyway, people have been defacing the ridiculous Snowman posters in the subways. Here’s my favorite alteration that I snapped a few days ago:

(via Rotten Tomatoes, image: Universal, Kaila Hale-Stern)

  • “Amber Tamblyn on Charlyne Yi’s Accusations Against Her Husband David Cross: ‘I Believe Her'”. (via Jezebel) Also:

  • Daisy Ridley has joined a “comedic superhero” movie pitched by actor Josh Gad, that will also include Gad and his Beauty and the Beast co-star Luke Evans. So far everything about this already sounds amazing. (via Syfy)
  • Let’s break down those in-jokes on the Spider-Man: Homecoming deleted scenes. (via Collider)

So what’s on your mind this fine Friday?

This is Josh Gad voicing a snowman. Everything comes full circle.

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Posted by Teresa Jusino

If it can be said that there’s a silver lining about the election of the Trump administration, it’s that it has gotten people for whom politics was a mere afterthought to bring the state of our country and the world front and center in their minds. That’s certainly the effect Trump’s election seems to have had on comedian and host, Chelsea Handler.

Yesterday, Handler took to Twitter to release a statement about the future (or lack thereof) of Chelsea Lately. In short, she’s giving up her show to devote herself to political activism more full-time. Here’s what she wrote:

“Like so many across the country,” Handler says, “the past presidential election and the countless events that have unfolded since have galvanized me. From the national level down to the grassroots, it’s clear our decisions at the ballot box next year will mark a defining moment for our nation.” She plans to not return to Netflix for a third season of her show, instead devoting her time to doing more learning and growing in the field of political activism.

Handler hopes to put her focus specifically on women, both in trying to get more women elected to political office, and fighting for gender equality.

This doesn’t mean that she’s severing ties with Netflix completely. As reported by The Huffington Post, “Handler said she plans to travel the country, speaking to people to gain ‘a better understanding of our political divide.’ That concept will form the basis of a documentary for Netflix, and she will retain a relationship with the streaming service. The current season of weekly hour-long Chelsea episodes will continue to stream until the end of 2017.”

This isn’t entirely a surprise, as she’s been increasingly vocal already, both through her show and on social media, about the goings-on in our country. I’ve gotta say, I love when people put their money where their mouths are, and I’m looking forward to seeing how she uses her platform to do more political good.

(image: screencap)

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Posted by Teresa Jusino

The parade of testimony against Hollywood predator Harvey Weinstein, sadly, doesn’t seem to have an end yet. This time, one of our favorite actresses around these parts, Lupita Nyong’o, has come forward in a personal essay for The New York Times, giving a harrowing and detailed account of an entire spectrum of abuses she received at the hands of the disgraced (and disgraceful) movie mogul.

In The New York Times, Nyong’o recounts how she first met Weinstein in Berlin in 2011 while she was still a drama student at Yale. She was attending an awards ceremony at which he was present, and when an intermediary introduced Nyong’o to him, it was emphasized that she should “keep Harvey in your corner,” because he was extremely powerful and could elevate her career, but that she should also “be careful around him. He can be a bully.”

Though he was a powerful presence in that first meeting, Nyong’o didn’t feel afraid of him or anything. Not yet.

Shortly after that first meeting, when back in the U.S, Weinstein invited Nyong’o to a private screening at his Connecticut home with him, his family, and some other industry folks. Since she was in CT at Yale, she agreed, glad for the opportunity to network with such a high-profile industry contact. When she got there, Weinstein took her out to lunch first, and that’s when things started getting really weird. Nyong’o writes:

“The driver and I met Harvey in the little town of Westport, where he informed me that we would be having lunch at a restaurant before getting to his home. I did not think much of this. It was a busy restaurant, and as soon as we sat down he ordered a vodka and diet soda for himself. I asked for a juice. Harvey was unimpressed with my choice and told the waiter to bring me a vodka and diet soda instead. I declined and said I wanted the juice. We went back and forth until finally he turned to the waiter and said, ‘Get her what I tell you to get her. I’m the one paying the bill.’ I smiled and remained silent. The waiter left and returned with a vodka and diet soda for me. He placed it on the table beside my water. I drank the water. Harvey told me that I needed to drink the vodka and diet soda. I informed him that I would not.

“‘Why not?’ I remember him asking. ‘Because I don’t like vodka, and I don’t like diet soda, and I don’t like them together,’ I said. ‘You are going to drink that,’ he insisted. I smiled again and said that I wouldn’t. He gave up and called me stubborn. I said, ‘I know.’ And the meal proceeded without much further ado. In this second encounter with Harvey, I found him to be pushy and idiosyncratic more than anything.”

Later, when at his home, after beginning the film everyone was there to be screened, Weinstein pulled Nyong’o out of the screening (leaving everyone else in a closed, soundproof room) to “show her something.” That something was his bedroom, where he asked to give her a massage. Thinking on her feet, she offered to give him one instead, so that she could maintain physical control as she figured out how to extricate herself from the situation. He agreed, and as she was massaging him, he said he wanted to get naked. She asked him not to. He got up to do that anyway, and she left.

In her piece, Nyong’o brings up the important point that hers is a profession built on intimacy. As she says, actors are “paid to do very intimate things in public.” She goes on, “That’s why someone can have the audacity to invite you to their home or hotel and you show up. Precisely because of this we must stay vigilant and ensure that the professional intimacy is not abused.”

It isn’t only actors that are asked for a certain level of professional intimacy that is expected. I, as a pop culture writer for this site and others, have attended many a press junket. All of them have been held in hotels. And I have interviewed both male and female subjects in hotel rooms, sometimes with a publicist in the room, other times not. Hotel rooms make a certain amount of sense in that, when you’re not expecting a predator, a hotel room provides comfort for what can otherwise be a stressful situation.

Giving interviews and revealing private details about yourself and your process is not exactly the most comfortable thing in the world. I get that. So, interviewing in a comfortable environment, like a hotel suite, as opposed to in a colder office environment, has its uses. Thankfully, everyone I’ve encountered in this capacity has been completely professional and kind. I have been lucky. Countless female journalists, like TV critic Maureen Ryan, have not been.

But yes, in an industry that trades in people’s most vulnerable moments and emotions, a certain level of intimacy is expected. That said, it should not be abused or taken advantage of. It’s not about “you shouldn’t have gone into that hotel room.” It’s about “I shouldn’t expect to be raped or molested when I get there.” That’s how all this should be framed.

Instead, you have men like Weinstein who trade on the fact that far too many people expect sexual abuse as “just the way it is.” Nyong’o writes:

“Afterward, as planned, his male assistant arranged for me to get to the Tribeca Grill, where Harvey would be joining us. I met a female assistant when I arrived there. I was expecting that it would be a group of us, as it had been for the reading, but she informed me it would just be Mr. Weinstein. She would sit with me until he arrived. She seemed on edge, but I could only imagine how stressful it was to work for a man who had so much going on.

Harvey arrived and the assistant immediately disappeared. We ordered drinks and starters. Again he was offended by my nonalcoholic beverage choice but he didn’t fight me on it as hard. Before the starters arrived, he announced: ‘Let’s cut to the chase. I have a private room upstairs where we can have the rest of our meal.’ I was stunned. I told him I preferred to eat in the restaurant. He told me not to be so naïve. If I wanted to be an actress, then I had to be willing to do this sort of thing. He said he had dated Famous Actress X and Y and look where that had gotten them.

I was silent for a while before I mustered up the courage to politely decline his offer. “You have no idea what you are passing up,” he said. ‘With all due respect, I would not be able to sleep at night if I did what you are asking, so I must pass.'”

His assistant felt scared enough for her well-being and her job to leave Nyong’o alone with him, and Weinstein felt free enough to say all this to Nyong’o’s face, because of the attitude “that’s just how it is.”

There’s a much longer pattern of behavior that Nyong’o describes in her piece, so you should definitely check it out. But if stories like this teach us anything, it’s that 1) there’s power in numbers, and hopefully people feel more comfortable coming forward now, knowing they’re not alone. And 2) at a certain point we have to see that things are so bad that we have to be willing to risk something in order to fix it.

Because yes, at a certain point it’s understandable to want to keep oneself safe, or protect one’s job. However, if you hear about abuses and continue to work with abusers? If you fail to stand in solidarity with the victims of abuse? If you remain silent about things you know that can allow harm to come to others? At a certain point, that’s on you.

Nyong’o recognized the fact that she was not alone, and she spoke up to contribute to a culture of accountability and change. Because yes, one does have to protect oneself, and a great way to do that is not only to ensure that the marginalized feel safe, but to ensure that abusers feel very, very unsafe.

(image: Shutterstock)

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We Need More STIs on Our Sex Shows

Oct. 20th, 2017 09:12 pm
[syndicated profile] the_mary_sue_feed

Posted by Princess Weekes

During the second season of the hit HBO television show Insecure, there was a big discussion about condoms being depicted on-screen. Mainly, that they aren’t really. In the second season, the main character Issa, played by the talented Issa Rae, has just recently gone through a breakup and decides she is going to have a “ho phase” and a “ho-tation.” Which, you know, good for her. Turn up. The controversy came when viewers noticed that it seemed as though Issa’s partners were just “sliding into her DMs” with no pause for a glove.

Showrunner Prentice Penny spoke to Buzzfeed about this issue and said, “We’re not a documentary; we’re not a public service; we’re not a nonprofit. We’re a scripted television show, and so our thing is always about how do we tell the best story?” Penny went on to describe that they place condoms around the set in order to create that illusion, but as a fan of the show, I can say that when I watched Issa sleep with “Neighbour Bae,” there was no pause that indicated he could have wrapped up anything. However, Penny did not begrudge the fact the conversation was happening. “To me, this Twitter debate is kind of perfect for our show because we have so many discussions on our show that are uncomfortable.”

However, what I realized watching the show is that while we are often talking about depictions safe sex in the media, the reality is that we do not have shows that tackle the reality that people already have STIs and they still have sex.

According to the Centers 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.” Just today, multiple news outlets are reporting about the rise of throat-related cancers in men, with an estimated 1 in 9 men having oral HPV. Most people who have sex and have had more than four sexual partners will get some form HPV. Nevermind that no matter how much shows and movies may turn it into a punchline, herpes is the second most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. So why aren’t we talking about it?

Listen to anyone who is living with an STI, and they will tell you that the hardest part of having it is the stigma. Kelly Gluckman, who spoke with Bustle earlier this year about the need for more comprehensive sex-education, said that when she found out she contracted HIV, she assumed that it was a death sentence. “All I knew at that point was ‘You get HIV, you get AIDS, and you die.’ So, I was reading these papers and wondering when I would die.” Fortunately, in 2017, HIV is no longer the death sentence it was in the ’80s. Medicine is available and while it needs to be taken every day, it makes the condition chronic, but manageable and greatly reduces the risk of infection to other partners. Yet, the most stressful part for Gluckman is the stigma: “Other people’s misconceptions are more burdensome than the virus itself.”

A similar sentiment was shared by Ella Dawson in her excellent TEDx Talk about Herpes and STIs in general.

What Dawson makes very clear is the unfair taint we put on people who get STIs from their partner. That we assume they are dirty or irresponsible and that this is some type of “punishment” for having sex. STIs are not a punishment; they are inevitable if you have a lot of partners—or if your partner has had a lot of partners—and that’s no one’s fault. Despite what people have told you, there is no certain type of person who gets STIs. It can happen to anyone.

Not to mention many are asymptomatic, and you don’t know you have most of them unless you get tested. I say “most” of them because there is no test for HPV for men, and you don’t usually know you have it unless you get a wart (low-risk/non-cancer causing HPV) or if a woman gets a pap smear and there are abnormalities. As for Herpes, well, guess what: most places don’t test you for herpes unless you ask, because it does not have the same long-term negative side-effects as untreated gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia.

A consequence of us being unable to deal with that reality in a non-shaming way is part of why people are (a) reluctant to get tested and (b) simply do not talk about it.

That’s where the media comes into play.

I have a very vivid memory of watching the UPN show Girlfriends as a pre-teen, and an episode came on where Joan (played by black-ish‘s Tracee Ellis Ross) found out that her college friend, Reesie, contracted AIDS from someone they both dated. There is a scene where Reesie cuts her finger with a kitchen knife and everyone jumps away from her like a pariah, they throw away the kitchen knife even though the virus dies as soon as it touches the air. The look of sadness on Reesie’s face of being isolated by her friends was something I always have remembered, and I remember learning not to be afraid of people with HIV. I went to a Catholic School as a child, so I can tell you that if I hadn’t learned it from that show, I might not have learned it period.

While most shows relegate STI exposure to an “after-school special” of trauma or an episode-centric issue that will never be brought up again, the truth is that if we have shows that want to revel in the freedom of sex, then they have to learn to deal with STIs in a better way. Some have already got the ball rolling: Miranda dealt with it for one episode on Sex in the City, Illana got the last batch of her HPV vaccine on Broad City, at least Hannah knew about her HPV status on Girls, even if it never really came up again, and Oliver on How to Get Away with Murder has taught us more about prep than most sex-ed classes.

This is important because, as much as we want to think “it’ll never happen to me,” shit happens. Condoms break, sometimes you can get infected even with a condom, and sometimes you get caught up in the moment and you don’t use a condom. Sexually transmitted diseases aren’t going anywhere, and we are not going to stop having sex, so we have to figure out a way to the conversation without shaming people who get sick.

(via NBC, image: HBO)

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Friday 20th October 2017

Oct. 20th, 2017 09:12 pm
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Posted by shinyjenni

Do you have a Doctor Who community or a journal that we are not currently linking to? Leave a note in the comments and we'll add you to the who_daily reading list.

dw100 opens challenge #674: wheel

Through The Storm (21/?) by stillbrainfried (Nine/Rose | Adult)

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Posted by Dan Van Winkle

Star Wars is a franchise that’s no stranger to big twists. The Empire Strikes Back even pulled a little fake-out with Yoda before dropping one of the most famous movie twists of all time, and Return of the Jedi returned to that same well when it revealed that Luke and Leia were siblings. The Force Awakens, pulled a similar trick in the reveal of Kylo Ren’s true identity, and Rian Johnson, director of The Last Jedi, is enjoying the fan anticipation of future surprises.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Johnson was predictably evasive when answering a question about a popular fan theory—that it’s not a coincidence that Luke Skywalker’s looming presence on the movie’s poster mirrors that of past villains in the franchise. We’re only about two months away from the movie’s release, so we’re not likely to get any more big details before we finally see for ourselves, but Johnson did mention that he’s very much enjoying providing fans with plenty to theorize over, since he’s taken part in that himself:

“Having been a Star Wars fan myself for the past 40 years, having spent most of my life on the other side of the curtain, I know the anticipation and the guesswork and theorizing is all part of the fun and game of it. So I love it. I love seeing what people are thinking, seeing what they’re guessing, seeing what they’re anticipating.”

The latest trailer certainly played into that, with plenty of hints—whether straightforward or intentionally deceptive—that not all is as it seems in the next chapter of the saga. Luke Skywalker himself even comes out and explicitly says that at least he expects things to take a turn. Although maybe he just needs to heed the advice that he should keep his mind on where he is and what he’s doing, hmm? Or just have a little more faith?

Whatever the case, don’t expect the teases to stop anytime soon.

(via THR, image: Disney/Lucasfilm)

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Posted by Kaila Hale-Stern

The Hollywood mogul at the center of the widespread sexual harassment and assault allegations is reportedly falling asleep in therapy sessions, claiming conspiracies against him, and “barking” into a mobile phone he isn’t supposed to have.

I wish I could say I was surprised by the reports of Weinstein’s terrible behavior coming out of Page Six, but I’m so far from surprised that I have reached maximum velocity in the state of non-surprise. Page Six is a gossip site, sure, so take everything with a grain of salt—but they also have a long and storied history in gossip, and a lot of well-connected sources. And do you really think a serial harasser like Weinstein would suddenly do an about-face and make a genuine attempt at rehabilitation just because he was finally “caught”? Harvey Weinstein needs to be behind bars, but instead he’s passing his nights in comfort at a hotel and apparently idling away his days, hoping the media storm will pass. According to Page Six:

Weinstein was reported to be at an inpatient facility, but our source says he is actually being treated at an intensive outpatient facility, which allows him to spend nights at a hotel. The clinic offers one-on-one counseling and group therapy sessions, among other treatments.

The source told us, “In one group therapy session, Harvey arrived 15 minutes late. Then, when it was his turn to speak, he launched into a speech about how this is all a conspiracy against him.

The source added that as others at the clinic shared their personal stories, “Harvey fell asleep in his chair. He was only woken up by the ringing of his smuggled mobile phone [which is banned at the facility] . . . Harvey jolted awake, jumped up, immediately took the call and then ran out of the room.”

Weinstein’s no doubt hugely expensive “treatment” is based in Arizona, but it’s unclear to me what any amount of therapy is going to do for someone so vehemently in denial and so obsessed with conspiracies of persecution. He’s apparently moved away from group therapy—what newfound sensitivity, falling asleep while others share their stories—and is now “undergoing individual treatment, and is accompanied at all times by a therapist.”

If I were his therapist, Weinstein’s sense of denial, persecution, and disdain for others would be the first things I’d address. But it strikes me as patently ridiculous that Weinstein, confronted with what’s now more than 40 women on the record accusing him of acts that range from exposure to groping to rape, gets to trot off to “sex rehab” for good optics, as though his problem were on par with other Hollywood figures entering facilities for substance abuse.

Even if Weinstein could be classified as a sex addict—and that’s debatable—the first step in any recovery method is recognizing that one has a problem. Per another source that spoke to Page Six, “He insists he never raped or assaulted anyone, and that all the encounters were consensual. He realizes he has acted like an a–hole, but he still insists he’s not a rapist.” So Harvey Weinstein has gained the self-awareness to classify his actions at “a-hole” level, but is obviously unwilling to take any responsibility for the dozens of claims made that the encounters were anything but consensual. In fact, he’s chalking those allegations up to a big ‘ol conspiracy against him.

That source continued, “He does have his phone, but when he is in therapy, he has to give it to someone else.” Wow, progress is really being made here, when you voluntarily give up your phone during your private therapy sessions. “The characterization of what he said and what happened at the group session isn’t true,” the source finished, but this is also the person relaying Weinstein’s assurance that he never raped or assaulted anyone, so let’s just assume their take on how Weinstein behaved in group therapy is already on shaky ground.

Money and influence don’t disappear even when a figure falls from a position of power, and it’s likely that we’ll see Weinstein lounging around in rehabs for a while. The only people I’m feeling bad for here are his many, many victims, who continue to have their experiences questioned and disparaged by the man who harmed them, and for Weinstein’s therapists, somewhere in Arizona.

(via Page Six, image: Shutterstock)

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Posted by Kylie Cheung

Welcome to The Week in Reproductive Justice, a weekly recap of all news related to the hot-button issue of what lawmakers are allowing women to do with their bodies!

So, let’s see—the past month has seen the president of the United States repeal a policy that ensured millions of women’s access to free or affordable birth control, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement actively deny an undocumented minor access to abortion, and of course, thousands of people take to the internet to share heartbreaking tales of sexual abuse.

In a word, it’s been a horrifying time to be a woman. But events of this week in reproductive justice tell a sort of different story—one of women, activists, and courts fighting back, and research and academia fighting to make their voices on the abortion debate heard.

Here’s what you may have missed:

Federal courts in conflict over whether undocumented minor has human rights

Last week, the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement’s hand in barring a pregnant, undocumented minor from leaving a detainment center in Texas to have an abortion was shocking, even for an administration that claims its goal is to protect “life beginning from conception.” On Wednesday, a federal judge ordered the Department of Justice to allow the minor to have the procedure.

However briefly, the order offered some hope that the 15-weeks pregnant teenager who says government agencies “forced [her] to obtain counseling from a religiously affiliated crisis pregnancy center where I was forced to look at the sonogram,” would have access to the procedure, but the very next day, an appeals court put a hold on the order.

The gist of the Health and Human Service Department and Texas officials’ staunch refusal to recognize the minor’s right to an abortion is that she isn’t a citizen, and therefore, lack of paperwork somehow equates to her having no human rights whatsoever. But ultimately, what’s going on here remains pretty transparently connected to the Trump administration’s obsession with controlling women and dictating their bodily decisions and dehumanizing immigrants—imagine being both.

In an America plagued with a range of restrictions on abortion big and small, some women are more affected than others: minors can be blocked by judges and parents from having the procedure, and detained, undocumented women clearly have no rights whatsoever.

The case will return to court Friday morning, according to NPR.

Democratic lawmakers introduce bill to fight Trump contraceptive rollback

A couple of weeks after the Trump administration announced that it would allow employers and insurers everywhere to stop providing birth control coverage to people for quite literally any reason, 19 Democratic senators got behind and this week introduced a bill to fight back.

The Obama-era contraceptive mandate saved women about $1.4 billion annually, improved women’s health across the board, and served as perhaps one of the most effective mechanisms to protect equal opportunity in the country, only to become conditional based on whether or not employers respect women. (And, as new revelations of predatory men in positions of power reveal, many do not.)

According to The Hill, four Democrats in the House plan to unveil similar legislation, but the chances of either bills making it to the floor are dubious. Many of Trump’s actions are controversial even within his own party, but believe it or not, many predominantly white, male, Christian Republicans in Congress either don’t know or care about uses of birth control unrelated to pregnancy, and staunchly oppose women of reproductive age engaging in casual sex—shocking, I know. To most self-identified freedom lovers, freedom of religion means one thing and that is the freedom to punish women and gay people—that’s how it is, and that’s how it’s always been, really.

Anyway, where opposition to Trump’s actions will likely face failure in Republican-dominated Congress, lawsuits that will in all likelihood be met with success have already been launched, and individual states are already fighting back.

Wisconsin bill aims to bar UW residents from receiving abortion training

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin senate oversaw a contentious health committee hearing over a bill that would make it illegal for University of Wisconsin residents to receive training to perform abortions. The bill was first proposed in July, justified by the fact that state law prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion.

But there’s a thousand reasons why this bill and the logic behind it simply don’t make any sense. However much conservative lawmakers may wish this weren’t so, abortion is legal and there’s no reason why medical professionals and OB-GYNS shouldn’t be allowed to learn how to provide it. Further, the Council for Graduate Medical Education states that OB-GYN training must “provide training or access to training the provision of abortions, and this must be part of the planned curriculum.”

Of course, the conservative war on reproductive health specifically in education—i.e. the rise of abstinence-only sex ed in rural states, aka that region with the highest rates of teen pregnancy—is nothing new. But this case is particularly dangerous, as it seems to ignore that abortions can be necessary to save women’s lives. A new generation of doctors without these skills will inevitably equate to a new generation of endangered women, an alarming path forward for a country that already presently boasts the highest maternal mortality rates in the industrialized world, according to the most recent data.

In the state of Wisconsin, there are only two abortion clinics remaining as of 2016, and we all know how quickly these numbers can change for the worst.

But according to the Wisconsin State Journal, health experts aren’t taking this hit lying down: The Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and 12 other similar groups have already registered against the bill.

New data shows the abortion rate has steadily declined—but this could all change

Fresh research published in the American Journal of Public Health on Thursday reveals that between 2008 and 2014, the nation’s abortion rate fell 25 percent.

You might think that, considering 2008 and 2014 saw sporadic funding cuts to women’s health organizations and the rise of TRAP laws (targeted regulation of abortion clinics), perhaps this was because women simply didn’t have access to abortion. But according to the study’s researchers, the primary factor behind this decline was simple: more contraceptive use.

Prior research has shown that restrictions on abortion don’t affect the abortion rate, because women who need the procedure will find other—usually less safe—ways to have it, shouldering immense burden and even potentially endangering themselves in the process. Bottomline: Restrictions don’t work, but birth control does. What does work? Contraceptive access and sex ed. So, in summation, in dedicating their careers to barring both contraception and abortion access, conservatives aren’t even achieving their goals—they’re just ruining women’s lives.

Unsurprisingly, according to some experts, this decline in abortion rates could halt and reverse—a trend neither the right nor the left wants to see—and we’ll have “freedom of religion” to thank for that.

Tune in next week to see what lawmakers will try next in their never-ending mission to derail reproductive justice!

(image: Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com)

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October Book Club Announcement

Oct. 20th, 2017 07:24 pm
[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Amanda

We’ve selected With This Curse by Amanda DeWees for our October read for the SBTB book club. Our official selection post has some more information on the book, including Elyse’s thoughts on why it’s a great Gothic pick for the month of October.

Our chat will occur on Wednesday, October 25 from 8:00pm – 9:30pm EDT. That afternoon, we’ll post the chat link on the site and it will go live around 8:00pm. Sarah will lead a discussion of the book for around an hour, and then author Amanda DeWees will pop in for a Q&A!

We hope to see you there!

[syndicated profile] boingboing_feed

Posted by Mark Frauenfelder

Last year I bought this mailbox light. You stick it inside your mailbox (it's got peel-off sticky tape). Two sensors - light and motion - sense what's happening. If they sense darkness and no motion (door closed) nothing happens. If they sense light and motion (opening the box in the day) nothing happens. If they sense darkness and motion (opening the box at night) the light goes on for a couple of minutes, allowing you to see the mail.

It runs on 3 AAA batteries, which last months. When it is time to change the batteries, just pull on the case to release it from the magnetic back cover (which is attached to the mailbox with the sticky tape).

At 2 for $15 (give one to a friend or install in a cabinet) this is worthwhile convenience.

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Posted by daniel

The National Symbols Officer of Australia recently wrote to Juice Media, producers of Rap News and Honest Government Adverts, suggesting that its “use” of Australia’s coat of arms violated various Australian laws. This threat came despite the fact that Juice Media’s videos are clearly satire and no reasonable viewer could mistake them for official publications. Indeed, the coat of arms that appeared in the Honest Government Adverts series does not even spell “Australian” correctly.

It is unfortunate that the Australian government cannot distinguish between impersonation and satire. But it is especially worrying because the government has proposed legislation that would impose jail terms for impersonation of a government agency. Some laws against impersonating government officials can be appropriate (Australia, like the U.S., is seeing telephone scams from fraudsters claiming to be tax officials). But the proposed legislation in Australia lacks sufficient safeguards. Moreover, the recent letter to Juice Media shows that the government may lack the judgment needed to apply the law fairly.

In a submission to Parliament, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights explains that the proposed legislation is too broad. For example, the provision that imposes a 2 year sentence for impersonation of a government agency does not require any intent to deceive. Similarly, it does not require that any actual harm was caused by the impersonation. Thus, the law could sweep in conduct outside the kind of fraud that motivates the bill.

The proposed legislation does include an exemption for “conduct engaged in solely for genuine satirical, academic or artistic purposes.” But, as critics have noted, this gives the government leeway to attack satire that it does not consider “genuine.” Similarly, the limitation that conduct be “solely” for the purpose of satire could chill speech. Is a video produced for satirical purposes unprotected because it was also created for the purpose of supporting advertising revenue?

Government lawyers failing to understand satire is hardly unique to Australia. In 2005, a lawyer representing President Bush wrote to The Onion claiming that the satirical site was violating the law with its use of the presidential seal. The Onion responded that it was “inconceivable” that anyone would understand its use of the seal to be anything but parody. The White House wisely elected not to pursue the matter further. If it had, it likely would have lost on First Amendment grounds. Australia, however, does not have a First Amendment (or even a written bill of rights) so civil libertarians there are rightly concerned that the proposed law against impersonation could be used to attack political commentary. We hope the Australian government either kills the bill or amends the law to include both a requirement of intent to deceive and a more robust exemption for satire.

In its own style, Juice Media has responded to the proposed legislation with an “honest” government advert.

mytubethumb play
Privacy info. This embed will serve content from youtube-nocookie.com

‘Australien Government’ coat of arms Juice Media, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 AU 

(no subject)

Oct. 20th, 2017 01:37 pm
neonhummingbird: (Default)
[personal profile] neonhummingbird
I had PT on Thursday, not Wednesday, as I discovered after a PITA trip (thank you, CTA :P) up there and a deeply apologetic look from the vv sweet receptionist. < sigh > But PT last night was excellent; I can lift my arm sideways all the way over my head with only a tiny bit of stick assistance at the transition point, and J promises that next week will be the last time I have to do the finger ladder, woot! (Sadly, it has been replaced by the hand bike. Gah.)

We are not discussing the Cubs, except that I hate being right. Still, we made it all the way to the NLCS, and there is no shame in being beaten by the 2017 Dodgers. I just wish it hadn't been so thorough.

Sleeping back in my own bed is going pretty well; the cats are confused and Jack is taking the opportunity to try to push boundaries, but we're dealing. My wake-up light didn't work the first morning, but I left it unplugged all day and it reset, so I'm good and have my little simulated sunrise every morning again. But one thing sleeping in the living room has done is confirm that nothing (non-feline) with a brain is ever allowed to be resident in my bedroom. The temptation to talk to Alexa when I should be trying to go to sleep is just too much to resist, and the way she occasionally responds to weird things with no prompting is too weird to risk happening in the middle of the night. Nope. Alexa stays outside. Honestly, I don't even bring my cell phone or tablet in unless I'm trying to sleep off a nasty headache and need something soothing like GBBO to distract me.

My tablet, by the way, is going back to Asus, and will hopefully be reborn as an identical, probably refurbished, replacement. Happily, it's still under warranty; I just have to fill out the RMA and get it mailed. Until it returns, I'm stuck with my Kindle Fire, which I only use for backup for a reason. The screen is too small, the home screen is annoying and uncustomizeable, and the limits Kindle places on the environment are way too frustrating. (Example: I can't log into Samsung Smart Things app, because it uses the default browser, which on the Fire is Silk. Which the Samsung website is not compatible with. No way to change the default browser. At all.) < sigh > Anyway, I shall suffer through it.
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Posted by Mark Frauenfelder

A train trestle in Gregson St. in Durham, NC has a clearance of 11' 8". Despite the warning signs and flashing lights advertising the lower-than-normal clearance, trucks collide with the trestle often enough that an enterprising person has set up a video camera to catch every spectacular collision. The latest incident, which happened on 10/14/2017, is a doozy.

[syndicated profile] the_mary_sue_feed

Posted by Kaila Hale-Stern

I haven’t watched The Walking Dead since its first season (if you read my articles, you’ll have seen my many confessions to being easily frightened and generally avoiding horror). But as a pop culture writer, I try to stay apprised of what’s happening, and I’ve kept up on Walking Dead news throughout the years, reading recaps and articles on major twists and plotlines and, of course, the splashiest deaths.

So I had known about actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s much-touted rollout as the iconic comic’s villain Negan, and read the many takes during the agonizing season break while fans waited to discover who Negan had first killed on the main cast. Since then I hadn’t heard much noise about Negan, though at this year’s New York Comic Con, I spotted many Negan cosplayers, and several merch tables were selling officially licensed replicas of his barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat, Lucille. When a villain has a named weapon that even non-fans can identify on sight, that’s pretty damned impressive. I figured that Negan’s ubiquity made him the character that everyone loved—or at least loved to hate.

“Role play bat”

That’s why I was struck by a take in USA Today by Kelly Lawler, whose headline declares, “The Walking Dead needs to kill Negan to survive.” In the article, Lawler argues that Negan has overstayed his welcome by whole seasons, and is now bogging down the entire show.

“Negan is still alive, kicking and siphoning off what little energy the aging series has left,” Lawler writes, explaining that she’d expected Negan to be killed off a long time ago. Instead, “The villain has been at the center of nearly every storyline for nearly two years, and he’s a repulsive, tiresome and — worst of all — boring antagonist.” She lays the blame for Season 7’s ratings decline squarely on the show featuring Negan and his attendant plotlines so prominently.

Most damningly, Lawler argues that Negan was never fleshed out or presented well in the first place:

From nearly the moment it began to name-drop the villain early in Season 6 (Nov. 2015), Dead handled Negan badly. The character is a big presence in the comic books on which the series is based, and the TV version seemed to rely on that extratextual knowledge to give the character gravitas and depth, rather than actually earning it.

The threat posed by Negan and his followers was never clearly articulated, and it was impossible to make him seem truly menacing, partly due to  the fact that our heroes underestimated him. But that choice made the build-up to Negan’s first appearance seem forced.

When Negan finally surfaced, I was already tired of him.

She praises Morgan for being a good actor, but says that his portrayal leaves Negan as simply surface-level evil, without the substance or conflict that makes for a truly great villain. Instead, The Walking Dead spent “16 episodes demonstrating his depravity,” and even worse, all of this repetitive violence wasn’t even interesting: “This barrage of barbarity quickly became monotonous. Yes, Negan’s scenes were grotesque, but they were also utterly dull. In most of his scenes, he brought the momentum to a dead stop. His evil machinations were more annoying than threatening, his dialogue was flat and his scenes a slog. ”

I asked our social media guru and TWD authority Daniella Bondar whether she concurred with Lawler’s assessment. Daniella responded with a resounding YES. “They did a terrible job with him,” says Daniella. “Dude does not shut up.” She adds, “They just made him too much too fast instead of slow-playing him … If they want to keep him on the show a while, which is the plan I think, then they should have had a more editing eye with him.”

And herein lies the biggest problem, as both Lawler and Daniella point out: rather than having plans to summarily deal with the Big Bad once and for all, it looks like The Walking Dead wants to keep him around for as long as possible. (Maybe they are selling a lot of replica baseball bats?) The whole premise for the new season “is being hyped as an ‘all out war’ between Rick and Negan,” so it doesn’t look as though he’ll go anywhere fast. Even if Negan ultimately doesn’t survive the war, that could be another 16 hours of his relentless and apparently boring cruelty.

I should also point out that Jeffrey Dean Morgan recently drew the ire of fans for posting statements on “Blue Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter,” writing in a now-deleted Instagram post, “Dear a-holes, Blue lives do matter. Can’t believe I need to explain to you this fact. All lives matter. All of em,” thus demonstrating either an inability or an unwillingness to understand the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement. Fans who were already exhausted by Morgan’s portrayal of Negan now aren’t feeling too kindly about Morgan, either.

As an outsider looking in, it seems to me that The Walking Dead‘s creatives loved the idea and the mythos of Negan more than knowing what to do to make his character truly effective and menacing in a way that fans actually care about. When you keep beating a dead zombie—or person—again and again with the same barbed wire bat, at what point do you say “Enough?”

Lawler ends on a somewhat hopeful note: “Sunday marks The Walking Dead’s 100th episode, and part of the reason the series has survived so long is that it has managed to bounce back from creative downturns. Once the series dispenses with Negan, it can do so again if writers find new villains with some vitality.”

How do you solve a problem like Negan?

(via USA Today, image: AMC, Image Comics)

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[syndicated profile] the_mary_sue_feed

Posted by Princess Weekes

A lot of the hashtags out there right now are addressing important issues like sexual assault (#MeToo), representation in the media (#SWRepMatters) and politics (#IBelieveFrederica). All of these are important, but sometimes it is good to have an escape on the internet that does not remind us of all the battles that still need to be fought.

#WhyIWrite is part of National Day on Writing, so authors, bloggers, and all lovers of the written word have taken to Twitter to express what writing has meant for them. While of course, there are some taking the opportunity to mock the “liberal media,” overwhelmingly it is about people expressing the importance of telling stories.

From the time I was 10 years old, I knew that what I wanted to do was tell stories, and a huge part of that was because it was rare to see people who looked and sounded like me in the books I liked. When I write, I write for that young girl who wanted more than anything to fly with Harry Potter. Also, Math is scary and I don’t care what Cady in Mean Girls said; just because it’s the same in every language doesn’t make it easy!

So why do you write?

(image: Shutterstock.com)

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Posted by Teresa Jusino

Imagine Captain America as the narrator of Our Town. It’s kinda perfect, right? Well, I don’t know if that’s the role Chris Evans will be reading, but what I do know is that Scarlett Johansson is gathering her Avengers buddies, as well as some other celebrity friends, for a staged reading of Our Town, which will benefit Puerto Rico’s disaster relief effort.

The people of Atlanta, GA are really lucky in that this benefit reading of Thornton Wilder’s play will be happening on November 6 at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre. So far Johansson, who’s currently in Atlanta filming Infinity War, has landed Avengers co-stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Mark Ruffalo, as well as additional surprise celebrity guests.

Johansson said this in an official statement:

“The struggle faced by Puerto Rican residents since their island was ravaged by Hurricane Maria is terribly heartbreaking and has left many feeling hopeless and helpless. It is a great privilege to be able to participate in whatever way I can, to provide some relief to those that are struggling to access even the most basic of human needs in the aftermath of this disastrous event. Please help me and my co-stars in coming together for an extraordinary, one-time-only evening to raise lifesaving funds for a devastated island and to help celebrate the true meaning of community with this unique reading of a great American classic.”

John Gore Organization is backing the benefit, and Gore says “We immediately asked how we could help. We couldn’t be happier to support our friend, Scarlett, and her co-stars in producing this evening for such a worthy cause.”

Proceeds from the evening will benefit The Hurricane Maria Community Relief & Recovery Fund which is housed at the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD). Funds will support “immediate relief, recovery and equitable rebuilding in Puerto Rico for low-income communities of color hit hardest by the storm. The fund will support organizations working on the front lines with these communities.”

If you’re in, or can be in Atlanta in November, tickets go on sale MONDAY over at the Fox Theatre’s website. The Our Town-specific site isn’t up yet, but the address will be FoxTheatre.org/OurTown.

And now, because there’s never not a good reason for this meme, but right now it seems really appropriate:

(image: Teresa Jusino)

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