CNN mocked for airing segment on Trump’s soda consumption while NYC faced terror attack

An attempted terrorist attack caused massive chaos during Monday morning’s rush hour in New York City, but some CNN viewers could be in the dark because the network spent an inordinate amount of time covering an anti-Trump story about the president’s soda consumption while details of the chaotic situation unfolded.

At 8:45 a.m. ET a law enforcement official told reporters, including the Associated Press, that a man had a pipe bomb strapped to him when it went off on a New York City subway platform. That was roughly the same time that CNN was in the middle of a segment that featured the chyron, “NYT Report: Trump drinks a dozen diet cokes per day,” while a large graphic promoting Tuesday’s Election Night in Alabama took up a significant portion of the screen.  

Viewers quickly took notice. Media crisis guru Yossi Gestetner tweeted, “More than an hour after the pipe-bomb story broke, CNN was busy with Trump’s diet Coke,” while another viewer asked, “Why are you talking about this!”

“Astonishing how quickly CNN pivoted from NYC explosion to ridiculous story Trump drinking a lot of Diet Coke,” Newsbusters Senior Editor Rich Noyes tweeted.

Media Research Center Vice President Dan Gainor used the situation to mock CNN’s recent ad campaign in which the network uses an apple in an attempt to combat its “fake news” reputation.

“U.S. News was talking about the bombing at 7:54. Nearly an hour later, CNN is whining about Donald Trump drinks Diet Cokes and watches too much TV instead of reporting about terrorism in New York City,” Gainor told Fox News. “CNN might tell you what it’s giving you is an apple, but if it is, it’s rotten.”

The suspected bomber was identified as 27-year-old Akayed Ullah and police have called the incident an “attempted terrorist attack.” An “effectively low tech device” was detonated in a subway passageway just before 7:30 a.m., New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news conference.

While viewers scrambled to hear the latest news, several people took to Twitter to mock CNN’s programming’s decision. Blogger Ann Althouse noted that the New York Times article that first mentioned Trump’s soda habit came out a few days ago and added, “CNN is hopeless,” after expressing frustration that CNN didn’t offer the live report on the attempted terror attack. 

One user wrote, “CNN was talking about the bombshell reporting that @realDonaldTrump drinks 12 diet cokes and watches 4+ hours of TV news per day AFTER the news broke about the bombing in NYC. I kid you not!” while another joked, “We interrupt our story on the suicide bombing in NY subway to update the current tally on President Trump’s daily consumption of diet cokes! We now return you to our regular broadcasting!” 

The explosion reportedly occurred around 7:30 a.m. near 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue, NYPD and FDNY officials confirmed to Fox News. An NYPD source on the scene told Fox News a device went off, and there was a bomb strapped to a person. Port Authority police took down the suspected bomber at gunpoint, Port Authority Police Benevolent Association tweeted. A law enforcement official also told AP that police believe the explosive device was set off on a Manhattan subway platform. 

Fox News reporters Katherine Lam and Greg Norman contributed to this report. 

Brian Flood covers the media for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @briansflood.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2017/12/11/cnn-mocked-for-airing-segment-on-trumps-soda-consumption-while-nyc-faced-terror-attack.html

It’s Gonna Get a Lot Easier to Break Science Journal Paywalls

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.

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.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/its-gonna-get-a-lot-easier-to-break-science-journal-paywalls/

Google Is Giving Away AI That Can Build Your Genome Sequence

Today, a teaspoon of spit and a hundred bucks is all you need to get a snapshot of your DNA. But getting the full picture—all 3 billion base pairs of your genome—requires a much more laborious process. One that, even with the aid of sophisticated statistics, scientists still struggle over. It’s exactly the kind of problem that makes sense to outsource to artificial intelligence.

On Monday, Google released a tool called DeepVariant that uses deep learning—the machine learning technique that now dominates AI—to assemble full human genomes. Modeled loosely on the networks of neurons in the human brain, these massive mathematical models have learned how to do things like identify faces posted to your Facebook news feed, transcribe your inane requests to Siri, and even fight internet trolls. And now, engineers at Google Brain and Verily (Alphabet’s life sciences spin-off) have taught one to take raw sequencing data and line up the billions of As, Ts, Cs, and Gs that make you you.

And oh yeah, it’s more accurate than all the existing methods out there. Last year, DeepVariant took first prize in an FDA contest promoting improvements in genetic sequencing. The open source version the Google Brain/Verily team introduced to the world Monday reduced the error rates even further—by more than 50 percent. Looks like grandmaster Ke Jie isn’t be the only one getting bested by Google’s AI neural networks this year.

DeepVariant arrives at a time when healthcare providers, pharma firms, and medical diagnostic manufacturers are all racing to capture as much genomic information as they can. To meet the need, Google rivals like IBM and Microsoft are all moving into the healthcare AI space, with speculation about whether Apple and Amazon will follow suit. While DeepVariant’s code comes at no cost, that isn’t true of the computing power required to run it. Scientists say that expense is going to prevent it from becoming the standard anytime soon, especially for large-scale projects.

But DeepVariant is just the front end of a much wider deployment; genomics is about to go deep learning. And once you go deep learning, you don’t go back.

It’s been nearly two decades since high-throughput sequencing escaped the labs and went commercial. Today, you can get your whole genome for just $1,000 (quite a steal compared to the $1.5 million it cost to sequence James Watson’s in 2008).

But the data produced by today’s machines still only produce incomplete, patchy, and glitch-riddled genomes. Errors can get introduced at each step of the process, and that makes it difficult for scientists to distinguish the natural mutations that make you you from random artifacts, especially in repetitive sections of a genome.

See, most modern sequencing technologies work by taking a sample of your DNA, chopping it up into millions of short snippets, and then using fluorescently-tagged nucleotides to produce reads—the list of As, Ts, Cs, and Gs that correspond to each snippet. Then those millions of reads have to be grouped into abutting sequences and aligned with a reference genome.

That’s the part that gives scientists so much trouble. Assembling those fragments into a usable approximation of the actual genome is still one of the biggest rate-limiting steps for genetics. A number of software programs exist to help put the jigsaw pieces together. FreeBayes, VarDict, Samtools, and the most well-used, GATK, depend on sophisticated statistical approaches to spot mutations and filter out errors. Each tool has strengths and weaknesses, and scientists often wind up having to use them in conjunction.

No one knows the limitations of the existing technology better than Mark DePristo and Ryan Poplin. They spent five years creating GATK from whole cloth. This was 2008: no tools, no bioinformatics formats, no standards. “We didn’t even know what we were trying to compute!” says DePristo. But they had a north star: an exciting paper that had just come out, written by a Silicon Valley celebrity named Jeff Dean. As one of Google’s earliest engineers, Dean had helped design and build the fundamental computing systems that underpin the tech titan’s vast online empire. DePristo and Poplin used some of those ideas to build GATK, which became the field’s gold standard.

But by 2013, the work had plateaued. “We tried almost every standard statistical approach under the sun, but we never found an effective way to move the needle,” says DePristo. “It was unclear after five years whether it was even possible to do better.” DePristo left to pursue a Google Ventures-backed start-up called SynapDx that was developing a blood test for autism. When that folded two years later, one of its board members, Andrew Conrad (of Google X, then Google Life Sciences, then Verily) convinced DePristo to join the Google/Alphabet fold. He was reunited with Poplin, who had joined up the month before.

And this time, Dean wasn’t just a citation; he was their boss.

As the head of Google Brain, Dean is the man behind the explosion of neural nets that now prop up all the ways you search and tweet and snap and shop. With his help, DePristo and Poplin wanted to see if they could teach one of these neural nets to piece together a genome more accurately than their baby, GATK.

The network wasted no time in making them feel obsolete. After training it on benchmark datasets of just seven human genomes, DeepVariant was able to accurately identify those single nucleotide swaps 99.9587 percent of the time. “It was shocking to see how fast the deep learning models outperformed our old tools,” says DePristo. Their team submitted the results to the PrecisionFDA Truth Challenge last summer, where it won a top performance award. In December, they shared them in a paper published on bioRxiv.

DeepVariant works by transforming the task of variant calling—figuring out which base pairs actually belong to you and not to an error or other processing artifact—into an image classification problem. It takes layers of data and turns them into channels, like the colors on your television set. In the first working model they used three channels: The first was the actual bases, the second was a quality score defined by the sequencer the reads came off of, the third contained other metadata. By compressing all that data into an image file of sorts, and training the model on tens of millions of these multi-channel “images,” DeepVariant began to be able to figure out the likelihood that any given A or T or C or G either matched the reference genome completely, varied by one copy, or varied by both.

But they didn’t stop there. After the FDA contest they transitioned the model to TensorFlow, Google's artificial intelligence engine, and continued tweaking its parameters by changing the three compressed data channels into seven raw data channels. That allowed them to reduce the error rate by a further 50 percent. In an independent analysis conducted this week by genomics computing platform, DNAnexus, DeepVariant vastly outperformed GATK, Freebayes, and Samtools, sometimes reducing errors by as much as 10-fold.

“That shows that this technology really has an important future in the processing of bioinformatic data,” says DNAnexus CEO, Richard Daly. “But it’s only the opening chapter in a book that has 100 chapters.” Daly says he expects this kind of AI to one day actually find the mutations that cause disease. His company received a beta version of DeepVariant, and is now testing the current model with a limited number of its clients—including pharma firms, big health care providers, and medical diagnostic companies.

To run DeepVariant effectively for these customers, DNAnexus has had to invest in newer generation GPUs to support its platform. The same is true for Canadian competitor, DNAStack, which plans to offer two different versions of DeepVariant—one tuned for low cost and one tuned for speed. Google’s Cloud Platform already supports the tool, and the company is exploring using the TPUs (tensor processing units) that connect things like Google Search, Street View, and Translate to accelerate the genomics calculations as well.

DeepVariant’s code is open-source so anyone can run it, but to do so at scale will likely require paying for a cloud computing platform. And it’s this cost—computationally and in terms of actual dollars—that have researchers hedging on DeepVariant’s utility.

“It’s a promising first step, but it isn’t currently scalable to a very large number of samples because it’s just too computationally expensive,” says Daniel MacArthur, a Broad/Harvard human geneticist who has built one of the largest libraries of human DNA to date. For projects like his, which deal in tens of thousands of genomes, DeepVariant is just too costly. And, just like current statistical models, it can only work with the limited reads produced by today’s sequencers.

Still, he thinks deep learning is here to stay. “It’s just a matter of figuring out how to combine better quality data with better algorithms and eventually we’ll converge on something pretty close to perfect,” says MacArthur. But even then, it’ll still just be a list of letters. At least for the foreseeable future, we’ll still need talented humans to tell us what it all means.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/google-is-giving-away-ai-that-can-build-your-genome-sequence/

How Having A Hysterectomy At 25 Completely Changed My Life

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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.

Read more: https://thoughtcatalog.com/ally-niemiec/2017/12/how-having-a-hysterectomy-at-25-completely-changed-my-life/

This mom’s journey through divorce and illness reminds us why single moms are heroes.

Being a single parent can be tough. It can be even tougher when you’re coping with serious health issues.

Allison Brown and her husband have been separated for some time, but they co-parented their son, Jed, equally up until two years ago.

Simultaneously she has antiphospholipid syndrome, which makes her prone to blood clots, and as such, she’s already had two pulmonary embolisms — one right after Jed was born.

It was also recently discovered that she has a genetic oddity on the BRACA2 gene and a family history of breast cancer, so she’s made the decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy in 2018.

Allison and Jed Brown. All photos via Allison Brown.

Jed wants to be with her in the hospital, and while she’s always been open with him about her health issues, this feels like uncharted territory. He’s been with her through illnesses before, but this surgery will change how she looks and no doubt have an emotional impact, so she’s apprehensive about letting him see the aftermath.

“I’m not entirely sure what the ‘right’ thing to do is,” Allison writes in an email, “but I go back to one of our family reminders: We can do what we can do. And sometimes we can do hard things.”

As it turns out, Allison isn’t alone in her concern. Many families struggle with knowing what the “right” thing to do is, but they still manage to #familygreatly.

Family Greatly

Myth: There’s one perfect way to family.
Truth: There’s a billion ways to #FamilyGreatly.

Posted by Kraft Brand on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The truth is, there isn’t one “right way” to be a parent. And, through her relationship with her son, Allison’s come to realize that.

She cherishes Jed, and together they’ve successfully navigated some difficult times. But mostly she tries to savor every moment with him that she can.

“He is kind, he is moral and thoughtful, he is just a lovely person a lot of the time,” writes Allison. “He is working hard to be responsible and I really appreciate that. I think we are very close, in part because we are a household of two, in part because I’m pretty unflappable.”

Jed on the soccer team.

Of course, as Jed grows up, she’s realizing he doesn’t need her as much. It’s a hard reality, but she knows it’s what needs to happen.

“I know I’m not all he could ever need nor should I be anymore,” explains Allison. “Life is bigger, and his world is wider.”

But even though Jed’s a teenager now, they’ve maintained their tight bond thanks to a few unique traditions.

For example, every night at dinner, they hold hands and share a “moment of gratitude,” which can be anything that happened in their day that they’re grateful for. Since Allison can’t be there all the time, it’s a great way for them to reconnect.

She also makes sure to be there for all the big events, like Jed’s soccer games and choir concerts.

She wishes she could be around more often to encourage him to stop staring at phone/computer/television screens all day, but that’s likely a struggle that would exist whether she worked or not.

Jed and Allison Brown.

And really, at the end of the day, Allison believes she is enough for Jed because she’s proud of the man he is becoming.

“The world is big, and there are a million ways to be successful and measure success,” she writes.

Time with your kids goes by fast — Allison knows this better than most. So instead of worrying about the future, she hopes parents, like herself, can stay in the present with them as long as they can. After all, that’s what truly matters with family.

Life may throw you curveballs along the way, but as long as you can come back and share a moment with your kids, you’re nailing parenthood.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a family of two or 10, if you’re celebrating around a big Christmas tree or eating leftover pizza while watching your favorite show — if you’re spending time together, that’s what makes a great family.

This holiday season, Allison and Jed will be taking their traditional trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago to see the lights festival. It’s just something that makes the month of December a little more special for them.

Families are made by these traditions that make them unique, no matter how big or small they are. And that uniqueness outshines perfection every day of the week.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/this-mom-s-journey-through-divorce-and-illness-reminds-us-why-single-moms-are-heroes

The ‘masculine mystique’ why men can’t ditch the baggage of being a bloke

Far from embracing the school run, most men are still trapped by rigid cultural notions of being strong, dominant and successful. Is it leading to an epidemic of unhappiness similar to the one felt by Betty Friedans 50s housewives?

Back in the 90s, it was all going to be so different. Not for our generation the lopsided approach of our parents, with their quaint postwar notions of father-breadwinners and mother-homemakers. We would be equal; interchangeable. Our young women would run companies, embassies, hospitals and schools, while our young men, no slouches themselves, would punctuate their careers with long, halcyon spells dandling babies and teaching toddlers how to make tiny volcanoes out of vinegar and baking soda.

That equality would have formidable knock-on effects. The gender pay gap would narrow. Sexual harassment wouldnt disappear, but decoupling professional power from gender would do a lot to erase it from the workplace.

A generation or so later, it is clear: this is the revolution that never happened, at least not in the UK. The home-dad pioneers among us who once blazed a trail, now look on aghast as successive waves of men scurry past and say: Right. Back to work.

What happened? Latest statistics for England show more than 80% of fathers still work full time, rising to almost 85% for dads of very young children. This rate has barely changed for 20 years. The ratio of part-timers has flatlined just above 6% throughout this decade (having soared through the 90s and early 00s). Just 1.6% of men have given up work altogether to take care of the family home. New rights for fathers to share parental leave with mothers have poor take-up rates.

chart

You can glimpse this paternity gap at 3.30pm on weekday afternoons at school gates up and down the country. Far from being overrun with gaggles of enlightened men in clothes covered with baby sick and badges saying Worlds greatest dad, the father quota is, in my own limited experience, disappointing. There are often more grandparents doing the pickup than dads.

At the same time, there is no shortage of surveys finding legions of men saying they want to find more time for family life. So what is stopping them?

In 1963, The Feminine Mystique, a seminal book by Betty Friedan, helped launch the second wave of feminism by positing that American women faced a problem that has no name: they had essentially become typecast as uber-feminine mothers, home-makers, cake bakers and sexual slaves to their husbands. Forcing women to live up to this idea of femininity left an entire generation depressed, frustrated or hooked on Valium.

The question is this: 50 years later, are men facing their own problem with no name, a masculine mystique which imposes rigid cultural notions of what it is to be male superior, dominant, hierarchical, sexually assertive to the point of abuse even though society is screaming out for manhood to be something very different?

Men who do change their working lives to accommodate their children generally say it can feel tough, lonely, incongruous, even emasculating. When, 15 years ago, I gave up work altogether for a year to do childcare, it took a while to get used to being the only dad in the park; the strange man arguing with a difficult child outside the library on a damp Tuesday morning. People stared.

David
David Early and his son Jonah There is a stigma when people see you doing a role that isnt traditional.

Little has changed. Father-of-two David Early, 31, from Glasgow, says he still feels in a minority when he is out and about with his toddlers. When Im with the children, and I have her in the sling and him in the buggy, I have people looking and thinking: Whats that guy doing with two kids strapped to him? says Early. There is a stigma when people see you doing a role that isnt traditional. It can impact on your professional life.

For Early, it certainly did. When he asked for additional parental leave after his first child was born, his managers for his data management job were not impressed. He eventually quit and found work elsewhere to be able to balance his work and family in the way he wanted.

Paul Cudby, 36, was luckier. A business analyst for the National Grid in Leicestershire, he found his manager more receptive, and worked out a highly flexible work pattern that leaves him free to do the afternoon school run before turning the laptop back on again in the evening. There comes a moment in every dads life when theres a choice. Youll find yourself missing something at home and the question is: what do you do about the emotional pain? Do you say: Im just going to have to suck it up, or do you say: Somethings got to change?

I get plenty of little jibes about being a part-timer. They are well meaning, but I can understand how some people get offended. I think there possibly is a knock-on effect on my career.

And thats just it men are finding out what women have known for years: that parenting properly will certainly upend your career. For many men, so thoroughly programmed to identify who they are with the work they do, this can seem like an existential threat.

Tormod
Tormod Sund The traditional man breadwinner those kind of ideas are rooted in the past. Photograph: Mark Rice-Oxley for the Guardian

Tormod Sund, 42, is a father, an anthropologist, a charity worker, a Norwegian and a Londoner and has been the primary carer for his son for more than 10 years. He says he still feels like a bit of an oddity in a society that still expects men to be alpha.

The traditional man breadwinner those kind of ideas are rooted in the past, but you dont get rid of them in one or two generations, Sund says. Those ideas are still quite strong socially.

When you meet new people, the first thing they ask is: What do you do? I would say: I work from home. The idea of what is successful and normal if youre a man is that you should have a career. Its less acceptable for a man to say: Im staying at home with the children. We work. Our identity is connected to that.

The barriers are not just psychological. They are professional and financial as well. Jasmine Kelland, a human resource studies lecturer at Plymouth University, interviewed scores of fathers and managers, trying to find out more about the male reluctance to reduce hours. She found that of all the working permutations part-time, full-time, men, women the part-time man was held in lowest regard on a range of metrics including competence, commitment and even ability.

In the workplace, fathers do not get as much support as mums, Kelland says. When they say, for example, that they need time off because a child is unwell, organisations are less supportive. There are quite a lot of negative perceptions about fathers who want to work part-time.

Dr Alpesh Maisuria has experienced this first-hand. The 37-year-old London-based academic says that even in more enlightened parts of the economy, bosses are not always understanding. My value as a bloke in this country is to do with my productivity and output, much more than being a father, he says. I would suggest in many instances, even as an academic, the fact that Im a father might be a hindrance to my bosses.

The part-time paternal penalty is not just a British peculiarity. A 2013 US study found that men who engaged in childcare risked a workplace backlash. Men who lack complete focus on, and dedication to, their work and who do the low-status feminine work of childcare and housework are likely to be seen both as failed men and as bad workers, the report found. At the other end of the scale, however, Sweden incentivises all fathers to take at least three months paid paternity leave. The result has been a far more even-handed approach to latte pappas.

Dr
Dr Alpesh Maisuria The fact that Im a father might be a hindrance to my bosses. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

When I take him out to playgroups or cafes in the UK, Im usually the only bloke in there, says Maisuria. In Sweden, youll find a whole load of these blokes alongside you.

There are, of course, financial considerations: a great many households wont be able to afford to sacrifice even part of a fathers salary. With the gender pay gap persisting, the default position tends to be men working full-time while women do the childcare and perhaps work part-time.

Involved fatherhood is quite a middle-class concept, says Dr Helen Norman at Manchester Universitys school of social sciences. Its only really accessible to middle-class men who can afford to change their work; the fathers on lower incomes dont have that [option].

A support worker with a housing association in the West Midlands, Richard Watkins, 32, worked all the hours he could, until separation from his partner and problems with their children forced a rethink. Now, his six-year-old son lives with him and Watkins felt he had to cut back his hours to nurture his child. We came very close to relying on food banks, he says. The only way I can survive doing this on my budget is to have it [all] mapped out for the next two years.

Ultimately, he says, he will have to go back to work full-time. Which is a shame. The benefits of full-on fathering the dad dividend if you like are both obvious and subtle. There are no end of advocates agitating for progress, from Fathers Network Scotland and its Dad Up campaign to Working Families and the Fatherhood Institute.

Martin Doyle, 37, a Bristol-based communications manager for Lloyds bank, noticed that, after he went part-time, there was a big a difference in the son that he and his husband had adopted. Its been massively beneficial our son is a lot more settled and a lot more relaxed than he was, he says. His confidence has grown, his self-belief has grown. Ive been able to be there to support him.

Engaged fathers can also liberate women to resume careers indeed women will never get close to true equality until men bend over backwards to meet them halfway. And according to Norman, there can be a positive effect on relationships, too: in households where men do sole childcare a few times a week in the early years, this will have a positive effect on the relationship over time, she says.

But could it be that the biggest beneficiary of all would be men themselves?

From his office overlooking the Royal Festival Hall terrace in London, Ted Hodgkinson is putting the finishing touches to a festival that is all about the male predicament.

The Being a Man festival, running from 24-26 November, aims to get under the skin of the masculine identity, prod it around a little, see if it falls apart. The furore over sexual harassment will tinge some segments, particularly a session called Standing Up for Her Rights.

But the event aims to be far broader than a single news story. Writers, actors and performers, including Robert Webb, Alan Hollinghurst and Simon Amstell, will explore the relentless levels of expectation heaped on men and assess whether this is responsible for statistics that suggest it is truly dismal these days to have a Y chromosome.

Suicide is a predominantly male tragedy (a man takes his life every minute somewhere in the world). Ditto gambling, drug overdoses, rough sleeping or just disappearing. Rape, murder, terrorism, war, people trafficking and domestic violence: all are predominantly masculine disgraces. Wherever you go in the world, men always make up more than 90% of jail populations. Flick through todays newspaper and the chances are it will be full of all the bad things that men are doing. Of course, recent weeks have been dominated by sexual harassment, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Mass shootings and sickening murders, not to mention terror attacks and the brutality of war.

Then there are our role models: misogynist presidents, groping politicians, narcissistic sports stars, self-satisfied billionaires, airbrushed actors, heroic superheroes, alpha men, all of them. Even the average shape of a man has changed in 20 years: guns, pecs and necks wider than heads in some cases. There is no room for the winsome, the vulnerable, the uncertain.

I ask Hodgkinson if he thinks a masculine mystique a cultural insistence on strong, dominant, successful types as the only valid manifestation of manhood is making us unhappy in the same way that the feminine mystique depressed women in the 50s and 60s.

In one sense it seems as though men are holding all the cards, he says, but the statistics show otherwise: three out of four suicides are men, 73% of adults who go missing are men. They feel they have to walk out of their own lives for one reason or another. We have to look at what masculinity means to understand this. Often it equates showing emotion with weakness. There is a bottling up of shame; not wanting to let people down.

The good news is there is no shortage of books, documentaries, artists working to challenge old patriarchal notions, from Professor Greens acclaimed documentary about men and suicide to Grayson Perrys 2016 book The Descent of Man. (The downside: two-thirds of men say they dont read much.)

There is an awakening around these things. There is a shift there, says Hodgkinson.

Jonny Benjamin agrees. He became a mental health campaigner after contemplating his own suicide on Waterloo Bridge and being talked down by a stranger. He says he sees changes coming through in the new young generation.

Jonny
Jonny Benjamin We need more sports stars, more footballers to talk about their vulnerabilities. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

The good thing is that now its being questioned, he observes from his own work talking to young people about mental health. There is work in schools challenging this whole kind of big-boys-dont-cry attitude.

Benjamin says it is notions of pride, shame and honour that still do men such harm. Men need to know that its OK to show vulnerability, subjugate every now and then, lose, cry, express their emotional turmoil. Its not just women who suffer from comparing themselves to the perfection they see in the public space.

We need more sports stars, more footballers to talk about their vulnerabilities, he says. Just to say: I do struggle sometimes, I do get anxious. Life isnt all money and cars.

There are nascent campaigns calling for a more honest dialogue about the links between maleness, depression and suicide, most notably the work done by the Campaign Against Living Miserably and the Movember foundation.

But will that ever build into a full-blown movement that reforms maleness from the inside and changes its relationship with the world? Its hard to say. Thus far masculinism has manifested itself principally in niche areas such as custody law or male victims of violence, or simply as strident misogynist voices pushing back at feminism.

And its hard to see how to make a movement when you are essentially still in control of much of society. As Sund says, we are not a minority who are oppressed in any shape or form, so its hard to find that moral space.

The crisis of manhood, if it exists, is very different from that faced by women in the 50s and 60s. In some senses, its a mirror image. Women some at least were saying: Some of us might want to work. Men some at least are saying: Some of us might want to work less. Women were saying: We want to be taken seriously in public life. Men some at least are saying: We want to be taken seriously in our private life.

Both sexes are trying to live up to cultural projections rather than satisfy their own complex human needs. Men today may have greater choice than women did half a century ago, but that doesnt make it easy.

Women had an oppression to rail against; the outcome was a broad awakening that would not be subdued. The oppression of men is far more subtle, even self-inflicted.

The awakening has barely begun.

Being a Man festival runs from 24-26 November at Southbank Centre. More info and tickets available here: southbankcentre.co.uk/being-a-man

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/nov/21/the-masculine-mystique-why-men-cant-ditch-the-baggage-of-being-a-bloke

SNL Uses Kids to Criticize President Trumps Sexual Misconduct Allegations

This week, Saturday Night Live heeded our advice and ditched problematic actor Alec Baldwins unimaginative Trump impersonation during their cold open.

In the orange ones stead was a holiday-themed bit of children meeting a mall Santa (Kenan Thompson) and his elf (Kate McKinnon), and sharing with them their Christmas wishes.

First came a young boy named Tyler who, after requesting Mega Bloks and laser tag, asked, What did Al Franken do? Unease, naturally, ensued.

Well, Tyler, I guess you could say Al Franken is on Santas naughty list this year, Santa replied, referencing Frankens recent resignation following a series of groping allegations.

And what about Roy Moore? Which list is he on? added Tyler of the Alabama Senate candidate, whos been accused of sexual misconduct by at least nine women and was banned from a local mall in Gadsden, Alabama, for creeping on young girlsincluding a Santas helper.

Its not really a list, its more of a registry, McKinnons elf replied.

A young girl named Jessica came next: I wanted to follow up on Tylers question: Is President Trump on the naughty list?

Well, you know, Santa tries to stay out of political matters. Our president may have said or done a few naughty things, explained the diplomatic Santa, thankfully neglecting to mention that time Trump was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women.

Nineteen accusers. Google it, chimed in Santas helper, in a nod to the 19-plus women who have accused Trump of various degrees of sexual misconduct, including sexual-assault.

Santa was, well, a bit more child-friendly. Look, Jessica, I think we can all learn a lesson from whats going on in the news, he said.

Cue Jessica: We sure can! I learned that if you admit you did something wrong, you get in trouble. But if you deny it, they let you keep your job!

It didnt stop there. The children asked questions about NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem, the opioid crisis, a toy like the one Matt Lauer gave his coworker, and how the GOP tax cuts will make your health care disappear.

Kids say the darnedest things.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/snl-uses-children-to-criticize-president-trumps-sexual-misconduct-allegations

You FIRST! Conservatives fact-HAMMER Kamala Harriss latest lies and threats about GOP tax bill

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Kamala Harris is a disingenuous, pandering liar who wouldn’t know the truth if it fell out of the sky, landed on her face and started to wiggle.

Democrats are lying their backsides off about the GOP tax bill, but none of them are quite as obnoxious as Kamala:

Read more: https://twitchy.com/samj-3930/2017/12/04/you-first-conservatives-fact-hammer-kamala-harriss-latest-lies-and-threats-about-gop-tax-bill/

30 Kickass Affirmations For Going No Contact With An Abusive Narcissist

God & Man

No Contact from a narcissistic or otherwise abusive, toxic ex-partner can be a rewarding and challenging time. Survivors of emotional and/or physical abuse are not only paving a new path to freedom and rebirth, they may also be struggling with the effects of cognitive dissonance, fear, obligation and guilt (FOG), as well as the traumatic effects of the abuse on their minds, bodies and spirits. They may also encounter stalking or harassment from their abusive partners in their attempts to detach from them, especially if they ‘dared’ to leave those partners first.

Due to biochemical and trauma bonding with their abusers, survivors may also struggle to not contact their ex-partner or check up on them due to being conditioned to rely upon their abuser’s approval and validation during the abuse cycle as a survival mechanism.

Considering the fact that detoxing from an abusive relationship is very much like recovering from an addiction, ‘rehab’ from this type of toxicity needs to be addressed in a way that is both compassionate and empowering.

These positive affirmations can help you reconnect back to your sense of reality when you may be plagued by emotional flashbacks, triggers or cravings to reconnect with an abusive partner. I’ve also included brief explanations of each affirmation, in case any of them need further clarification in order to better appreciate the underlying meaning for each.

For those who may have implemented Low Contact due to co-parenting with an abuser, you can feel free to customize these various phrases to best suit your situation. You may also want to brainstorm your own affirmations that are best tailored to your unique needs and desires.

1. Every act of silence is a protection against psychological violence.

Every time you choose not to check up on, respond or reach out to an abusive ex-partner, you demonstrate that you value yourself, you value your time, your new life and your right not to be subjected to abuse or mistreatment. You protect yourself from traumatizing information or emotional violence that could further retraumatize you and ensnare you back into an abuse cycle. A cycle that can only expose you to more pain, heartache and a pervasive sense of hopelessness. You have escaped from the abuse – don’t let yourself reenter the cycle right back into a seemingly inescapable situation again. It can get more and more difficult to leave each time you do.

2. I have a right to be free from abuse. Every human being has that right and I do, too.

We have to remember that we are just like any other human being – including those who have never been in an abusive relationship or those who have never tolerated any form of abuse if they encountered it. They had the right not to be abused and we do too. This is not to blame or shame anyone who has stayed in an abusive relationship; there are many reasons why abuse survivors stay well beyond the first incident of abuse, including the trauma repetition cycle that arises due to subconscious wounding from childhood. This is simply a reminder that there are many people who are in healthy relationships – and as a human being, you are of the same.

3. No one can take away the power I have within me.

It may come as a surprise to you, but narcissistic abusers don’t actually hold any authentic inner power – they take away power from others because they have none within themselves. They have no sense of core identity – they need us more than we need them (even if it feels otherwise). They leech off of our light – we are life source, their narcissistic supply and they are the energetic vampires who live off our resources, our talents, and our empathy and compassion.

4. My will is stronger than an abuser’s attempts to bully me.

If you’re suffering from PTSD or Complex PTSD and you’re hearing your abuser’s voice and/or are being met with hoovering attempts to shame you back into the abuse cycle, you’re not alone. Many survivors of abuse are left reeling from the bullying behavior of their ex-partner. They cannot understand why their abusive ex-partner refuses to leave them alone, stalks or harasses them, or even goes so far as to flaunt their new source of supply to them as a way to provoke them. Remember: the abuser’s tactics cannot work on you as effectively if you are willing to prioritize your freedom over their attempts to bully you. The bullying may hurt and you will have to address it as you process the trauma, but where there is a strong will, there is an even stronger survivor who can meet any challenge along the way.

5. I am stronger than empty threats.

Abusive ex-partners may smear you, slander you or even threaten to release personal information about you, especially if you ‘discard’ them first due to narcissistic rage and injury. They want to regain power and control to put you through an even worse discard and essentially ‘win’ the break-up or save face after the ending of the relationship. Much of these are empty threats. It’s true that more dangerous narcissists may follow through with their threats, but the point is that you can choose how you respond to their threats. You have choices and options to protect yourself and document those threats in case you need to ever take legal action. You can go to law enforcement if you have to (and feel safe doing so). You can also seek support from a lawyer and/or counselor who can offer you insights into your particular situation. What you have to do is give into the threats of emotional blackmail and go back into an abusive relationship only to be terrorized in an even worse fashion than before. Who wants to be in a relationship where you are coerced back in?

6. I will defend and protect myself, no matter what.

Whether that means getting a restraining order, changing your number or blocking them from all social media platforms, do whatever you need to do to protect yourself from the narcissist’s manipulation and abuse on your journey to No Contact (or Low Contact if co-parenting). You don’t deserve to be retraumatized, in any shape, way or form. Seek support from your local domestic violence shelter (yes, emotional abuse is still violence), find a trauma-informed therapist, research local support groups, Meetups or group therapy focused on trauma recovery and support. Find any and all support you can to help build and reinforce the fortress of protection around you. The more quality support you have, the more confident you’ll be in moving forward without your toxic ex-partner.

7. I never give up; I keep going.

No matter how difficult it becomes, you never give up. Even if you make a mistake, all is not lost. How do you beat an addiction? You don’t let imperfection impede you from progressing on your path. You keep going. If you fell off the wagon and broke No Contact (whether by checking up on the narcissist or responding to them), don’t judge yourself too harshly. Self-judgment leads to the same sense of unworthiness that leads you back into looking for validation from toxic people. Instead, get back on the wagon and commit yourself to the journey even more fully. Practice mindfulness and radical acceptance of any urges you might have without acting upon them and participating in more self-sabotage. Know that every setback is simply bringing up the core wounds you need to heal in order to move forward with even more strength and determination than before. Understand the triggers that led to your decision to break No Contact to mitigate them in the future and grieve for the illusion the narcissistic abuser presented to you (the ‘false mask’ they presented). Know that this person never truly existed and that the promise of a relationship that was fabricated in the idealization phase led you to an investment that ultimately led to more loss than gain.

8. My life is worth more than empty promises.

When a narcissistic abuser is hoovering you, they are re-idealizing you and making the same promises they made in the beginning of the relationship. They promised to change, to love and care for you, to always support you and be there for you. Yet they invalidated, belittled and degraded you instead. These empty promises are just another way to control and coerce you back into the abuse cycle. Don’t feed into the illusion of what the relationship could have been. Instead, acknowledge it for what it was: moments of terror merged with false promises that were never carried out. You deserve more than empty promises: you deserve the real thing. The true promise of a new and healthier life awaits you: make a promise to yourself that you will pursue that new reality instead.

9. This is life or death and I choose life. Every time.

Many abuse survivors have a high level of resilience as well as a pain threshold that could rival a sumo wrestler or someone walking on hot coals without so much as a grimace. Even if you feel like you can ‘deal with’ further abuse even after the break-up, consider that this is truly a life or death situation. If you are escaping from a physical abuser, this affirmation hits home. Yet even if you’re coming out of an emotionally abusive relationship, it also holds weight. I know many might not think of emotional violence as a life or death situation, but considering the suicides that occur from bullying and domestic violence and the fact that domestic violence survivors are actually at a higher risk of committing suicide, it is truer than we think. Each time we sacrifice our peace of mind for one more ‘hit’ of the abuse rather than detoxing from the relationship, we also belittle, demean and abuse ourselves.  These incidents build up collectively to reenact the same sense of hopelessness we had during the abusive relationship and can pose severe harm to our psyche over time due to the cumulative impact of traumatic and retraumatizing experiences. By breaking No Contact, we convince ourselves that we are unworthy of something more than being with a toxic person. In the case of life or death, be sure to choose your new life without your abuser…each and every time.

10. Loneliness is infinitely better than any form of abuse.

After an abusive relationship, we may begin to romanticize our ex-partner in times of loneliness. We might even wonder if it was ‘worth’ leaving the abuse since we now feel so alone. We may have mixed emotions about our abuser as the “good times” come flooding back in the absence of our abuser.

The ‘good memories’ we had with our abuser never justify the abuse or make up for them. Loneliness can be a sign that you are working through and processing the trauma. It’s a sign that you may need to be more present with yourself and surround yourself with better support networks. It’s also a sign that you are in dire need of learning to enjoy your own company. Acknowledge and validate the loneliness, but don’t resist it by pursuing more toxic people or going back to the same toxic relationship. Survivors often need a period of self-isolation to reflect and recover from the trauma before they date or pursue new friendships. Take this time to heal and don’t rush the process: it’s very much needed in order for you to be in an optimal state of mental health. The more healed you are, the better the quality of your future relationships will be, whether with new friends and/or partners.

11. I deserve so much more than to be an emotional punching bag.

When you’re in an abusive relationship, you are not in a healthy, reciprocal relationship. You are an emotional punching bag for an immature and unstable person. They get to take all of their flaws, their insecurities, their internal garbage and spew it onto you. Throughout the relationship, you were trained by your abuser to ‘take it’ as a natural part of being in a relationship with them. No more. You deserve more than to be someone’s emotional punching bag. You deserve a mutually respectful relationship where love and compassion are the default.

12. I can communicate my feelings to people who deserve to hear my voice.

We don’t have to use our voice with people who are committed to misunderstanding, invalidating and mistreating us. We can reserve our energy and time for people who are willing to see our beautiful qualities and celebrate them. We can use our voice for people who truly want to help us, who appreciate our help and reciprocate our efforts. Instead of wasting your precious voice on people who will always be intent on silencing you, why not use it to help those who really need it, to comfort someone who is just as empathic and compassionate as you are, to receive insights from a trusted professional or to share your story and change the world? I guarantee you that helping people who are to evolve (and this includes yourself!) is a much better use of your voice than trying to convince a person without empathy to treat you well. It’s more likely to be effective, too!

13. My mental health is my number one priority.

Make sure you’re engaging in extreme self-care during the No Contact journey. This means checking with yourself every moment of the day to ensure that you are thinking healthy thoughts, taking advantage of the diverse healing modalities available to you, and addressing any symptoms of trauma that may be interfering with your ability to function in day-to-day life. If your mental health is suffering, all other aspects of your life will also feel the impact. So take care of yourself – and don’t be afraid to seek professional support if you need it. No one should have to go through this turmoil alone.

14. Staying sane is more important than being validated by an abuser.

Often when we have been devalued by an abuser, we become controlled by the need to be validated by them as ‘worthy.’ This need becomes especially amplified when we see that the abuser seems to have moved on with a new victim. This is because the abuser was the source of our pervasive sense of unworthiness throughout the abuse cycle and we now feel as if we need confirmation that we were not the problem. Unfortunately, the reality is that narcissistic abuse will inevitably leave us without any closure from the toxic ex-partner. Narcissists are masters of impression management and they rarely expose what is actually happening behind closed doors – so all you are likely to see is them idealizing their victims for the public, just like they did with you. That’s why you must prioritize your own sanity by accepting that while you may never get closure or confirmation of your worth from the narcissist, you can find ways of cultivating your own belief in your self-worth. This means stepping away from the narcissist’s public façade and investing in living your own best life.

15, 16, and 17. I trust my own reality. I know and trust what I experienced and felt. I validate myself.

These are a set of affirmations that can help you to resist the gaslighting attempts of your ex-partner or their harem.

This affirmation is here to remind you that despite the amount of people your abuser may have fooled, no one has the right to take away the reality of the abuse that you endured. You know what you experienced – you know how valid it was and the impact that it left upon you. It doesn’t matter how charming the narcissistic abuser is or who chooses to believe them; let their harem members learn at their own pace who the narcissist is. You’re not here to convince anyone. You’re here to validate yourself and resist the gaslighting attempts to distort your reality and that of the abuse. Don’t feel obligated to protect your abuser, minimize, rationalize or deny the abuse you endured. Honor and acknowledge your authentic emotions as well as depth of trauma you experienced.

18. I am worthy, I am beautiful (or handsome), I am brave, I am strong, I am fearless.

These are another set of positive affirmations that can help remind you of how worthy and courageous you truly are, with or without a partner. It conditions you into believing good things about yourself, especially if you’re used to hearing harsh words from your abuser. I recommend recording these into a tape recorder or voice recording application on your phone and listening to them on a daily basis just to get yourself used to hearing them. Repetition is essential to deprogramming the harmful messages your abuser instilled in you and reprogramming your mind for future success.

19. Each second, each minute, each hour, each day, each month, each year, I am getting stronger.

While you may have moments of powerlessness and hopelessness from time to time, rest assured that as you move forward with No Contact, you will gain more and more strength and resilience than you ever knew was possible. As more time passes and as more trauma is processed and addressed, the more space you’ll carve out to become the person you were meant to be. You’ll eventually reach a point in your healing journey where the strong attachment to the abusive person has ‘dulled’ in its emotional potency.

20. Leaving (or being left) was the best thing that ever happened to me. I made that happen.

It was your agency and your powerful light that got you through the worst moments of your life so never underestimate your ability to survive after the abuse. There are so many victims still in abusive relationships – including the new source of supply. You’ve awakened and you’ve taken back control over your life. This is a blessing that should not be taken for granted. Instead of focusing on the ways you still feel trapped, validate your grief while allowing yourself to celebrate the ways you’ve been freed.

21. I am a motherf*cking badass. I can survive anything. And I will thrive.

For those who need that extra punch (and dose of profanity along with their reality check), this affirmation can charge you with the determination and badassery needed to rise above the pain and channel it into something greater. Remember: for every crucifixion, there is an even greater possibility for resurrection. Transform all the grief and outrage you feel into your greater good: use it to fuel you to reach greater heights, achieve your goals and kick some serious butt in all facets of your life.

22. Do no harm; take no shit.
We don’t have to be vindictive or retaliate against our ex-partners in order to take care of ourselves, set boundaries or to lead victorious lives. At the same time, we don’t have to internalize anyone else’s garbage. You can empower yourself by establishing what your boundaries are and following through with them – each and every time. Whether it be with your abusive ex-partner or a new acquaintance, the healing journey is all about learning how to implement healthier boundaries and becoming more assertive in our authentic truth.

23. My success is their karma. Karma can answer him or her – I am too busy.

Live your life and try to minimize your focus on what the narcissist is doing, who he or she is seeing or what they are getting away with. Let the narcissist learn at his or her own pace what life is all about; you don’t need to educate a grown ass human being on how to be a decent person. You don’t need to give karma a ‘push’ either – let it unravel and unfold organically, if at all.

24. I am the life source. I am the Light. Without me, there is nothing to feed on.

These are emotional vampires we’re dealing with; it’s up to you to make sure that they don’t leave nourished on your supply while you’re left malnourished, drained and underfed after an interaction with them. Without their sources of supply, narcissists live in the darkness of their own emotional void. Don’t let your mind, your body and your soul be part of their feeding queue. Remove yourself completely from the equation altogether. If they don’t get to feast upon your emotions, your commitment or your investment, you get to nourish yourself with a healthy mind and life.

25. They don’t miss me as a person – they miss controlling and mistreating me.

Narcissistic ex-partners only try to play the ‘let’s be friends’ card because they miss what you provide for them. They miss putting you down. They don’t miss you or any other victim as a person because they truly cannot even wrap their heads around people as individual human beings. To them, supply is supply and they rarely ‘know’ their sources of supply beyond a shallow impression of them as objects to control and misuse for their own gain. Remember that when a narcissistic abuser tries to hoover you, saying they miss you, what they’re saying is that they miss the power and control they felt when they were able to provoke your emotions.

26. They don’t love or care about me – they care about fulfilling their own needs.

Normal partners would leave their ex-partners alone and move forward especially after they realized that their ex-partners were not the one for them. Narcissists don’t care what is best for their ex-partners; they don’t care if they’re potentially retraumatizing them by reaching out to them or flaunting new supply. They want to fulfill their own needs and it doesn’t matter who they hurt in the process. Give yourself this reality check each and every time you find yourself romanticizing the abuser: they do not love or care about you, at all. If they did, they would have made the effort to treat you better. Love is expressed in actions, not empty words.

27. Each time I don’t respond or set a boundary, I remind myself of what I am worth.

You are truly worthy, warrior, and you don’t need anybody else to validate your worth to you. You are precious, valuable and enough. Know it and own it; don’t let anyone take away your divine self-worth from you. Each time that you permit yourself to stick to No Contact, you communicate to yourself that you are worthy of a better life. Continue to tell yourself that you are whole just as you are and so very deserving of the best life possible. Treat yourself as if you were already whole and one day you will realize you’ve internalized this belief. Feeling and knowing that you are enough goes beyond just an affirmation; it can lead to success beyond your wildest dreams. You just have to be willing to be receptive to this belief. Gently invite it into your life and find ways to cultivate it every day until it is so fully rooted in your psyche that it has no choice other than to blossom.

28. I care about and love myself.

Be gentle with yourself during this time. Treat yourself as you would a dear friend or a wounded baby bird. How would you take care of yourself? What would you tell someone you love who is hurting? How would you treat someone who you wanted the best for? Treat yourself that exact way – you deserve all the care, compassion and validation that you tried to give to the narcissist.

29. I am my own best friend. I am my own best advocate.

You can have a nourishing support network, but at the end of the day, you are the only one who can advocate for yourself and your healing. You are the only person who can act on your own behalf and make the right choices for your recovery process. Nobody can do it for you. So advocate for yourself, each and every day: turn off the phone, the computer and any form of communication with the narcissistic abuser and walk away from temptation. You are worth so much more than this toxic person could ever give you.

30. I love myself. Truly and always, I love myself. And for the first time in a long time, I am putting myself first.

The journey to healing is about you. Not your ex-partner, your friends, your family, or society. You may have placed your mental health and basic needs on the back burner for a long time when you were in this abusive relationship. Now it’s finally time to prioritize you, your needs, your dreams, your desires and what you personally want to manifest in your life. Take this valuable time to really get to know yourself and honor your goals. You deserve to make all your dreams come to life. It’s time for you to shine – and no one is ever going to get to dim your light ever again.

Want more writing like this? Read the book

Read more: https://thoughtcatalog.com/shahida-arabi/2017/05/30-kickass-affirmations-for-going-no-contact-with-an-abusive-narcissist/

Huntingtons breakthrough may stop disease

Image copyright James Gallagher
Image caption Peter has Huntington’s disease and his siblings Sandy and Frank also have the gene

The defect that causes the neurodegenerative disease Huntington’s has been corrected in patients for the first time, the BBC has learned.

An experimental drug, injected into spinal fluid, safely lowered levels of toxic proteins in the brain.

The research team, at University College London, say there is now hope the deadly disease can be stopped.

Experts say it could be the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases for 50 years.

Huntington’s is one of the most devastating diseases.

Some patients described it as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and motor neurone disease rolled into one.

Peter Allen, 51, is in the early stages of Huntington’s and took part in the trial: “You end up in almost a vegetative state, it’s a horrible end.”

Huntington’s blights families. Peter has seen his mum Stephanie, uncle Keith and grandmother Olive die from it.

Tests show his sister Sandy and brother Frank will develop the disease.

The three siblings have eight children – all young adults, each of whom has a 50-50 chance of developing the disease.

Worse-and-worse

The unstoppable death of brain cells in Huntington’s leaves patients in permanent decline, affecting their movement, behaviour, memory and ability to think clearly.

Peter, from Essex, told me: “It’s so difficult to have that degenerative thing in you.

“You know the last day was better than the next one’s going to be.”

  • Huntington’s generally affects people in their prime – in their 30s and 40s
  • Patients die around 10 to 20 years after symptoms start
  • About 8,500 people in the UK have Huntington’s and a further 25,000 will develop it when they are older

Huntington’s is caused by an error in a section of DNA called the huntingtin gene.

Normally this contains the instructions for making a protein, called huntingtin, which is vital for brain development.

But a genetic error corrupts the protein and turns it into a killer of brain cells.

The treatment is designed to silence the gene.

On the trial, 46 patients had the drug injected into the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord.

The procedure was carried out at the Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London.

Doctors did not know what would happen. One fear was the injections could have caused fatal meningitis.

But the first in-human trial showed the drug was safe, well tolerated by patients and crucially reduced the levels of huntingtin in the brain.

Image caption Prof Sarah Tabrizi , from the UCL Institute of Neurology, led the trials.

Prof Sarah Tabrizi, the lead researcher and director of the Huntington’s Disease Centre at UCL, told the BBC: “I’ve been seeing patients in clinic for nearly 20 years, I’ve seen many of my patients over that time die.

“For the first time we have the potential, we have the hope, of a therapy that one day may slow or prevent Huntington’s disease.

“This is of groundbreaking importance for patients and families.”

Doctors are not calling this a cure. They still need vital long-term data to show whether lowering levels of huntingtin will change the course of the disease.

The animal research suggests it would. Some motor function even recovered in those experiments.

Image copyright James Gallagher
Image caption Sandy Sterne, Peter Allen, Hayley Allen, Frank Allen, Annie Allen and Dermot Sterne

Peter, Sandy and Frank – as well as their partners Annie, Dermot and Hayley – have always promised their children they will not need to worry about Huntington’s as there will be a treatment in time for them.

Peter told the BBC: “I’m the luckiest person in the world to be sitting here on the verge of having that.

“Hopefully that will be made available to everybody, to my brothers and sisters and fundamentally my children.”

He, along with the other trial participants, can continue taking the drug as part of the next wave of trials.

They will set out to show whether the disease can be slowed, and ultimately prevented, by treating Huntington’s disease carriers before they develop any symptoms.

Prof John Hardy, who was awarded the Breakthrough Prize for his work on Alzheimer’s, told the BBC: “I really think this is, potentially, the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative disease in the past 50 years.

“That sounds like hyperbole – in a year I might be embarrassed by saying that – but that’s how I feel at the moment.”

The UCL scientist, who was not involved in the research, says the same approach might be possible in other neurodegenerative diseases that feature the build-up of toxic proteins in the brain.

The protein synuclein is implicated in Parkinson’s while amyloid and tau seem to have a role in dementias.

Off the back of this research, trials are planned using gene-silencing to lower the levels of tau.

Prof Giovanna Mallucci, who discovered the first chemical to prevent the death of brain tissue in any neurodegenerative disease, said the trial was a “tremendous step forward” for patients and there was now “real room for optimism”.

But Prof Mallucci, who is the associate director of UK Dementia Research Institute at the University of Cambridge, cautioned it was still a big leap to expect gene-silencing to work in other neurodegenerative diseases.

She told the BBC: “The case for these is not as clear-cut as for Huntington’s disease, they are more complex and less well understood.

“But the principle that a gene, any gene affecting disease progression and susceptibility, can be safely modified in this way in humans is very exciting and builds momentum and confidence in pursuing these avenues for potential treatments.”

The full details of the trial will be presented to scientists and published next year.

The therapy was developed by Ionis Pharmaceuticals, which said the drug had “substantially exceeded” expectations, and the licence has now been sold to Roche.

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Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-42308341