- Delete everyone from your life who makes you feel horrible about yourself. Look, I know you may think this is hard to do, but the aunt who is constantly trying to bring you down about your weight, the friend who constantly passes back handed compliments, the boyfriend who plays mind games with you are all adding to bringing down your mental health and quality of life. Cut them out of your life. Stop taking their calls. Stand your ground and stick up for yourself. Surround yourself instead with the kind of people who make you better yourself, face your demons and give you the positivity you need to be the best version of yourself.
- Treat yourself to no internet days. The world is literally on fire right now. Everything feels like it is burning and we are processing human suffering everyday via social media that no human is supposed to process on this scale. So do yourself a favour, switch off your computer, switch off your phone and take a walk outside in the fresh air. Meet up with a friend for a coffee. Read a book. Just take a break from the constant barrage of information and breathe free.
- Eat one healthy meal everyday. This may sound insane because I’m saying this and anyone who knows me knows I used to love eating junk food, chocolates, burgers, sodas, I’ve been big on that stuff. But somewhere along the way I realised I wasn’t drinking enough water and that I felt so much better after a smoothie or a salad than I did after a burger. I’m not saying give up on everything unhealthy, but I am saying, to cut out toxicity, you need to be good to your body and filling it with nutrients at least once a day will make you feel better.
- Clean your room until it is absolutely immaculate, change the sheets and make your bed in full. I can’t even tell you how good this is when you feel bogged down with the world, to come home to a room with fresh sheets and freshly vacuumed and dusted with everything in it’s place. Being able to sit down and enjoy a hot drink in a fresh and sparkling room can do wonders for your mental health. A clean room is a room in which you don’t have to worry or stress yourself out. Go minimalist, get rid of all the clothes you don’t wear. Less stuff, less clutter, and a great place to meditate in.
- Set up strong boundaries. Make sure you leave no shades of grays in your relationships where you find yourself being pushed into doing things you do not want to do. Once you hit your twenties and your thirties, you control the way others perceive you and what they believe they can get away with. The best way to clean toxicity from your life? Setting up powerful boundaries and exercising your right to use the word ‘NO’.
While it’s wonderful to be in a happy and healthy relationship, the misconception that women who are single cannot thrive or be happy alone is one that needs to be dismantled, pronto. These stigmas only encourage women to get into toxic relationships without taking the time necessary to heal. They place undue pressure on young women to settle just in order to have a partner rather than waiting for one who truly fulfills their needs. They also deter women who are simply happier being single from accepting themselves fully without a sense of guilt or judgment.
Society depicts single women as people who are missing something from their lives. Rarely do single women get the luxury of being seen as freedom-loving, joyful, fulfilled and complex as single men are. Unlike single men who are praised for being lifelong bachelors, single women are usually asked, “Why are you still single?” and instead interrogated about their romantic prospects until the end of time. Their achievements, social networks, passions, hobbies and personalities usually take a backseat to conversations about their relationship status, which is lauded as the end-all, be-all of their lives.
Research, however, suggests that single women are no less fulfilled than those who are coupled. In fact, in some cases, they are happier. Here are the findings:
1. Turns out, single women are happier than they’re stereotyped due to the very nature of what relationships require of them.
Heterosexual single women were found by a new report to be happier than heterosexual single men and were less likely to venture out to find a relationship even while single (Mintel, 2017). The reasons? Despite progress towards equal rights, women still continue to do more emotional labor and domestic labor in relationships. They also tend to have more alternative social networks than men to look towards for support such as healthy friendships.
Being single is less likely to “harm” heterosexual single women in the sense that it might provide some freedom from the emotionally laborious task of being in a relationship – and no matter what, single women know how to utilize their support networks to fulfill their social needs.
2. Single people are more resilient and resourceful due to the fact that they to be.
This is especially true in terms of how they use their solitude. They are much more confident overall in doing solo activities – which allows them to develop a sense of independence that enriches all facets of their lives.
Since they don’t overly rely on anyone else to get any of their needs met, they have a heightened sense of self-determination and are more likely to experience a sense of continuous growth and self-development. Harvard-trained social psychologist Dr. Bella DePaulo (2013) writes:
“We hear all about how single people are supposedly at risk for becoming lonely, but little about the creative, intellectual, and emotional potential of solitude… We are told that single people do not have the that married people find in their partners, but hear only crickets about the genuine attachment relationships that single people have with the most important people in their lives.
Missing from the stacks of journal articles is any sustained attention to the risks of intensive coupling—investing all of your emotional and relationship stock into just one person, “The One”—or to the resilience offered by the networks of friends and family that so many single people maintain.”
3. It can be just as healthy to be single – literally.
Single women can be just as psychologically and physically healthy, if not more, than their coupled counterparts. In fact, many of the studies on marriage praising its resulting life satisfaction are biased towards emphasizing those who stayed married, rather than those who later divorced or became widowed. People who stayed married actually only had a slight increase in happiness shortly after marriage due to a “honeymoon effect,” which after a few years reverted back to their original level of happiness before the marriage.
Meanwhile, those who got divorced reported increased life satisfaction after the initial despair (presumably due to their exit and healing from a toxic relationship), though they were not as happy as they were prior to getting married in the first place.
The myth of “marital superiority” is clearly one that looks better on paper than in real life. In general, those who were happiest they were married remained that way after marriage – which suggests that marriage itself was not the sole conduit for that joy.
“If you are not already a happy person, don’t count on marriage to transform you into one. If you are already happy, don’t expect marriage to make you even happier…finally, if you are single and happy, do not fret that you will descend into despair if you dare to stay single. That’s not likely either.” – Dr. Bella DePaulo,
In addition, the reported health benefits of marriage that have been lauded are not necessarily due to the marriage itself. DePaulo (2013) points out that marriage gives one access to more than a thousand federal benefits and this advantage leads to better health care. However, research indicates that single women can lead healthy, active lives as well. One Canadian study of more than 11,000 people revealed that lifelong single people had better overall health than married people, while an Australian study of more than 10,000 single women found that they had far less diagnoses of major illnesses, had lower BMIs and were less likely to smoke than married women.
So Now What?
It appears from these findings that it is the social stigma of being single, rather than single itself that is the problem. Since women are socialized to derive their self-worth from their relationship status, many single women can feel affected by societal pressures and judgment to evaluate and compare their lifestyles to their married friends, coming away feeling ‘less than’ even if they love their careers, are financially abundant, and have thriving social lives. This pressure can be so immense that otherwise happily single people may feel coerced into sustaining toxic partnerships that actually make them unhappier long-term, just to achieve a sense of “normalcy” in their societies.
This is especially true in cultures where young women are pressured to get married and marriage is considered an integral part of their social status. Even if they have nourishing, fulfilling lives, single women may feel that this pressure and judgment detracts from their overall sense of joy. They may feel excluded from events and holidays that extol coupledom, or feel shamed by their peers who perpetuate these pressures. However, as this stigma lessens, the possibility of leading a satisfying life regardless of one’s relationship status becomes that much more powerful and accessible. That’s why it’s so important to continue to dismantle the harmful stereotypes of what it means to be single and celebrate singlehood just as much as we celebrate marriage.
Regardless of whether or not someone plans to have a serious relationship in the future, the fact of the matter is, a period of singlehood can be a fruitful time for anyone no matter what their gender. Singlehood is a life-saver in that it grants individuals the creative space to develop their dreams, to explore the world and to build their identity without the interference of another person – something they may not be able to do without as much duress if they do choose to be in a relationship in the future. The ability to be successful, independent and joyful no matter what your relationship status is should be seen as a gift and an asset, not a curse.
Read more of Shahida Arabi’s articles here.
DePaulo, B. (2013, May 08). Are Single People Mentally Stronger? Retrieved August 27, 2017.
DePaulo, B. M. (2007). . New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.
Girme, Y. U., Overall, N. C., Faingataa, S., & Sibley, C. G. (2015). Happily Single. (2), 122-130. doi:10.1177/1948550615599828
Luhmann, M., Hofmann, W., Eid, M., & Lucas, R. (2011). Supplemental Material for Subjective Well-Being and Adaptation to Life Events: A Meta-Analysis. . doi:10.1037/a0025948.supp
Mintel (2017). (Rep.). Retrieved here.
Anurag Acharya’s problem was that the Google search bar is very smart, but also kind of dumb. As a Googler working on search 13 years ago, Acharya wanted to make search results encompass scholarly journal articles. A laudable goal, because unlike the open web, most of the raw output of scientific research was invisible—hidden behind paywalls. People might not even know it existed. “I grew up in India, and most of the time you didn’t even know if something existed. If you knew it existed, you could try to get it,” Acharya says. “‘How do I get access?’ is a second problem. If I don’t know about it, I won’t even try.”
Acharya and a colleague named Alex Verstak decided that their corner of search would break with Google tradition and look behind paywalls—showing citations and abstracts even if it couldn’t cough up an actual PDF. “It was useful even if you did not have university access. That was a deliberate decision we made,” Acharya says.
Then they hit that dumbness problem. The search bar doesn’t know what flavor of information you’re looking for. You type in “cancer;” do you want results that tell you your symptoms aren’t cancer (please), or do you want the Journal of the American Medical Association? The search bar doesn’t know.
Acharya and Verstak didn't try to teach it. Instead, they built a spinoff, a search bar separate from Google-prime that would only look for journal articles, case law, patents—hardcore primary sources. And it worked. “We showed it to Larry [Page] and he said, ‘why is this not already out?’ That’s always a positive sign,” Acharya says.
Today, even though you can’t access Scholar directly from the Google-prime page, it has become the internet’s default scientific search engine—even more than once-monopolistic Web of Science, the National Institutes of Health’s PubMed, and Scopus, owned by the giant scientific publisher Elsevier.
But most science is still paywalled. More than three quarters of published journal articles—114 million on the World Wide Web alone, by one (lowball) estimate—are only available if you are affiliated with an institution that can afford pricey subscriptions or you can swing $40-per-article fees. In the last several years, though, scientists have made strides to loosen the grip of giant science publishers. They skip over the lengthy peer review process mediated by the big journals and just … post. Review comes after. The paywall isn’t crumbling, but it might be eroding. The open science movement, with its free distribution of articles before their official publication, is a big reason.
Another reason, though, is stealthy improvement in scientific search engines like Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic, and Semantic Scholar—web tools increasingly able to see around paywalls or find articles that have jumped over. Scientific publishing ain’t like book publishing or journalism. In fact, it’s a little more like music, pre-iTunes, pre-Spotify. You know, right about when everyone started using Napster.
Before World War II most scientific journals were published by small professional societies. But capitalism’s gonna capitalism. By the early 1970s the top five scientific publishers—Reed-Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, and Taylor & Francis—published about 20 percent of all journal articles. In 1996, when the transition to digital was underway and the PDF became the format of choice for journals, that number went up to 30 percent. Ten years later it was 50 percent.
Those big-five publishers became the change they wanted to see in the publishing world—by buying it. Owning over 2,500 journals (including the powerhouse Cell) and 35,000 books and references (including Gray’s Anatomy) is big, right? Well, that’s Elsevier, the largest scientific publisher in the world, which also owns ScienceDirect, the online gateway to all those journals. It owns the (pre-Google Scholar) scientific search engine Scopus. It bought Mendeley, a reference manager with social and community functions. It even owns a company that monitors mentions of scientific work on social media. “Everywhere in the research ecosystem, from submission of papers to research evaluations made based on those papers and various acts associated with them online, Elsevier is present,” says Vincent Larivière, an information scientist at the University of Montreal and author of the paper with those stats about publishing I put one paragraph back.
The company says all that is actually in the service of wider dissemination. “We are firmly in the open science space. We have tools, services, and partnerships that help create a more inclusive, more collaborative, more transparent world of research,” says Gemma Hersh,1 Elsevier’s vice president for open science. “Our mission is around improving research performance and working with the research community to do that.” Indeed, in addition to traditional, for-profit journals it also owns SSRN, a preprint server—one of those places that hosts unpaywalled, pre-publication articles—and publishes thousands of articles at various levels of openness.
So Elsevier is science publishing’s version of Too Big to Fail. As such, it has faced various boycotts, slightly piratical workarounds, and general anger. (“The term ‘boycott’ comes up a lot, but I struggle with that. If I can be blunt, I think it’s a word that’s maybe misapplied,” Hersh says. “More researchers submit to us every year, and we publish more articles every year.”)
If you’re not someone with “.edu” in your email, this might make you a little nuts. Not just because you might want to actually see some cool science, but because you already paid for that research. Your taxes (or maybe some zillionaire’s grant money) paid the scientists and funded the studies. The experts who reviewed and critiqued the results and conclusions before publication were volunteers. Then the journal that published it charged a university or a library—again, probably funded at least in part by your taxes—to subscribe. And then you gotta buy the article? Or the researcher had to pony up $2,0002 to make it open access?
Now, publishers like Elsevier will say that the process of editing, peer-reviewing, copy editing, and distribution are a major, necessary value add. And look at the flip side: so-called predatory journals that charge authors to publish nominally open-access articles with no real editing or review (that, yes, show up in search results). Still, the scientific publishing business is a $10 billion-a-year game. In 2010, Elsevier reported profits of $1 billion and a 35 percent margin. So, yeah.
In that early-digital-music metaphor, the publishers are the record labels and the PDFs are MP3s. But you still need a Napster. That’s where open-science-powered search engines come in.
A couple years after Acharya and Verstak built Scholar, a team at Microsoft built their own version, called Academic. It was at the time a much, let’s say, leaner experience, with far fewer papers available. But then in 2015, Microsoft released a 2.0, and it’s a killer.
Microsoft’s communication team declined to make any of the people who run it available, but a paper from the team at Microsoft Research lays the specs out pretty well: It figures out the bibliographic data of papers and combines that with results from Bing. (A real search engine that exists!) And you know what? It’s pretty great. It sees 83 million papers, not so far from estimations of the size of Google’s universe, and does the same kind of natural-language queries. Unlike Scholar, people can hook into Microsoft Academic’s API and see its citation graph, too.
Even as recently as 2015, scientific search engines weren’t much use to anyone outside universities and libraries. You could find a citation to a paper, sure—but good luck actually reading it. Even though more overt efforts to subvert copyright like Sci-Hub are falling to lawsuits from places like Elsevier and the American Chemical Society, the open science movement gaining is momentum. PDFs are falling off virtual trucks all over the internet—posted on university web sites or places like ResearchGate and Academia.edu, hosts for exactly this kind of thing—Scholar’s and Academic’s first sorties against the paywall have been joined by reinforcements. It’s starting to look like a siege.
For example the Chan Zuckerberg Initative, philanthropic arm of the founder of Facebook, is working on something aimed at increasing access. The founders of Mendeley have a new, venture-backed PDF finder called Kopernio. A browser extension called Unpaywall roots around the web for free PDFs of articles.
A particularly novel web crawler comes from the non-profit Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Semantic Scholar pores over a corpus of 40 million citations in computer science and biomedicine, and extracts the tables and charts as well as using machine learning to infer meaningful cites as “highly influential citations,” a new metric. Almost a million people use it every month.
“We use AI techniques, particularly natural language processing and machine vision, to process the PDF and extract information that helps readers decide if the paper is of interest,” says Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for AI. “The net effect of all this is that more and more is open, and a number of publishers … have said making content discoverable via these search engines is not a bad thing.”
Even with all these increases in discoverability and access, the technical challenges of scientific search don’t stop with paywalls. When Acharya and Verstak started out, Google relied on PageRank, a way to model how important hyperlinks between two web pages were. That’s not how scientific citations work. “The linkage between articles is in text. There are references, and references are all approximate,” Acharya says. “In scholarship, all your citations are one way. Everybody cites older stuff, and papers never get modified.”
Plus, unlike a URL, the location or citation for a journal article is not the actual journal article. In fact, there might be multiple copies of the article at various locations. From a perspective as much philosophical and bibliographical, a PDF online is really just a picture of knowledge, in a way. So the search result showing a citation might also attach to multiple versions of the actual article.
That’s a special problem when researchers can post pre-print versions of their own work but might not have copyright to the publication of record, the peer-reviewed, copy-edited version in the journal. Sometimes the differences are small; sometimes they’re not.
Why don’t the search engines just use metadata to understand what version belongs where? Like when you download music, your app of choice automatically populates with things like an image, the artist’s name, the song titles…the data about the thing.
More on Science Publishing
The answer: metadata LOL. It’s a big problem. “It varies by source,” Etzioni says. “A whole bunch of that information is not available as structured metadata.” Even when there is metadata, it’s in idiosyncratic formats from publisher to publisher and server to server. “In a surprising way, we’re kind of in the dark ages, and the problem just keeps getting worse,” he says. More papers get published; more are digital. Even specialists can’t keep up.
Which is why scientific search and open science are so intertwined and so critical. The reputation of a journal and the number of times a specific paper in that journal gets cited are metrics for determining who gets grants and who gets tenure, and by extension who gets to do bigger and bigger science. “Where the for-profit publishers and academic presses sort of have us by the balls is that we are addicted to prestige,” says Guy Geltner, a historian at the University of Amsterdam, open science advocate, and founder of a new user-owned social site for scientists called Scholarly Hub.
The thing is, as is typical for Google, Scholar is as opaque about how it works and what it finds. Acharya wouldn’t give me numbers of users or the number of papers it searches. (“It’s larger than the estimates that are out there,” he says, and “an order of magnitude bigger than when we started.) No one outside Google fully understands how the search engine applies its criteria for inclusion,3 and indeed Scholar hoovers up way more than just PDFs of published or pre-published articles. You get course syllabi, undergraduate coursework, PowerPoint presentations … actually, for a reporter, it’s kind of fun. But tricky.
That means the citation data is also obscure, which makes it hard to know what Scholar’s findings mean for science as a whole. Scholar may be a low-priority side-project (please don’t kill it like you killed Reader!) but maybe that data is going to be valuable someday. Elsevier obviously thinks it’s useful.
The scientific landscape is shifting. "If you took a group of academics right now and asked them to create a new system of publishing, nobody would suggest what we're currently doing," says David Barner, a psychologist at UC San Diego and open science advocate. But change, Barner says, is hard. The people who'd make those changes are already overworked, already volunteering their time.
Even Elsevier knows that change is coming. “Rather than scrabble around in one of the many programs you’ve mentioned, anyone can come to our Science and Society page, which details a host of programs and organizations we work with to cater through every scenario where somebody wants access,” Hersh says. And that’d be to the final, published, peer-reviewed version—the archived, permanent version of record.
Digital revolutions have a way of #disrupting no matter what. As journal articles get more open and more searchable, value will come from understanding what people search for—as Google long ago understood about the open web. “We’re a high quality publisher, but we’re also an information analytics company, evolving services that the research community can use,” Hersh says.
Because reputation and citation are core currencies to scientists, scientists have to be educated about the possibilities of open publication at the same time as prestigious, reputable venues have to exist. Preprints are great, and the researchers maintain copyright to them, but it’s also possible that the final citation-of-record could be different after it goes through review. There has to be a place where primary scientific work is available to the people who funded it, and a way for them to find it.
Because if there isn’t? “A huge part of research output is suffocating behind paywalls. Sixty-five of the 100 most cited articles in history are behind paywalls. That’s the opposite of what science is supposed to do,” Geltner says. “We’re not factories producing proprietary knowledge. We’re engaged in debates, and we want the public to learn from those debates.”
I'm sensitive to the irony of a WIRED writer talking about the social risks of a paywall, though I'd draw a distinction between paying a journalistic outlet for its journalism and paying a scientific publisher for someone else's science.
An even more critical difference, though, is that a science paywall does more than separate gown from town. When all the solid, good information is behind a paywall, what’s left outside in the wasteland will be crap—propaganda and marketing. Those are always free, because people with political agendas and financial interests underwrite them. Understanding that vaccines are critical to public health and human-driven carbon emissions are un-terraforming the planet cannot be the purview of the one percent. “Access to science is going to be a first-world privilege,” Geltner says. “That’s the opposite of what science is supposed to be about.”
1 UPDATE 12/3/17 11:55 AM Corrected the spelling of this name. 2 UPDATE 12/4/17 1:25 PM Removed the word "another;" researchers sometimes pay to make their own articles open-access. 3 UPDATE 12/4/17 1:25 PM Clarified to show that Google publishes inclusion criteria.
I started my period when I was 11 years old. By the time I was 12, my mom consulted with a pediatrician who recommended birth control because my period was heavy and my cramps were debilitating. I was attempting to skip my period altogether by taking continuous birth control at 14, but my period would still show up at the most inconvenient times. I don’t remember a time when my periods were not painful. But doctors never seemed concerned. It was all I knew. It was my normal.
When I was 20, I saw a new OB-GYN. She was young. I was more open with her. The conversation went something like this: “If you are only having sex with women, why are you on birth control?” I told her about my history with heavy and painful periods. “Have you considered the Mirena IUD?” She put one in a week later. The Mirena IUD pretty much stopped my period except for random bleeding every few months. Life continued.
In February 2015, I went to a morning Pure Barre class per usual. I left feeling like something was off with my body, but I walked across the street to meet a friend for a Sunday Funday boozy brunch anyway. One mimosa in, I knew something was wrong. “I think I need to go to the hospital.”
By the time I walked through the emergency department doors, I was doubled over. The triage nurse took my ID and told me to have a seat. I threw myself on the floor because it was cold and never mind the germs — I was in pain. Multiple people went up to the triage desk. “Someone needs to help that girl right now.”
It was clear I was in distress. A nurse brought 5 mg of morphine, pulled my sleeve up, and stuck me with the needle without even asking if I wanted any pain medicine. It did nothing. She came back again with 1 mg of Dilaudid and this time gave me the shot in my butt cheek. It did nothing. She started an IV and brought back 2 more mg of Dilaudid. Finally. I could breathe.
We started with a CT scan. We moved on to an ultrasound. I had an ovarian cyst. “I always have ovarian cysts.”
We moved on to a transvaginal ultrasound. I threw up from the pressure. My vagina started to bleed. The OB-GYN on-call came to see me and said, “If you are in this much pain, we should do an exploratory surgery and — at the very least — take a look in your abdomen.” I agreed.
I was on the OR table a few hours later.
My mom and sister were standing over me when I woke up in the post-anesthesia care unit. “How are you feeling? The doctor called from the OR — your right ovary was twisted in adhesions. You lost the ovary to torsion, and she found endometriosis.”
Endometriosis is a disease where cells similar to those found in the lining of the uterus are misplaced throughout a woman’s abdomen. These cells turn into lesions like open sores and bleed throughout a menstrual cycle. There is no place for the blood to go, so it stays put causing inflammation and adhesions (scar tissue). Adhesions cause your organs to stick together. Endometriosis is known to cause debilitating pain in some women.
It all made sense. I had years of symptoms pointing towards endometriosis, but doctors never listened or looked at the whole picture.
I left the hospital, but my pain never improved. A few months later, another OB-GYN performed an excision surgery on the endometriosis. I would later learn that surgery wasn’t successful. The pain continued. Between February and December 2015, I had four surgeries and spent 63 nights admitted to the hospital.
I was determined to have a better year in 2016. After three ER visits in 5 days in March, I e-mailed one of my OB-GYNs. “Something has to be done. I need to see a doctor who can help me ASAP.” He e-mailed me back almost immediately, “I don’t think my surgical skills are advanced enough to help you, but let me think on this.”
A few hours later, he e-mailed me the name of another doctor who he personally reached out to and explained my case. He agreed to see me. I took his first available appointment.
This doctor spent close to two hours with me. We went through everything. He asked more than any other doctor did. He asked how my endometriosis affected my life. I cried. “It’s ruining everything.” He asked me specific questions about my period. “Nonstop blood clots.” He asked me about my sex life. “My sheets look like a scene from Gone Girl with any penetrative sex. Orgasms can be painful. It’s awful.”
He was the first doctor to say, “I think there is something bigger going on here, maybe adenomyosis, maybe severe adhesions. The continued pain beyond your period, blood clots, and bleeding from sex make me think something else is wrong.” He asked me what I wanted. “I am ready to put this disease behind me.” He said, “I don’t think it is unreasonable for you to move forward with a hysterectomy at this point. Think on it. E-mail me.”
I didn’t make it to the elevator before I started crying again. I knew a hysterectomy was my next step. There wasn’t any thinking to be done. I text my sister and my best friend. They were kind, generous with their words, and told me they supported whatever decision I made for myself.
But they were the only ones.
“Whatever you do, do not have a hysterectomy.”
“You are 25. You will regret this.”
“A hysterectomy is my biggest regret!”
“Sex is horrible for me since my hysterectomy! Don’t do it.”
“You should have a child before.”
“You are too young to make a decision like this!”
“A hysterectomy was the worst decision I made in my life.”
“A hysterectomy changed everything for me and not in a good way!”
One woman blatantly told me I was stupid.
My mom said, “I do not think you should do this, but I know you will because you have always made your own decisions. I will support you no matter what.”
My mom was right. I waited a few days, but scheduled the surgery.
Leading up to my surgery, I read many stories from other women who had hysterectomies. Stories about their thank you letters to their uteruses. While they each had something very wrong with their uteruses, they could still write sweet odes thanking their uteruses for giving them their children. The youngest was 37 years old and gave birth naturally.
I don’t have any children. I was 25. My uterus never did me a favor. My uterus never cooperated with me. All I could think about were the things my uterus fucked up and the ways my uterus held me back.
I felt calm the morning of my hysterectomy. The anesthesiologist said to me, “A hysterectomy? You’re 25. Why are you having a hysterectomy?” I told her. “A hysterectomy seems pointless,” she said. I wanted to punch her in the face. “I feel good about my decision.”
A little while later, my surgeon stopped by. He grabbed my hand and said, “If your uterus looks fine, I will leave it.” He squeezed my hand tighter. I knew right then there was zero chance my uterus would make it out of this surgery. We hugged. I thanked him. Someone made a joke about HPV. We laughed.
We started IV pain medication and one of the anesthesiologist residents gave me a happy benzo cocktail through my IV. Things started to get warm and comfortable. Two kind OB-GYN residents brought me back to the OR. They didn’t leave my side. They told me about their husbands. I told them I was gay. I climbed onto the OR table, and that was it. I woke up almost six hours later talking to the same two OB-GYN residents as if nothing happened.
Over the course of the next few days, my surgeon stopped by multiple times to explain that my uterus was fused to both my abdominal wall and intestines all while still being pulled to the right side of my body by adhesions. He said he had to call in a GI surgeon to assist with the dissection of my uterus because it was too much for him to handle on his own. He explained that my uterus felt hard as a rock and normal uteruses do not feel that way.
He found fibroids in my uterus and more endometriosis throughout my abdominal cavity, and he told me he could visually see how tense my pelvic muscles were from years of pain. He was able to save my remaining ovary. He told me that my uterus would never have carried a pregnancy to term. “Nothing was normal about your uterus.”
He brought pictures. “This is your uterus attached to your intestines. You know how you said you felt like your insides were pulling? Well, they were. A hysterectomy was the only thing we could have done to release your uterus from your intestines. I know you feel like shit right now, but the hysterectomy was a good idea. You will feel so much better.”
“I know you feel like shit right now, but the hysterectomy was a good idea. You will feel so much better.”
That was all I needed to hear. My hysterectomy has since become more than just a good idea. I don’t wake up in pain and go to bed with pain anymore. My bed sheets don’t look like a scene from Gone Girl anymore. I don’t feel like my insides are ripping anymore. I’m not exhausted all day every day anymore.
My hysterectomy is up there on my top 10 list of “best life choices” next to things like attending a woman’s college and living abroad in South Africa for a year. My hysterectomy gave more to me than it took away. I might not have my uterus, cervix or tubes anymore, but I have my health and that is almost everything to me. My uterus can never hold me back again.
I find myself telling every woman I meet about my hysterectomy. The women next to me in the waiting room at my follow up OB-GYN appointments, my baristas, my neighbors, the women behind me in the check-out line at the farmers market — any woman is fair game. It is important to me that women know another woman had a hysterectomy and it was the best choice for her. It is important to me that women know a hysterectomy happened in my life and all these terrible things I was told would happen didn’t happen. It is important to me that women hear a positive experience about a hysterectomy.
I want everyone to know I had a hysterectomy, and I lived to tell about it. I want everyone to know I had a hysterectomy, and I can still live a full life. I want everyone to know I had a hysterectomy, and I can still become a mom through adoption and that child will be no less mine just because they didn’t come from my uterus. I want everyone to know I had a hysterectomy, and my sex life is not ruined and orgasms are still a thing. I want everyone to know I had a hysterectomy, and I am still just as much of a woman as I was before. I want everyone to know I had a hysterectomy, and I do not regret it. I want everyone to know I had a hysterectomy, and it changed me. My life is better for it.
If the worst should ever happen to your health, there’s a good chance that you’ll turn to a crowdfunding website, such as GoFundMe or JustGiving, to fill the gap left by our night-terror-inducing healthcare system. The reason for this is simple: There are no insurance brokers or complicated paperwork, just a group of people desperate to throw their money at good causes for the sheer humanity of it all. That’s not hyperbole, by the way. In little under a decade, crowdfunding campaigns for medical expenses have brought in over $1 billion in donations.
When such campaigns go viral, the media often reports them as heartwarming stories of human altruism, proof that although the world might appear to be losing its mind, there are still helpers out there. That’s … a good angle.
It certainly makes us feel better about the fact that these sites are taking a cut of everyone’s donations. There’s a darker narrative, however, which both the media and us are ignoring: the fact that these sites are failing, albeit unintentionally, the vast majority of their users.
These might seem like wildly different things at face value, but launching a crowdfunding campaign is exactly like launching a new business. It’s not enough to have a donations page for your condition; you need to know how to sell yourself to potential donors (something your mom was pretty good at, or so we’ve heard). When it comes to crowdfunding, that involves providing constant updates, writing good copy, producing and editing video, promoting your campaign everywhere, and a whole other bunch of skills and connections. This isn’t something we dreamt up, by the way. It comes courtesy of Indiegogo, and holy shit, it’s so far beyond the abilities of the average healthy and able-bodied person, never mind someone with a long-term, painful, time-and-energy-consuming medical problem. It isn’t even funny.
If you’re lacking in marketing ability, your best hope is to accidentally go viral by, say, being so terribly ill that not donating is, strictly speaking, a crime against humanity. And that’s great if you’re suffering from a “faultless” problem like cancer — you know, something that people can see and know isn’t your fault, unlike mental health issues or addiction problems. The internet is good and altruistic and shit, but it’s still judgmental.
It’s no surprise, then, that only a small number of crowdfunding campaigns succeed — roughly one in three, most of which are perpetual motion machines. When it comes to medical crowdfunding specifically, however, that success rate plummets to … 11 percent, roughly one in ten.
If you’re fortunate enough to make your goal, the problems don’t end there. Although crowdfunded money can help fight off CLL, TB, and LD, it can also cause a case of the horrific condition known as “IRS.” Often presenting in the form of an unwelcome audit, there are numerous cases of people receiving money from campaigns, only to have more stress piled on afterward when the IRS starts asking for its cut.
If you’re able to prove where the donations went, it’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll have to pay what they’re asking. It’s just a massive pain in the ass on top of the other bitingly real pains you’re feeling elsewhere.
If you think the worst thing that can result from receiving mad internet stacks is some mild-to-major inconvenience, think again. If you’re receiving any form of state assistance when you collect your donations, well, you won’t be receiving it for much longer, as these unfortunate welfare recipients found, to their horror. It isn’t like taxes, however, where a couple of forms to declare the donations is enough. If you’re receiving state benefits, you’re categorically not allowed to receive crowdfunded money.
So how do we solve these problems? Well, we can’t. These aren’t problems that can be fixed with an algorithm update. They’re facts of human psychology, with some legislative fuckiness for good measure. You’re more likely to give money to a campaign with updates, because you can see the effect you’re having (and maybe get some sweet, sweet praise), and the vast majority of us will always choose to give money to someone we perceive as an “innocent” victim over someone with a condition that we perceive to have been self-inflicted (e.g. addiction). If you’re one of those people who can look past facts like these and give selflessly without reward or judgment, that’s great. But you’re likely in the minority, and the minority a successful crowdfunding campaign does not make.
Our only solution to these problems, therefore, is to focus on fixing our healthcare system, so that we don’t need to beg for medicine money on the internet like something you’d ordinarily expect to find mentioned as a world-building detail in the background of a dystopian epic. That’s what the media should be focusing its energies on. By continuing to focus on the narrative that crowdfunding is a great way to raise money if you’re sick, news outlets are betraying the overwhelming number of people for whom it does not and can never work, as well as everyone else, since they’re investing time and attention on rare acts of goodwill instead of the overwhelming problems with our healthcare system.
We’re not being heartless. These are great headlines to see, especially considering the crazy times we’re living in right now. It’s so, so easy to imagine that the world is a cold, hyper-partisan husk of dirt, and these headlines are proof against that argument. This is not something, however, that we as ordinary people should be celebrating. When the chips are down, the media is capable of doing great things, and they should be trying their damnedest to effect real change when it comes to the healthcare debate that’s raging all the goddamn time, not fawning over viral charity drives and creating the illusion that this is doable for everyone who needs help.
For every headline that sells the dream about the money that’ll allow you to live your life (or even keep on living) being a simple case of passing the sign-up page …
… there are nine others like this, which prove that dream is nothing but, well, a dream.
We can’t help but stress this enough, but we love the fact that there’s an entire industry working to keep people alive — or at least, alive and without an infarction-inducing medical bill to show for it. That’s the dream of an interconnected world. But we also need to face up to the fact that whenever you see a headline espousing the benefits of crowdfunding, it’s selling a lie to nine in every ten people who take them up on that offer. The truth might not be heartwarming, but it sure as hell beats how heartbreaking that fact is.
Why not help your kids put together their own rainy day fund with a Schylling Rubber Piggy Bank? That way, they can’t break it!
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According to the very latest scientific data, you require food in order to live. But do you know what you’ve been wolfing down alongside a lifetime of Chipotle burritos, Taco Bell burritos, and questionable gas station burritos? Lies. Heaping helpings of lies, all carefully seasoned to ensure that as much of your money as possible winds up in the grease traps of greedy corporations. For example …
We Have Orange Juice With Breakfast Because One Year, California Had Too Many Oranges Lying Around
We Have Orange Juice With Breakfast Because One Year, California Had Too Many Oranges Lying Around
No breakfast is complete without a nice tall glass of orange juice. A single serving of this vitamin-packed wonder liquid gives your immune system the healthy kick in the ass it needs to get through the day. But don’t take our word for it. Just look at this 1922 Sunkist ad, in which 3,000 physicians opine that breast milk is a thing for savages and tiny babies who couldn’t hold down a job long enough to afford vital, life-giving orange juice.
That ad is how the whole American orange juice craze started. In the early 20th century, drinking OJ was nearly unheard of in the U.S. That all changed in 1908, when the over-planting of orange trees in California caused a massive glut in the market. So Sunkist developed a cheap juice extractor, interviewed thousands of totally real doctors who said that orange juice was the best possible thing to give to babies, and soon everybody’s mom was shoving OJ down their kids’ gullets if they so much as sneezed. Never mind that drinking the equivalent of four oranges in a single serving is about as healthy as kicking off the morning with a Big Gulp.
The Idea That Coffee Stunts Your Growth Was Invented By A Coffee Competitor
The Idea That Coffee Stunts Your Growth Was Invented By A Coffee Competitor
While you may practically have it on intravenous drip today, chances are you never had so much as a drop of coffee before you hit adulthood. Part of that is because coffee is objectively disgusting, and kids don’t need chemical assistance to face another day of work. But it’s mostly because your parents didn’t want you consuming something so caffeinated that it could stunt your growth.
The thing is, there’s never been one shred of scientific evidence that drinking caffeine keeps children tiny. The whole idea was the brainchild of cereal magnate C.W. Post. Near the turn of the 20th century, he introduced Postum, a caffeine-free “coffee alternative” made from roasted wheat bran and molasses. Because as any trucker can tell you, the only important components of coffee are 1) its hotness, and 2) its brownness.
Postum sounds like something you’d use to torture trade secrets out of a Starbucks barista. Perhaps that’s why in order to sell it, Post first had to launch a massive smear campaign against coffee, doing his damnedest to convince consumers that everyone’s favorite steamy breakfast beverage was liquid Satan in a cup. The campaign was so successful that Post’s wheat-based sludge is still available to this day, finding popularity with people like Mormons — who, coincidentally, view coffee as liquid Satan in a cup.
There Was No Tradition; You Buy Chocolate On Valentine’s Day Because Of Cadbury
There Was No Tradition; You Buy Chocolate On Valentine’s Day Because Of Cadbury
Among many other things, the Spanish conquistadors stole the Aztecs’ love of chocolate. Back then, chocolate was served as a foamy beverage brewed similarly to coffee, and in his 1662 book The Natural History Of Chocolate, physician Henry Stubbe concluded that it was great for “supplying the Testicles with a Balsam, or a Sap.” And now you’re going to feel really weird when handing your little nephew a steaming mug of hot cocoa this winter.
It seems only natural, then, that hot chocolate would be paired up with the boningest of holidays. (No, not Presidents’ Day. The other one. Valentine’s Day.) It took a good two centuries from the time of its Western discovery for British chocolatier J.S. Fry & Sons to develop a version of chocolate that didn’t require a cup. It then took another decade for Richard Cadbury (of modern-day Cadbury Creme Egg fame) to arrange said solid chocolates in fancy boxes. They were an instant hit. Victorians, being huge fans of both fanciness and boxes, snatched them right up.
Fast-forward another seven years to 1868, and Cadbury finally produced the first heart-shaped box of chocolates, right in time for Valentine’s Day. Today, Americans alone buy an estimated 40 million such boxes each year. Meanwhile, allegations of chocolate’s sexual benefits are still as full of shit as they always were.
We Use Inferior White Sugar Because A Sugar Company Ran A Smear Campaign Against The Natural Stuff
We Use Inferior White Sugar Because A Sugar Company Ran A Smear Campaign Against The Natural Stuff
Today’s brown sugar is basically the over-refined white stuff with some molasses added back in. But did you know that sugar wasn’t always white? Back when it was shipped in its raw form to England in big-ass barrels, sugar often arrived with the molasses content having oozed toward the bottom. Rather than attempting to redistribute the molasses, it was more feasible to refine the sugar — a 32-step process that saps it not only of its brownness, but also of everything that makes it awesome. Whereas today’s sugar can be described in one simple word (i.e. “sweet”), the sugar of yesteryear boasted an array of flavors that would make a pretentious sommelier stammer.
But why did white sugar become the norm? Surprisingly, it had nothing to do with racism. It’s only because sugar giant Domino wanted it that way. Around the turn of the 20th century, Domino launched a media campaign featuring blown-up photos of the natural, harmless, but admittedly gross-looking microbes present in brown sugar. And the public, always down for a good ol’ misinformed scare, almost immediately stopped buying it. Domino then rode to the pinnacle of the market atop a literal sugar high. And ever since, the world has been a bit less sweet and a lot more white. Ain’t that always the way?
The Definition Of “Overweight” Was Refined To Benefit Food And Drug Companies
The Definition Of “Overweight” Was Refined To Benefit Food And Drug Companies
BMI is the two-digit number that medical professionals use to determine how expansive your ass is. Anything higher than 30 means you’re obese, while anything in the 25-29 range means you’re overweight. We’ll leave the validity of the BMI itself aside for now — after all, it’s nothing but a formula calculated based on your height and weight. But who set that scale? Who decided that 25 was overweight, and not, say, 26 or 27?
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
That would be the World Health Organization, and by extension, its International Obesity Task Force, headed up by one Professor Philip James. In 1997, following two years of study, the IOTF lowered the “overweight” cutoff to 25 from its previous value of 27. And do you know who financially backed the IOTF’s study? Pharmaceutical companies Hoffmann-La Roche and Abbott Laboratories, producers of the weight loss drugs Xenical and Meridia, respectively. Now, for his part, James maintains that the drug companies didn’t push any sort of agenda on him (they merely pushed him lots of checks for $200,000 apiece). Still, there’s no denying that by shifting an arbitrary dot on an arbitrary scale, James expanded said companies’ markets by millions of instantly overweight people.
Of course, none of this is saying that it’s cool to burst right through the top of the body mass index like some sort of French-fry-powered rocket-person. We’re simply saying that as a general rule, anyone attempting to define a human being in two digits or fewer probably has some ill intentions.
Dr. Claudio Buttice, Pharm.D., is a former hospital pharmacist who eventually grew bored being just a doctor and became a freelance medical writer. He’s also a screenwriter and journalist who contributed to several magazines, such as The Ring of Fire, Digital Journal, Techopedia, and Business Insider — and he managed to look cool every time. If you want to offer Dr. Buttice a writing gig or just want to throw money in his general direction, feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn.
The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition can help you by starting to sort all this craziness out.
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The Senate tax bill is headed for a marathon debate this week after Republican leaders brought the measure to the floor Wednesday with the goal of holding a final vote by the end of the week. Here are the latest developments, updated throughout the day:
Senate Republicans Scramble to Salvage Bill (8:51 p.m.)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said votes on the tax bill will resume at 11 a.m. on Friday as the collapse of a key compromise to win a majority for a Senate tax overhaul left Republicans scrambling to salvage the legislation.
Debate over the bill may continue into the evening, McConnell said. It’s unclear when the unlimited amendment vote series known as “vote-a-rama” would begin.
After seeming to gain momentum during the day, the GOP’s tax cut plan smacked into a decision from the Senate’s rule-making office that said a so-called trigger proposed by GOP holdouts didn’t pass procedural muster. At least three Republicans — Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona and James Lankford of Oklahoma — had tied their votes to the mechanism, which would have increased taxes if revenue targets weren’t met. The trio is now demanding that leaders agree to other changes in the bill to avoid a huge deficit increase.
Republicans have a slim majority in the Senate and can only afford to lose two members if they want to pass the tax bill without Democratic support.
Adding to the difficulty was a ruling by a key fiscal referee that the tax plan would blow a $1 trillion hole in the nation’s debt — even after accounting for economic growth.
The day’s events left GOP leaders contemplating a variety of potentially unpalatable measures — including making some tax cuts on the individual and corporate side end within six or seven years. The current version of the Senate bill would sunset individual breaks in 2026.
It’s a potential nightmare scenario for Republicans, who have been counting on a tax overhaul to be their first major legislative accomplishment of the year. The party is under enormous pressure to complete the tax measure with less than a year to go before the mid-term elections and with wealthy donors and large corporations demanding tax rate cuts.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas “absolutely” will fight Corker’s effort to add taxes back to the Senate’s tax bill, he said in a brief interview late Thursday as he left the Senate following a lengthy conversation with Corker on the Senate floor.
"Fifty-one senators want to cut taxes," Cruz said. "One is trying to raise taxes. That’s not right."
A subdued Corker said minutes earlier the bill is "still changing."
“I’m trying to do the best I can to make it a better bill,” Corker said.
No. 2 Senate Republican John Cornyn said his preference would be not to add additional taxes, "but what I want most is 50 votes," he said.
Cornyn said Senator Pat Toomey is working with Corker to reach an agreement.
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin also held out during an hourlong standoff on the Senate floor over a procedural vote that would have sent the measure back to the Senate Finance Committee. Johnson said he wants to ensure he can offer amendments, including one to raise the pass-through deduction to about 25 percent, paid for by eliminating the corporate deduction for state and local taxes.
Another GOP senator whose support is in question, Susan Collins of Maine, is pushing to preserve the deduction for individual property taxes up to $10,000. That issue could be headed for a resolution. The Senate will ultimately adopt the House Republican proposal allowing the property tax break, according to Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota, who’s close to Republican leaders.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham added: “I think you’re going to see a lot of these scrums, and here’s the way they’ll end: We’ll pass the bill sometime tomorrow.” — Laura Litvan, Erik Wasson, Steven T. Dennis and Sahil Kapur
Senate Bill Seen Losing $1 Trillion After Growth (5:09 p.m.)
A new analysis released Thursday by the Joint Committee on Taxation found that the Senate tax bill would generate enough economic growth to lower its $1.4 trillion revenue cost by only about $458 billion over a decade.
After accounting for interest rates, the growth figure would fall to $407 billion, said the JCT, Congress’s official scorekeeper on tax legislation. That would leave a 10-year revenue loss of roughly $1 trillion.
The bill’s backers have argued the tax plan would pay for itself through robust economic growth resulting from the cuts — but the new analysis is the latest among several to counter that argument. JCT estimated that the bill would boost gross domestic product by about 0.8 percent on average over the next 10 years.
Growth estimates are especially important for a trio of senators — Bob Corker of Tennessee, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who have voiced concerns about tax cuts adding to the deficit. The three support adding a revenue trigger to the bill that would provide for an automatic tax increase if revenue targets weren’t met, and Senate Republicans are wrangling over the issue.
Discussions have centered around a $350 billion tax-increase trigger, far short of the $1 trillion revenue loss the JCT projects.
A conservative-leaning policy center, the Washington-based Tax Foundation, released a statement saying JCT’s findings were “likely underestimating the economic growth spurred by this tax bill.”
“The range of estimates from JCT includes several important assumptions that limit its growth results, particularly, assumptions regarding the Federal Reserve’s response to potential inflation and the United States being a closed economy,” the policy group said in a statement. The group is working on its own score for the latest version of the Senate bill.
The Senate bill includes a provision that repeals all the individual tax cuts by 2026, which would tend to crimp economic growth. Senate tax writers included the expirations to make the bill comply with Senate rules against budget legislation increasing long-term deficits.
The new estimate “ends the fantasy about magical growth and claims that tax cuts pay for themselves,” said Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, who called the finding the “total opposite” of what Republicans have said.
“It’s hard to see how they’re going to fix this with some kind of trigger,” Wyden said.
A spokeswoman for the Senate Finance Committee said official findings that the Senate tax bill would reduce federal revenue by about $1 trillion over 10 years — even after accounting for economic growth — “are curious and deserve further scrutiny.”
It’s unclear when that scrutiny might take place. Senate Republicans have already voted to begin debate on the tax bill, leaving little time for the sort of public consideration that typically takes place in committee hearings.
Nonetheless, Senate Finance spokeswoman Julia Lawless called the JCT analysis “incomplete” because the Senate bill is “evolving.”
Senators have so far written more than 70 potential amendments to the provision — though it’s unclear how many of them might be considered. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not announced any new timetable for a vote on the actual bill, though he and others have set a goal of passing it by the end of this week. — Sahil Kapur, Erik Wasson and Laura Litvan
John McCain Says He Will Support Senate Bill (2:03 p.m.)
Republican John McCain of Arizona said in a statement Thursday that he’s decided to support the Senate tax bill — helping GOP leaders get one step closer to passing their overhaul.
McCain hadn’t taken an official position on the tax plan until now — and no one was taking his vote for granted after he shocked the political world by voting against a rushed attempt to demolish the Affordable Care Act this summer.
“I believe this legislation, though far from perfect, would enhance American competitiveness, boost the economy, and provide long overdue tax relief for middle class families,” McCain said in the statement.
The Arizona lawmaker joins Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — another GOP senator whose support had been in question — in publicly endorsing the Senate tax bill in recent days. The GOP has a slim majority in the Senate, and can only afford to lose two of its 52 members to pass a bill without Democratic support. Republican senators that could still prove difficult votes include Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
Negotiations were ongoing Thursday to address some of the senators’ concerns, including over a trigger provision that would automatically increase taxes if economic growth doesn’t meet revenue targets.
It’s unclear how long the 20 hours of tax debate currently ongoing will stretch. It could continue into the wee hours of Friday morning before kicking off the unlimited amendment vote series known as “vote-a-rama” overnight. Republican leaders said Thursday morning they hadn’t yet decided whether to just resume the process Friday morning, since an all nighter for some members would be hard, according to Collins. McCain is 81 and battling brain cancer.
McCain has pushed for the Senate to return to regular order — hearings, markups, bipartisan input and amendments — for passing major bills, including tax legislation. He had signaled support for the Senate Finance Committee’s process after it approved a tax proposal earlier this month.
McCain has had a mixed record on tax cuts, voting against measures in 2001 and 2003, citing deficit concerns.
“I take seriously the concerns some of my Senate colleagues have raised about the impact of this bill on the deficit,” McCain said. “However, it’s clear this bill’s net effect on our economy would be positive.”
McCain’s statement added to an already buoyant tone in the U.S. stock market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average extended its climb past 24,000 while the S&P 500 was set for its longest monthly winning streak since 2007, rising more than 1 percent. The dollar erased earlier losses, gaining as much as 0.6 percent against the yen as Treasuries declined, sending 10-year yields above 2.4 percent, to their highest level so far this month. — Alexis Leondis and Chris Nagi
Collins Says ‘Not Committed’ on Bill Yet (9:33 a.m.)
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said it “would be very difficult” to support the Senate tax bill unless Congress agrees to preserve an individual deduction for state and local property taxes and passes separate legislation to support the individual health care market.
“I am not committed to voting for this bill,” she said during a breakfast session organized by the Christian Science Monitor. She has said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has committed to making health care legislation a priority.
Collins also said she’ll pursue an amendment to enhance the child tax credit — and pay for the revenue cost by ending the “carried interest” tax break that favors investment managers. Carried interest is the portion of an investment fund’s profit — usually 20 percent — that’s paid to investment managers. Currently, it’s taxed as capital gains, meaning it qualifies for a tax rate as low as 23.8 percent. The top individual tax rate is currently 39.6 percent.
The Senate bill would address carried interest by requiring that only gains on assets held more than three years — up from one year — would qualify for the break. Collins called that provision “modest.”
Collins’s health-care concerns center on the Senate bill’s provision to repeal the Obamacare law’s individual mandate, which requires individuals to buy health insurance. Repealing the provision is estimated to save the federal government more than $300 billion over 10 years and result in roughly 13 million fewer insured people.
On the property-tax deduction, Collins said she’s seeking a provision that would mirror the House bill approved earlier this month: retaining the break for property taxes, but capping it at $10,000. Currently, the Senate bill proposes to abolish deductions for all state and local taxes. — Erik Wasson
Corker Says Trigger Deal Still Facing ‘Difficulties’ (4:00 a.m.)
Senate Republicans are looking to approve their tax-overhaul legislation as soon as Thursday night — but wrangling continues over whether to include a trigger for tax increases if economic growth doesn’t meet revenue targets.
“They’re having a few difficulties but hopefully in the morning they’ll have something,” Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who’s pushing for the trigger mechanism, said Wednesday evening. “There’s nothing to show right now.”
Corker and Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania are negotiating over the trigger concept, according to Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas. Corker and Toomey, both members of the Budget Committee, reached an agreement in September that allowed a budget that would add to the deficit.
Toomey said a deal would be announced Thursday, but declined to provide details.
Corker, along with Arizona Senator Jeff Flake and Oklahoma Senator James Lankford, have said their votes are contingent on the tax trigger. Others, like Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina have said they are wary of the effect on the economy of tax increases during a recession.
While Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch said he thought it was likely a trigger would be included, Senator David Perdue of Georgia countered that saying: “There is no foregone conclusion that we will have a trigger. Because there is a debate going on about that.”
“We’re not going to do anything to jeopardize this bill,” Perdue said.
In addition to deciding whether or how to include a future tax increase if revenue targets aren’t met, Republicans may have to tweak or add other provisions during the next 24 hours or so to secure the votes they need. Another change in the works would deepen the tax cut for pass-through businesses such as partnerships and limited liability companies.
All 52 Senate Republicans united to vote to open debate on the $1.4 trillion tax-cut measure Wednesday in the latest sign that the bill has the momentum it needs to pass. Republicans must have 50 of their 52 members vote “aye” in order to send the bill to a planned House-Senate conference, the next step in GOP efforts to get tax legislation to President Donald Trump by the end of 2017.
The Senate is now spending 20 hours of limited debate time on the tax bill. During that period, Democrats may try to strip out parts of the bill by raising objections to them based on Senate rules. Republican staff members have been working to tweak tax and oil-drilling provisions in the bill to comply with rules meant to exclude provisions that aren’t primarily fiscal in nature.
The formal debate time is set to expire close to midnight on Thursday, after which an unlimited amendment vote series known as “vote-a-rama” would ensue. Senators could agree to speed up the debate and start the amendment votes sooner.
During vote-a-rama, Democrats are likely to offer numerous amendments meant to highlight any flaws they believe the bill contains. Democrats say the bill gives most tax benefits to the wealthy while raising taxes on many in the middle and working class, in addition to increasing budget deficits.
“What’s on offer is a plan to force working people and middle-class families to pay for handouts to corporations and tax cheats," said Democratic Senator Ron Wyden as debate kicked off Wednesday evening.
Republican Senator Mike Enzi, chairman of the Budget Committee, disputed that characterization. “We need tax reform that will make our system simpler and fairer and allow people to keep more of what they earn,” he said. “This bill before us would do that.”
Some Republicans are expected to offer amendments that would be paid for by setting the corporate rate higher than the 20 percent proposed in the Senate tax bill. The current corporate rate is 35 percent.
Moderate GOP Senator Susan Collins filed an amendment that would retain the individual deduction for state and local property taxes and cap it at $10,000 for individuals — mirroring the House tax bill. She said she would pay for the change with a 21 percent corporate rate and by keeping the individual top rate at 39.6 percent.
“I think it’s significant that many members believe that we don’t need to go all the way to 20 percent in order to spur investment and job creation,” Collins said.
Republican senators Mike Lee and Marco Rubio also plan to make the bill’s child tax credit refundable up to 15.3 percent of earnings, paid for with a 22 percent corporate rate.
Behind the scenes, Republicans will be crafting a final substitute amendment containing any changes they’ll need to get the required 50 votes.
Wavering senators Steve Daines of Montana and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin appear to be on track to support the bill after securing a 20 percent deduction for pass-throughs, an increase from the 17.4 percent in the draft bill. Johnson said Wednesday he expects to see the larger deduction included in the final version of the Senate legislation. He added he would support an amendment calling for the elimination of state and local tax deductions for corporations. — Erik Wasson, Kaustuv Basu, Allyson Versprille and Laura Davison
What to Watch on Thursday:
- Senate Republicans approved the “motion to proceed,” 52-48, on party lines. After up to 20 hours of debate, the chamber will begin considering a series of amendments proposed by senators in what’s known as a “vote-a-rama” marathon that’s likely to end with an amendment by Republican leaders incorporating all the changes.
- Tax writers may release details of the trigger concept. GOP senators have discussed a provision that would allow for as much as $350 billion in automatic tax increases starting in 2022. Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has said he’s working on a trigger provision that would apply two ways and bring additional cuts if there’s robust growth.
- The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation may release a “dynamic scoring” analysis of the bill’s effect on the deficit.
Here’s What Happened on Wednesday:
- President Donald Trump said the tax overhaul would hurt him financially, disputing findings from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service and other analysts saying top earners would benefit more than the middle class.
- Senate Republicans agreed to raise a proposed deduction for pass-through businesses, such as partnerships and limited liability companies, to 20 percent from 17.4 percent, according to Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana.
- Republicans Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee said they plan to introduce an amendment that would enhance the child tax credit — and offset the cost by setting the corporate rate at 22 percent, higher than the 20 percent rate President Donald Trump favors. The White House said the president doesn’t support the amendment.
- Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said she would vote to begin debate after she got a commitment from Republican leaders to put legislation aimed at stabilizing Obamacare’s insurance exchanges on a must-pass bill next month.
- The bill got an important commitment as GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said she would vote for it.
At the heart of Philip Alstons special mission will be one question: can Americans enjoy fundamental human rights if theyre unable to meet basic living standards?
The United Nations monitor on extreme poverty and human rights has embarked on a coast-to-coast tour of the US to hold the worlds richest nation and its president to account for the hardships endured by Americas most vulnerable citizens.
The tour, which kicked off on Friday morning, will make stops in four states as well as Washington DC and the US territory of Puerto Rico. It will focus on several of the social and economic barriers that render the American dream merely a pipe dream to millions from homelessness in California to racial discrimination in the Deep South, cumulative neglect in Puerto Rico and the decline of industrial jobs in West Virginia.
With 41 million Americans officially in poverty according to the US Census Bureau (other estimates put that figure much higher), one aim of the UN mission will be to demonstrate that no country, however wealthy, is immune from human suffering induced by growing inequality. Nor is any nation, however powerful, beyond the reach of human rights law a message that the US government and Donald Trump might find hard to stomach given their tendency to regard internal affairs as sacrosanct.
The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, is a feisty Australian and New York University law professor who has a fearsome track record of holding power to account. He tore a strip off the Saudi Arabian regime for its treatment of women months before the kingdom legalized their right to drive, denounced the Brazilian government for attacking the poor through austerity, and even excoriated the UN itself for importing cholera to Haiti.
The US is no stranger to Alstons withering tongue, having come under heavy criticism from him for its program of drone strikes on terrorist targets abroad. In his previous role as UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Alston blamed the Obama administration and the CIA for killing many innocent civilians in attacks he said were of dubious international legality.
Colin Kaepernick is on a roll. His latest accolade: an award from Beyoncé.
On Tuesday, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was presented with Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award by none other than Queen Bey.
“Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion,” said Beyoncé. “Only hope to change the world for the better. To change perception, to change the way we treat each other. Especially people of color.”
Kaepernick, who took a knee in protest of police brutality and sparked a national conversation back in August 2016, was given the award during Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year Awards in Brooklyn, New York, hosted by Trevor Noah. Named for the legendary boxer, the Ali Award celebrates individual athletes whose career impacts the world outside sports.
“I accept this award knowing that the legacy of Muhammad Ali is that of a champion of the people, and one who was affectionately known as the ‘People’s Champ,'” Kaepernick said.
“I accept this award not for myself, but on behalf of the people. Because if it were not for my love of the people, I would not have protested. And if it was not for the support from the people, I would not be on this stage today.”
“With or without the NFL’s platform, I will continue to work for the people, because my platform is the people.”
All this in spite of undeniable blackballing from the NFL itself.
Previous Ali Award winners include Magic Johnson, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who congratulated Kaepernick during a video tribute at the awards.
“He fully embraced the risk to his career in order to remind Americans of the systemic racism that was denying African-Americans their opportunities to equal education, jobs, health and even their lives,” said Abdul-Jabbar, reported by ESPN.
Lonnie Ali, Muhammad’s widow, told Sports Illustrated she was proud to award Kaepernick the award, for his defense of social justice and civil rights.
“Like Muhammad, Colin is a man who stands on his convictions with confidence and courage, undaunted by the personal sacrifices he has had to make to have his message heard. And he has used his celebrity and philanthropy to the benefit of some of our most vulnerable community members.”
Former Bosnian Serb army commander known as the butcher of Bosnia sentenced to life imprisonment more than 20 years after Srebrenica massacre
The former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladi, nicknamed the butcher of Bosnia, has been sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
More than 20 years after the Srebrenica massacre, Mladic was found guilty at the United Nations-backed international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague of 10 offences involving extermination, murder and persecution of civilian populations.
As he entered the courtroom, Mladi gave a broad smile and thumbs up to the cameras a gesture that infuriated relatives of the victims. His defiance shifted into detachment as the judgment began: Mladi played with his fingers and nodded occasionally, looking initially relaxed.
The verdict was disrupted for more than half an hour when he asked the judges for a bathroom break. After he returned, defence lawyers requested that proceedings be halted or shortened because of his high blood pressure. The judges denied the request. Mladi then stood up shouting this is all lies and Ill fuck your mother. He was forcibly removed from the courtroom. The verdicts were read in his absence.
Mladi, 74, was chief of staff of Bosnian Serb forces from 1992 until 1996, during the ferocious civil wars and ethnic cleansing that followed the break-up of the Yugoslav state.
The one-time fugitive from international justice faced 11 charges, two of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and four of violations of the laws or customs of war. He was cleared of one count of genocide, but found guilty of all other charges. The separate counts related to ethnic cleansing operations in Bosnia, sniping and shelling attacks on besieged civilians in Sarajevo, the massacre of Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica and taking UN personnel hostage in an attempt to deter Nato airstrikes.
The trial in The Hague, which took 530 days across more than four years, is arguably the most significant war crimes case in Europe since the Nuremberg trials, in part because of the scale of the atrocities involved. Almost 600 people gave evidence for the prosecution and defence, including survivors of the conflict.
Delivering the verdicts, judge Alphons Orie said Mladis crimes rank among the most heinous known to humankind and include genocide and extermination.
Orie dismissed mitigation pleas by the defence that Mladi was of good character, had diminished mental capacity and was in poor physical health.
Relatives of victims flew into the Netherlands to attend the hearing, determined to see Mladi receive justice decades after the end of the war in which more than 100,000 people were killed.
Among those present was Fikret Ali, the Bosnian who was photographed as an emaciated prisoner behind the wire of a prison camp in 1992. Justice has won and the war criminal has been convicted, he said after the verdict. Others were reduced to tears by the judges description of past atrocities.