Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 20th, 2012

Pills beyond contraception

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Interesting column by Malcolm Potts in the LA Times:

Presidents, politicians and physicians are fighting over who should pay for contraception, and women are getting hurt in the process.

Roman Catholic bishops reject even President Obama’s recent compromise not requiring religiously affiliated hospitals and universities to pay for contraception, saying it does not meet their standard of “religious liberty and moral convictions.” Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards calls the row over insurance payments part of “a misleading and outrageous assault onwomen’s health.”

But before the acrimony grows any greater, let’s pause for a moment and consider one of the medical advances at the heart of this controversy — and how it might yet be a game-changer.

The hormonal formulation we call the pill is much more than a contraceptive. Our ancient ancestors didn’t ovulate as many times over their lifetimes as today’s women. They had later puberty, and once they started having children, they breast-fedwithout ovulating for long intervals. Evidence suggests they had as few as 30 menstrual cycles in a lifetime, compared with 300 or more today. This is significant because studies show that the greater the number of menstrual cycles a woman has, the greater the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.

Women taking birth control pills are in a different situation. Because the pill mimics the hormone profile of pregnant and lactating women, those who take oral contraceptives tend to be hormonally more like their forebears, even though they tend to reach puberty earlier, have fewer pregnancies and lactate less often and for shorter periods.

Several years ago, British medical scientists published a 39-year follow-up of 23,000 women who started using the pill in the 1960s and 23,000 who did not. Among pill users, they found a significant reduction in ovarian, uterine and bowel cancers, and even melanomas. Another study of 17,000 women found that use of the pill was associated with a small but measurable increase in life expectancy.

Last December, at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Vatican City, two Australian scientists, Kara Britt and Roger Short, gave a keynote address titled “The Plight of Nuns.” They recommended that nuns should take the pill for a couple of years during their lifetimes to reduce the increased risk of cancer associated with not having children. It was not a tongue-in-cheek criticism of the Vatican but good medical advice based on impeccable statistics and sound biological insights. It was also theologically sound.

The pill was first marketed in the 1950s not as a contraceptive but to regularize menstruation, and Pope Pius XII approved this use of the drug. More recently, Pope Benedict XVI endorsed the non-contraceptive benefits of condoms in some circumstances to prevent HIV infection among gay men.

The non-contraceptive benefits of using the pill are so powerful that the church should consider lifting restrictions on doctors in Catholic institutions and allow them to prescribe low-dose estrogen and progesterone tablets for women’s health benefits. . .

Continue reading. I don’t think the bishops will change their position because (I believe) it is rooted in strong anti-women sentiments and has little to do with the science of the issue.

UPDATE: Some of the more hysterical columnists (Glenn Beck, for example) write as though birth control would be mandatory, that women would not be free to refuse it but would be forced to take birth control pills whether they wanted to or not. A correction: the position Obama (and the Democrats in general) support is that each woman should be free to choose to take the pill or not take it. We’re for offering the freedom; it’s the bishops who don’t want people free to choose or not. The bishops are opposed to freedom, purely and simply. But I think people should be free to choose for themselves—to me, that’s what freedom is all about. To others (such as Beck) freedom is about allowing the bishops to shut down choices and not allow people to choose for themselves: they view that as “freedom.”

Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2012 at 11:26 am

Interesting food/recipe site:

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The Sister send me a link to, which seems to be a highly stylized recipe search engine. It has some of the usual features: you indicate ingredients you have, the direction you want the recipe to go, and it offers up alternatives. The interface is the thing, and you pretty much have to sign up (it’s free) to see it in action. Very nice photos, and the search turned up some intriguing dishes easily and quickly. Worth a look.


Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2012 at 8:40 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Thread on baggage content protection

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A guy just had his straight razor destroyed. It was in packed luggage, and in the course of the trip apparently some baggage inspector took an intense dislike to the item. The discussion thread may be of interest because it discusses various strategies to make sure special baggage contents (e.g., expensive camera gear) are kept safe. The tactic of including a firearm is discussed, with a baggage handler contributing to the discussion. Somewhere in the thread is a link to this post on packing photography gear.

And while we’re talking about straight razors, I have to say I admire these Charlie Lewis straight razors, particularly those without scales, that have the long handle. The one shown below is still available:

And that razor is no accident. Here’s another design:

I think I like this one even more.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2012 at 8:32 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Bill Don Moyers on the contraceptives resolution

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Very good column by Bill Don Moyers on how contraceptive coverage has been resolved without making churches that oppose the use of contraceptives pay for the coverage. The core:

. . . The Catholic bishops had cast the president’s intended policy as an infringement on their religious freedom; they hold birth control to be a mortal sin, and were incensed that the government might coerce them to treat it otherwise. The president in effect said: No quarrel there; no one’s going to force you to violate your doctrine. But Catholics are also Americans, and if an individual Catholic worker wants coverage, she should have access to it — just like any other American citizen. Under the new plan, she will. She can go directly to the insurer, and the religious institution is off the hook.

When the president announced his new plan, the bishops were caught flat-footed. It was so … so reasonable. In fact, leaders of several large, Catholic organizations have now said yes to the idea. But the bishops have since regrouped, and are now opposing any mandate to provide contraceptives even if their institutions are not required to pay for them. And for their own reasons, Republican leaders in Congress have weighed in on the bishops’ side. They’re demanding, and will get, a vote in the Senate. . .

In other words, the Bishops have revealed that they simply don’t want contraceptives to be available, period. They see that as their religious freedom: to prevent others, regardless of their own beliefs, from using contraceptives. That is not religious freedom. That is religious tyranny. That is imposing your own requirements on others.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2012 at 8:16 am

Posted in Healthcare, Religion

Web of ocean life soon to unravel

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Our lack of action on global warming will soon become quite visible as life vanishes from the oceans. Janet Raloff reports in Science News:

If carbon dioxide emissions don’t begin to decline soon, the complex fabric of marine ecosystems will begin fraying — and eventually unravel completely, two new studies conclude.

The diversity of ocean species thins and any survivors’ health declines as the pH of ocean water falls in response to rising carbon dioxide levels, scientists from England and Florida reported February 18 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. What’s more, affected species aren’t restricted to those with shells and calcified support structures — features particularly vulnerable to erosion by corrosive seawater.

Jason Hall-Spencer of the University of Plymouth, England, and his colleagues have been collecting data from marine sites off Italy, Baja California and Papua New Guinea, where high concentrations of carbon dioxide percolate out of the seabed from volcanic activity below. Directly above these CO2 seeps, pH plummets to at least 7.8, a value that is expected to occur widely by 2100 and which is substantially lower than the normal level for the area, 8.1. These sites offer a preview of what may happen to seafloor ecosystems as CO2 levels continue to rise, causing ocean water pH to drop.

Compared with nearby normal-pH sites, species richness in low-pH zones was diminished by 30 percent, Hall-Spencer reported. “Coral and some algae are gone. And the sea urchins are gone,” he said. Fish may be present, but unlike in areas with a normal pH, they won’t deposit their eggs there.

Although seagrasses appear to survive just fine in the low-pH seawater, close inspection showed that . . .

Continue reading. It is truly strange how so many are not merely unconcerned but are actively working to ensure continued release of CO2 and other greenhouse gases such as methane.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2012 at 8:04 am

Beer lovers, take note

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Very interesting post by James Fallows (a beer lover) on beer and business.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2012 at 7:59 am

Posted in Business, Drinks

Kid carrier backpack

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This kid carrier comes with a solid recommendation from Cool Tools. Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2012 at 7:57 am

Posted in Daily life

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