Tracking Abortion Laws by State

‘The New York Times will be tracking abortion laws in each state before and after the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which could overturn Roe and is expected before the end of June. The states fall into five categories: those where abortion is likely to be prohibited; prohibited or restricted; uncertain; legal; or legal and expanded. More information on each state is below…’

via New York Times

What to Know About the Lone Star Tick That Can Make You Allergic to Meat

0612115ca50313a1f3f08d409d733a0c jpgI first heard of the scarcely-known condition known as mammalian meat allergy, which can cause deadly anaphylaxis, a few years ago, but it is of growing concern. It can result from a bite from a lone star tick, whose range is expanding to include the entire Eastern seaboard and large parts of the midwest, thanks to climate change. (See this CDC map.) Lone star ticks are big for a tick, crawl quickly, and their bites hurt, in contrast to the smaller tick that transmits Lyme disease. And their bites are on the rise. 

Some antigen introduced by the Lone star tick bite triggers the immune system to attack a compound called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or alpha-gal for short, which is found in red meat derived from any non-primate mammalian species as well as pork. Affected individuals sometimes but not consistently develop allergy symptoms 3-8 hrs after meat consumption, which can range from GI cramping and diarrhea, through classical allergic symptoms like itching and swelling, but potentially all the way up to life-threatening anaphylaxis with cardiovascular collapse, airway swelling and respiratory compromise. People often remember receiving a painful tick bite before the initial development of their allergy. 

The presence of an alpha-gal allergy can be established with a blood assay for the relevant antibodies. If you think you have alpha-gal allergy, consult a physician, obtain the appropriate testing, get a prescription for an epi-pen, and (probably) stop eating red meat. While mammalian meat is the most common trigger for alpha-gal allergic reactions, some people are so sensitive that they need to avoid dairy products and other animal products like gelatin. Some medications can be a problem as well. Alcohol and exercise appear to exacerbate the reaction. 

“On the bright side, you can eat all the chicken, turkey, and fish you want.”

— via Lifehacker

When to Watch the Tau Herculid Meteor Shower

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‘…[T]he tau Herculid shower will appear above the contiguous United States on the night of May 30 and early morning of May 31. It’s what Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteroid Environmental Office has called an “all or nothing event,” so hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Here’s what you need to know. If it happens, the tau Herculid show is expected to peak around 1 a.m. ET on Tuesday, May 31 (10 p.m. PT on May 30).

The meteors themselves are likely to be traveling more slowly and appear fainter than those of the Eta Aquarid shower earlier this month. However, the moon is new that night, so the sky will be dark for peak visibility. Because of the timing and position of the Earth, viewers in the U.S. will get the best show, from about halfway up in the sky to right overhead.

You always want to find the darkest place possible for meteor shower watching, but it may be especially important for the tau Herculids given the slow speed expected for individual particles.

New to the meteor shower scene:

The tau Herculid shower originates from a comet known as SW 3, which was first discovered in 1930 and is believed to have begun fragmenting in 1995. At each pass since, SW 3 has continued to break into pieces, and experts believe that the position of the debris relative to the comet, the position of the Earth, and the speed may create an impressive viewing experience….’

— via Lifehacker

Oncology’s Darwinian Dilemma

” “No cancer patient should die without trying immunotherapy” is a refrain in oncology clinics across the country right now. A treatment consisting of antibodies that awaken the immune system to attack cancer, immunotherapy carries far more promise than chemotherapy, and it has considerably fewer side effects. Since the FDA’s first approval a decade ago, it has revolutionized cancer care. Consider Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer. Twenty years ago, when the only option was chemotherapy, oncologists could tell their patient, with almost 100 percent certainty, that they would not be alive in two years. Today, miraculously, many patients with Stage IV lung cancer are alive five years after diagnosis — and some are even cured.

But the rub is that this immunotherapy revolution applies only to a narrow set of patients. Some benefit, but the majority do not. And patients who are cured constitute an even smaller minority. Why is this? How can immunotherapy cure a 65-year-old, newly retired man of Stage IV lung cancer, restoring the promise of his golden years with his family, but do nothing for the 55-year-old woman whose cancer robs her of decades of life? We do not know. A flurry of research is aimed at trying to answer this question. And what it is uncovering is the sheer variety of lung cancer and lung cancer patients. No two patients with lung cancer are the same. Their tumors have different genetic mutations. Their immune systems behave differently. We are even learning that their metabolisms can affect responses to treatment. And, astonishingly, emerging evidence suggests that the billions of bacteria that colonize their skin, lungs, and colons play a role in how they respond to cancer treatment….’

via LA Review of Books.

Witchcraft

“Janine Vega has the capacity to channel the intuition of children down to be states of death, Heil & the devil. If my child attends her classes, well sue.”

• excerpt from a parent’s letter to a local school

WITCHCRAFT

Wish you hadn’t said that, about

opening channels inside kids,

as though I were drilling down

into their ears. Wish you hadn’t

mistaken intuitive power for

the devil.

I saw a devil once, he was a

closed face, like a fist, a concrete

wall thrown up against understanding.

The Bodhisattvas say, Until

every one’s free, no one is free.

Heap up the wood for the next fire

and I’ll dance around it, like the

witches on May Day

Call it Beltana, call it Aks aya trt iya,

call it Mary’s Month or Buddha’s Birthday

any name I’ll be there with the fire

Roaring

pyramid-shaped

and watch its mirror image in my heart.

Fire burns and doesn’t burn.

Where’s my broomstick?

Trust me.

— Janine Pommy Vega (1992) via www.artsjournal.com.

Why You Need to Audit Your iPhone Auto-Renew App Subscriptions Right Now

Your app subscriptions on iPhone can now get more expensive without requiring you to opt in to the new pricing. Apple recently implemented a new rule that allows developers to quietly raise subscription prices, so long as they don’t exceed a certain amount. Since many app subscriptions aren’t that expensive, you might see more and more developers raising their costs without telling you first, and the differences could start to add up. To avoid that, you should audit your app subscriptions now, and cancel any you don’t think are worth more than you paid in the past.

— via Lifehacker

How Britain Wants to Rebuild the World

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‘Britain wants the West to raise its sights. Forget trying to get Moscow and Beijing to play by the rules of the game; they won’t. Forget the idea that the United Nations and the World Trade Organization are fit for purpose; they aren’t. And forget utopian beliefs about the inevitable progress of democracy; they’re mistaken.

Instead, Britain’s leaders believe that NATO should expand its mission, that the G7 should be turned into an economic weapon, and that the West, for so long embarrassed about its history and wealth, should start trusting itself again—and acting like it does.

The message is a striking one from a country that, perhaps more than any other, has over the past few years been paralyzed by its own division, strategic confusion, and myopic self-doubt. But the war in Ukraine appears to have given London an injection of energy and ambition (or, as its critics might prefer, hubris and self-delusion)…’

— Tom McTague via The Atlantic

Are Human Lives Inherently More Valuable?

‘Most humans take this idea of human exceptionalism for granted. And it makes sense that we do, since we benefit from the notion that we matter more than other animals. But this statement is still worth critically assessing. Can we really justify the idea that some lives carry more ethical weight than others in general, and that human lives carry more ethical weight than nonhuman lives in particular? And even if so, does it follow that we should prioritise ourselves as much as we currently do?…’

— Jeff Sebo, clinical associate professor of environmental studies, affiliated professor of bioethics, medical ethics, philosophy, and law, and director of the animal studies MA programme at New York University. He is also on the executive committee at the NYU Center for Environmental and Animal Protection and the advisory board for the Animals in Context series at NYU Press. He is co-author of Chimpanzee Rights (Routledge, 2018) and Food, Animals, and the Environment (Routledge, 2018), and the author of Saving Animals, Saving Ourselves (Oxford, 2022). Via Aeon

Opinion: It’s time to stop playing games with nuclear war

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‘After Russian President Vladimir Putin put his country’s nuclear forces on high alert on February 27, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “The prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility.” Recent statements by government officials and pundits, both in Russia and the United States, have made it clear that while nuclear war should be unthinkable, they are indeed thinking about it … a lot.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian countered with a threat of his own, saying, “Putin must also understand that the Atlantic alliance is a nuclear alliance.”

Last week, Putin issued the latest in a series of nuclear threats when he warned of a “lightning-fast” response if any nation intervened in Ukraine.

While the United States hasn’t put its forces on higher alert, the Biden administration has adopted a more confrontational stance toward Russia in recent weeks.

The Pentagon response appears to be an “extra urgency in developing a new generation of doomsday weapons that could maintain deterrence,” according to David Ignatius in The Washington Post. And a headline for a Wall Street Journal column argued, “The US Should Show It Can Win a Nuclear War.”

What are they thinking? If there’s one thing we know about such a conflict, it is as President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said in a joint statement in 1985, “(A) nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

The US and Russia currently have some 3,000 strategic nuclear warheads pointed at each other, according to the Federation of American Scientists. A 2002 study showed that if only 300 Russian warheads got through to cities in the United States, 77 million to 105 million people would be killed in the first afternoon.

In addition, the economic infrastructure of the United States would be gone. There would be no electric grid, internet, food distribution system, banking or public health system, or transportation network. In the months following, most of those who survived the initial attack would also die — from starvation, exposure, disease and radiation poisoning, the same study found. A US attack on Russia would produce the same destruction there, it said.

And the fires caused by these combined attacks would put millions of tons of soot into the upper atmosphere, blocking out the sun and dropping temperatures across the globe to levels not seen since the last ice age. Food production would crash, triggering a global famine that would destroy modern civilization, according to a study published in the journal Science Advances.

It is hard to understand by what definition anyone could win such a war.

Throughout most of human history, having more powerful weapons than potential adversaries did make people feel stronger and more secure. But the destructive power of nuclear weapons is so great, that increased strength no longer translates into increased security. We may be able to destroy our enemy, but it can destroy us, too. We have armed ourselves with suicide bombs.

The only way to guarantee nuclear weapons are never used

This capacity for mutually assured destruction was supposed to guarantee that no leader would ever use nuclear weapons. But as former US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara warned, we have not survived this far into the nuclear weapons era because of wise leaders, sound military doctrine or infallible technology. “We lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war,” McNamara said in the 2003 documentary, “The Fog of War.”

The war in Ukraine is a terrifying reminder of how much our survival now depends on continued good luck. For the first time in more than three decades, the major nuclear powers have brought the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe.

In March, 18 Nobel Peace laureates joined in a statement demanding that Russia and NATO pledge explicitly that they will not use nuclear weapons in the current conflict. More than 1 million people signed on in support of this statement. So far, neither Russia nor NATO has been willing to make such a pledge. They need to make this commitment now.

And all the nuclear armed states need to understand that nuclear weapons, far from being instruments of national security, are the greatest threat to security. The nine nuclear nations must no longer hold their own people and all of humanity hostage. If we are to survive, they must come together and negotiate a verifiable, enforceable timetable to eliminate their nuclear arsenals so they can all join the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Sooner or later, our luck will run out.

In the 1983 movie “WarGames,” the supercomputer Joshua tries to win a simulation of a nuclear war and comes to a startling conclusion: “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.” Joshua was right. Let’s stop playing games with human survival and get rid of these weapons before they get rid of us….’

— Michael Christ, executive director of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize; and Dr. Ira Helfand, the immediate past president of the organization, via CNN

Happy Beltane

 

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Happy Beltane. The Gaelic May Day festival is about halfway between the equinox and the solstice. Along with Samhain (Nov 1), Imbolc (feb 1) and Lughnasadh (Aug 1), it is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals and is widely observed as the “first of summer”. In the agricultural cycle, it was when the cattle were driven out to the summer pastures and rituals were performed to protect them (from both natural and supernatural harm, e.g. warding off or appeasing the fairies who had a predilection to steal dairy products) and promote growth, including bonfires whose ashes and smoke were construed to have protective powers. Sometimes the cattle would be driven around a bonfire or be made to leap over flames or embers. The people themselves would do likewise. Household hearth fires and candle flames would be doused and rekindled from the Beltane bonfire. Holy wells were visited, as the first water drawn on Beltane was thought to bring good fortune. Beltane morning dew was also thought to bring good luck, maintain youthfulness, health and fertility. Yellow flowers traditionally decorated doorways and windows. Nearby small trees or bushes — “May bushes” — were decorated with yellow flowers, ribbons and other ornaments, left up for the entire month of May. At times, there were entire community Bushes and communities would vie with one another for the most handsome trees. Sometimes residents of one neihgborhood would try to steal the May Bush of another. There is probably some connection to the more commonly-known European maypole. 

— via Wikipedia