6. Sexes and Power

Nov-09-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: The Hanna Rosin piece has occasioned much debate, and her core thesis, that women are displacing men in domestic and commercial power positions, is worth exploring. Other kinds of power, sexual power or lack thereof, are explored in two fascinating memoirs. And a one page scan of the Kama Sutra, 1944 edition, offers a hilarious spin on academic power and sexuality.

* Hanna Rosin: Are Men An Endangered Species? The Observer

In the late 1970s, he leased the [male/female sperm separation] method to clinics around the United States, calling it the first scientifically proved method for choosing the sex of a child.

Feminists of the era did not take kindly to Ericsson and his sperminator. “You have to be concerned about the future of all women,” said Roberta Steinbacher, a nun turned social psychologist, in a 1984 People profile of Ericsson. Given the “universal preference for sons”, she foresaw a dystopia of mass-produced boys that would lock women into second-class status while men continued to dominate positions of control and influence. “I think women have to ask themselves, ‘Where does this stop?’ “ she said. “A lot of us wouldn’t be here right now if these practices had been in effect years ago.”

Ericsson laughed when I read him these quotes from his old antagonist. Seldom has it been so easy to prove a dire prediction wrong. In the 1990s, when Ericsson looked into the numbers for the two dozen or so clinics that use his process, he discovered, to his surprise, that couples were requesting more girls than boys. The gap has persisted, even though Ericsson advertises the method as more effective for producing boys. In some clinics, he has said, the ratio of preference is now as high as two to one.

Polling data on Americans’ sex preference in offspring is sparse and does not show a clear preference for girls. But the picture from the doctor’s office unambiguously does. A newer method for sperm selection, called MicroSort, is currently awaiting clinical approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The girl requests for that method run at about 75%. The women who call Ericsson’s clinic these days come right out and say: “I want a girl”; they no longer beat around the bush. “These mothers look at their lives and think their daughters will have a bright future their mother and grandmother didn’t have, brighter than their sons, even,” says Ericsson, “so why wouldn’t you choose a girl?” He sighs and marks the passing of an era. “Did male dominance exist? Of course it existed. But it seems to be gone now. And the era of the first-born son is totally gone.”

* The World of a Professional Naked Girl Molly Cabapple VICE

…“Marilyn Monroe could turn it on and off,” Z told me. “You can’t.”

Turning it on and off was something I thought about when I was lying naked in a warehouse in the Bronx, surrounded by hard-boiled eggs. The man photographing me adamantly denied having an egg fetish. After the shoot was over, he’d offer them to me to bring home and eat. I was broke enough to say yes.

I was 20. I’d been working as a naked model for two years. Back in the early aughts, there was a flourishing semi-legit business for girls like me, based off Craigslist and OneModelPlace. Girls too short, fat or plain to be legit models, unwilling to give the “fuck you” to convention it takes to be in legit porn, would pose for amateur photographers. We called them GWCs, or Guys with Cameras. They paid 100 bucks an hour. 

We showed up in their hotel rooms. We posed on their beds. We told each other who was a good guy and who was a sociopath, knowing full well that if a GWC raped us, the police would do nil. A girl I knew was working as a bondage model. The photographer threatened to kill her. She wept. He let her go. When she went to the police, they shrugged her off. The photographer later murdered a model. 

Surrounded by eggs and soft boxes, I was doing my best to escape the trajectory of art school-retail-professional failure that, as a broke student at a bad school, I was marked out for. I wanted to make money fast, shove it into my business and then get out of here. I was young, which meant I had nothing to interest people with besides my looks. While those held out, I wanted to use them to get other, more versatile trading tokens.

* “I Was A Sex Surrogate” Salon

That job was one of the great honours of my life. I felt self-conscious being naked, at times, but it was a nakedness we shared, and since the focus was always placed back on them and their bodies, it didn’t last long. I wasn’t myself with them so much as I was “everywoman” – they could tell me things they’d shared with no other woman and not be shamed: I was their bridge between a hopeful new beginning sexually and the women in their lives with whom they’d be returning to renewed.

* The First Page of my 1944 Copy of the Kama Sutra via reddit

5. Followups

Oct-26-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: This should have been the headline in every newspaper in the world: Tepco (who ran Fukushima) admits they knew the nuclear power plant needed more protection, but they didn’t improve safety for fear it would lend support to anti-nuclear groups. That leads naturally into a zombie mask (it should lead to a firing squad, but.) The Guardian’s editorial notes the disaster that is Afghanistan, and we have two followups on drug issues, both legal and otherwise. The closing graph, which shows how anti-drug spending has had zero effect on drug use, is a keeper.

* Fukushima Disaster Could Have Been Avoided, Nuclear Plant Operator Admits The Guardian

The company at the centre of Japan’s worst nuclear crisis has acknowledged for the first time that it could have avoided the disaster that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi power plant last year.

In a reversal of its insistence that nothing could have protected the plant against the earthquake and tsunami that killed almost 20,000 people on 11 March, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said it had known safety improvements were needed before the disaster, but had failed to implement them.

….In a rare moment of introspection, an internal task force set up to reform the embattled utility said the firm feared that improvements in safety would highlight the risks to nuclear power plants and encourage the anti-nuclear lobby. “There was a worry that if the company were to implement a severe-accident response plan, it would spur anxiety throughout the country and in the communities near where nuclear plants are sited, and lend momentum to the anti-nuclear movement,” the report said.

* May I present to you my Zombie Walk makeup?

* Afghanistan: Beating A Retreat  Editorial from The Guardian

As western forces eye the emergency exit in Afghanistan, not a month goes by without someone in charge lowering expectations. Last week,Nato’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen told this newspaper that the retreat could come sooner than expected in 2014, as morale had been sapped by insider killings. A day later, Sir Richard Stagg, Britain’s ambassador in Kabul, said the west had done enough “hand-holding” and Kabul should be left to get on with running the country. They are not moving the goalposts. They are walking off with them.

Remember the old trope about conditions on the ground dictating the pace of Nato’s withdrawal? It comes as no surprise to learn that conditions are, on some counts, worsening. The much-vaunted drop in civilian casualties may just have been a result of record snowfalls. August this year became the second deadliest month on record. TheTaliban have not just weathered the US troop surge – the coalition forces, or Isaf as they are known, have been unable to dislodge them from the south and east. Next year’s spring offensive promises to be the deadliest yet, spurred on by the imminence of withdrawal and elections.

Targeted killings of government officials and politicians have tripled. Three elections are to come as the Taliban press home their advantage – provincial councils in 2013, the presidency in 2014 and parliament in 2015, so the opportunity for mayhem is unbounded.

* Speed And The City: Meet The Adderall-Addled Adults Of New York   Arwa Mahdawi The Guardian

New Yorkers, it’s fair to say, have something of a reputation. They’re brusque and they’re brash and they will trample you with their ambition. But it’s not something in the water that makes them like this; it’s something a lot of them are swallowing with expensive bottles of Smartwater. It’s Adderall.

Adderall is the brand name for a cocktail of amphetamines packaged up by big pharma for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This being a disorder that presents with extraordinary frequency in the US, particularly amongst the offspring of pushy parents. Type A-sorts intent on their kids getting straights As, even if it means putting them on Class As. Because, here’s the thing: Adderall is basically legalized speed. And here’s the other thing: Adderall works. Or rather, it makes you work. It makes you alert and focused and able to concentrate for hours on end.

Adderall works so well, in fact, that some doctors are advocating its use in schools, whether the kids have ADHD or not. This week the New York Times published an article about a Dr Michael Anderson, who prescribes Adderall to low-income schoolchildren struggling with their studies. Dr Anderson doesn’t even believe ADHD is a legitimate illness, but he does believe that taking Adderall can help disadvantaged children compete with their more privileged peers. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment,” he explains. “So we have to modify the kid.”

There has been some justifiable outrage about Dr Anderson’s standpoint. After all, doling out hardcore drugs to kids who aren’t even legally able to buy a beer is deeply weird. But then again, so is America’s attitude to drugs. This is a country that has spent 40 years and $1 trillion warring against drugs – or, rather, the “wrong” sort of drugs. This is a country that shuts its borders to anyone who has been convicted of taking a Class C drug. And yet this is a country that not only tolerates certain Class A-type drugs, it actively embraces them.

* Number Of Drug Addicts Vs Drug Control Spending

6. The Drug Problem

Oct-12-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Remember when the drug problem was those teenagers hanging out in the high school smoking area? These days we’re getting pills that don’t work, prescribed by doctors who have been mislead by companies who lie. Glaxosmithkline gets fined $3 billion dollars for lying about pills on which they made a $30 billion dollar profit. That will sure teach them a lesson… to keep lying, and keep the profits coming in.

* Attention Disorder or Not, Children Prescribed Pills to Help in School New York Times

CANTON, Ga. — When Dr. Michael Anderson hears about his low-income patients struggling in elementary school, he usually gives them a taste of some powerful medicine: Adderall. The pills boost focus and impulse control in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Although A.D.H.D is the diagnosis Dr. Anderson makes, he calls the disorder “made up” and “an excuse” to prescribe the pills to treat what he considers the children’s true ill — poor academic performance in inadequate schools.

“I don’t have a whole lot of choice,” said Dr. Anderson, a paediatrician for many poor families in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.” (<= Quote of the Week here)

* The Drugs Don’t Work: A Modern Medical Scandal   Ben Goldacre  The Guardian

Reboxetine is a drug I have prescribed. Other drugs had done nothing for my patient, so we wanted to try something new. I’d read the trial data before I wrote the prescription, and found only well-designed, fair tests, with overwhelmingly positive results. Reboxetine was better than a placebo, and as good as any other antidepressant in head-to-head comparisons. It’s approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (the MHRA), which governs all drugs in the UK. Millions of doses are prescribed every year, around the world. Reboxetine was clearly a safe and effective treatment. The patient and I discussed the evidence briefly, and agreed it was the right treatment to try next. I signed a prescription.

But we had both been misled. In October 2010, a group of researchers was finally able to bring together all the data that had ever been collected on reboxetine, both from trials that were published and from those that had never appeared in academic papers. When all this trial data was put together, it produced a shocking picture. Seven trials had been conducted comparing reboxetine against a placebo. Only one, conducted in 254 patients, had a neat, positive result, and that one was published in an academic journal, for doctors and researchers to read. But six more trials were conducted, in almost 10 times as many patients. All of them showed that reboxetine was no better than a dummy sugar pill. None of these trials was published. I had no idea they existed…..

 * Glaxosmithkline Fined $3Bn After Bribing Doctors The Guardian

The pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKline has been fined $3bn (£1.9bn) after admitting bribing doctors and encouraging the prescription of unsuitable antidepressants to children. Glaxo is also expected to admit failing to report safety problems with the diabetes drug Avandia in a district court in Boston on Thursday.

The company encouraged sales reps in the US to mis-sell three drugs to doctors and lavished hospitality and kickbacks on those who agreed to write extra prescriptions, including trips to resorts in Bermuda, Jamaica and California.

…Despite the large fine, $3bn is far less than the profits made from the drugs. Avandia has made $10.4bn in sales, Paxil took $11.6bn, and Wellbutrin sales were $5.9bn during the years covered by the settlement, according to IMS Health, a data group that consults for drug makers.

11. Halloween

Oct-12-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Halloween is now second only to Christmas as a money-maker. That’s why it’s early October, and already there’s four interesting Halloween links. My guess is more will be coming.

* Halloween Costume Built around Wheelchair

* Spooky Delicious PizzaBoing Boing

Mozzarella ghost and olive spider Hallowe’en pizza … Spooky, spooky drool.

* Masquerade Subnormality

8 Horror Myths Debunked (or Confirmed!)  Mental Floss

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