By now, every Republican-led move related to women’s health feels like a legislative subtweet directed at feminism and the female body—perhaps a thinly-veiled backlash to the perceived threat on male supremacy, or just a muscle-flexing reminder of the gendered power dynamic behind healthcare policy. (See, for instance, the all-male contingent reveling in the House’s passage of the American Health Care Act, and the Senate’s unveiling of its new healthcare working group of 13 white men.)
In theory, political representation shouldn’t determine political priority: Our elected officials should represent the interests of their constituents regardless of gender. But in reality, the gender of our public servants sets the women’s health agenda, and in the US, men control a filibuster-proof majority.
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Hidden amid the smoke clouds of last week’s National Weed Day was a decision by the city of Atlanta to put off a vote on marijuana decriminalization. Ordinarily, local legislative procedures wouldn’t warrant much attention, but for a city once at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, the issue has become a proxy for a broader debate about racist policing and the measures needed to change it.
The policy debate started three months ago, when two plainclothes Atlanta policemen smelled marijuana coming from the car of a young Black man named Deaundre Phillips. As documented on surveillance video, the cops proceeded to shoot and kill Deaundre on the spot, etching his name in local headlines and hashtags. Since then, activists have pressured the city’s lawmakers to soften penalties for recreational marijuana, hoping decriminalization would lower unnecessarily violent encounters with police.
Today (April 25) Atlanta’s Public Safety Committee is meeting to discuss the ordinance, setting up another possible City Council vote in the coming weeks. But in a city where more than nine in 10 marijuana arrests are of Black people—among the highest rates in the country—marijuana’s criminality (or lack thereof) may not be enough to fix racist policing.
Full article on Colorlines
Mount Kilimanjaro stands nearly 20,000 feet above sea level, its snow-capped peaks providing a stark contrast against northern Tanzania’s otherwise equatorial backdrop. As Africa’s tallest mountain, it draws tens of thousands of climbers a year: some of whom reach the summit successfully, many of whom must stop short because of low levels of oxygen in their blood (the peak’s atmospheric pressure offers about half the breathable air as at sea level). The irony, however, is that in Tanzania – and nearly every country in sub-Saharan Africa – you don’t need to climb a mountain to reach an environment with too little oxygen; you just have to walk into a hospital.
Oxygen is one of the most frequently-required medical interventions in the world, yet it remains in critically short supply in low-resource hospitals. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that less than half of health facilities in Africa have reliable access to medical-grade oxygen – let alone the trained staff, supplies and infrastructure to deliver it.
Full article on Impatient Optimists
Last month, I was midway through an overseas flight and near the end of my in-flight movie when I discovered a vaguely salty liquid building up inside my eyes. Immediately diagnosing the rare secretion as tears, I thought back to the last time this non-gendered and totally acceptable phenomenon occurred in my life. It was on a plane just a few days prior.
While it’s possible that the two on-board movies I watched, Steve Jobs and Inside Out, cause a disproportionate amount of proverbial dust to accumulate in all viewers’ eyes, something seemed different. Sure enough, when I mentioned it to a few friends and colleagues, they revealed similar experiences watching movies and TV shows on airplanes: uncontrollable bawling during Miss Congeniality 2; soft, quiet sobbing during The Lobster; imbalanced laugh-cries during Infinitely Polar Bear. It turns out a portion of us have unknowingly been part of the Mile Cry Club all along.
Full article on VICE/Tonic
Not that facts matter anymore, but back when they used to, they had a remarkable ability to drive policy change during public health emergencies, even among unpopular groups of patients. Look no further than famous fact-denier Mike Pence, whose solution of “praying the virus away” was failing to control an HIV outbreak among heroin users in Indiana. Eventually swayed by studies showing that distributing clean needles was the most effective infection-prevention policy, Governor Pence begrudgingly bowed to the altar of fact and lifted the state’s ban on needle-exchange programs, slowing the HIV crisis.
You don’t have to be a brain surgeon (or epidemiologist, as it were) to see how acting on basic public health knowledge can go a long way in keeping society healthy, even the parts of society we tend to cast aside. It’s no surprise then that our failure to act on the facts around solitary confinement has led to a mental health epidemic that reaches well beyond the prison walls. This is the central focus of VICE’s ongoing project streaming live from a solitary cell.
In the US today, there are nearly 100,000 inmates in solitary confinement, where they spend all but an hour a day in a six-by-nine-foot cell, in total isolation. While some solitary sentences—determined not by a court, but by a jury of one’s guards—could last a few days, many continue for years, and almost all produce an inmate in worse psychological condition than when he entered. Since most prisoners will eventually walk free, the current use of solitary has yielded a breeding ground for mental illness that affects millions of Americans.
Full article on VICE/Tonic
Hariane hadn’t heard the expression “Life is about the journey, not the destination.” To this modest young mother living in rural Zambia, her life, and that of her newborn daughter, was very much about the destination.
“When I was due for delivery, I came to the clinic but there were no nurses or staff there,” Hariane says. We’re sitting in a one-bed labor ward in Zambia’s Southern Province, just out of the earshot of a dozen mothers and newborns waiting for immunizations. “As I walked back to the village, the baby’s head was already coming out. I didn’t know what to do.”
So Hariane gave birth to her daughter, Violet, under a tree next to a narrow dirt road about an hour’s walk from her village. In other words, her childbirth happened on the journey because her destination was out of reach.
Full article on VICE/Tonic
Georgetown University recently acknowledged its historical role in slavery, offering preferential admissions status to descendants of 272 slaves it sold in 1838. Along with other measures, Georgetown updated its admissions policy to give the same advantage to the slaves’ descendants as it grants alumni, faculty and other “members of the Georgetown community.” While it is one of many U.S. institutions that was built and funded — at least in part — on the kidnapping, forced labor and sale of Black men and women, according to Richard Cellini, the Georgetown alumnus who spearheaded an independent search for the descendants, the school is one of the first to explore reconciliation beyond nominal changes and lip service.
The move highlights a critical need in bids to address reparations: As America grapples with whether and how to pay, this approach overlooks the fraught but essential process of identifying the unnamed victims and piecing together the family histories of millions of Black Americans living with and, in some cases, still suffering from the legacy of the country’s early sin.
Full article on Ozy