Tuesday, Feb 25, 2014, 2:03 pm · By Lindsay Beyerstein
One morning in 2012, a man snuck up behind Erika Anderson on a busy sidewalk in Crown Heights and shoved his hand between her legs. When Anderson went to the 77th Precinct station to report the attack, she was surprised to learn the crime rate in her new neighborhood. She wrote about the experience for the New York Times in a piece entitled, “On Being Both the Wolf and the Lamb.”
Anderson believes that her assault had something to do with her being a white woman in a predominantly Caribbean neighborhood. This is a dubious assumption to say the least. The latest NYPD crime statistics map puts the 77th Precinct in the same risk bracket as many precincts containing many much whiter neighborhoods including tony Brooklyn Heights and much of Manhattan below Central Park.
Anderson writes about Crown Heights as if its crime rate is inextricably tied to its racial makeup. “Contributing to the crime map was the first and only sign that I belonged,” she says, as if being victimized on the street is part and parcel of belonging in Crown Heights. Whereas, when someone gets groped in Brooklyn Heights, we don’t reflexively reach for racial explanations.
And then there’s the issue of race — like most gentrifiers, I am white, and the largely Caribbean neighborhood is not. I had been riding the sea foam of the latest wave of gentrification on a blow-up dolphin from Disney World.
Sunday, Jan 26, 2014, 11:39 am · By Lindsay Beyerstein
The good news is that, in Texas, women’s second-class citizenship lasts only as long as they live. The bad news is that pregnant women who refuse life-sustaining treatment by advance directive must still be kept alive against their wishes.
A judge ruled Friday that a Tarrant County hospital must disconnect the ventilator from Marlise Muňoz’s dead body by 5pm on Monday, a ruling the hospital may still appeal.
Monday, Jan 13, 2014, 12:19 pm · By Lindsay Beyerstein
Lisa Bonchek Adams blogs and Tweets about the nitty gritty details of life with Stage IV breast cancer, and Emma Keller thinks that’s incredibly tacky. In a piece last week for the Guardian, Keller implied that Adams’ Tweeting is worse than a “funeral selfie,” which is blueblood code for the tackiest thing one could possibly do.
A funeral selfie is social death, which as we all know, counts far more than physical death in the eyes of the people who matter. These are the people who refer to cancer as “the Big C” and dread colonoscopies because it’s awkward to let a golfing buddy put a camera up one’s derriere, even if he did go to Harvard Medical School.
Monday, Jan 6, 2014, 12:51 pm · By Lindsay Beyerstein
The family of 13-year-old Jahi McMath removed her dead body, still attached to a ventilator, from the hospital on Sunday. A court order gave the family the power to remove their daughter’s body as long as her mother accepted full responsibility of the consequences. The family claims that an undisclosed medical facility will take over the case, but so far, no facility has publicly said they are willing to do so. News broke last week that the Life and Hope Foundation, a “prolife” group founded by Terri Schiavo’s family, has been working behind the scene on the McMath court case.
McMath was declared brain dead on Dec 12. She lost a lot of blood after a complex tonsillectomy at a children’s hospital in Oakland, California, and then her heart stopped. The resulting oxygen deprivation completely destroyed her brain, including her brain stem, and she died. Six doctors have confirmed that she is brain dead. Whole-brain death is legal death in the state of California and it has been since 1982.
Monday, Dec 16, 2013, 6:00 pm · By Lindsay Beyerstein
Slate pundit Matthew Yglesias drew feminist ire last week for an off-color tweet promoting a post about Paul Ryan’s hypocrisy on the budget deal. “Here’s how Paul Ryan is like a girl doing oral and anal to keep her promise ring,” the business and liberal economics blogger tweeted.
Yglesias’ language was crass, but his underlying analogy is sound. The budget deal allows Ryan to preserve his fiscal purity by not technically raising taxes. Instead, taxpayers will simply pay more in user fees.
Tuesday, Dec 3, 2013, 8:34 pm · By Lindsay Beyerstein
The U.S. press is buzzing about an Italian woman who was forced to undergo a Cesarean section while she was hospitalized for a mental breakdown in the United Kingdom. The child was placed in foster care after the local social service agency determined that she was too sick to return to Italy with her baby. In February, a judge decided that the child should be put up for adoption.
This sad case raises a number of ethical and legal issues, and shoddy journalism has muddied all of them. Last week, The Telegraph broke the news under the sensational headline, 'Operate on this mother so that we can take her baby." The headline was set off with quotation marks, giving the misleading impression that anyone (besides the editors of the Telegraph) said anything of the kind.
The Telegraph reporter, Christopher Booker, claimed that the woman was hospitalized after she suffered "something of a panic attack" on a business trip to London, which makes her affliction sound like the psychiatric equivalent of the sniffles. In fact, the woman was committed under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act, a process reserved for very sick patients. Two doctors would have had to certify that her mental illness was so severe that she had to be hospitalized to protect herself or others. The woman’s name is being withheld to protect her privacy. In fact, very few details been made public about the woman’s medical history or the evidence presented to the courts regarding her fitness to parent.
Thursday, Nov 28, 2013, 3:03 pm · By Lindsay Beyerstein
This week, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear a pair of cases challenging large employers’ obligation to provide comprehensive health insurance for their employees, including birth control. The owners of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp insist that Obamacare violates their companies’ religious freedom by requiring them to pay part of the cost of minimally acceptable insurance for their workers. Why? Because, according to Hobby Lobby’s lawyers, the emergency contraceptive known as Plan B causes abortions, which a devout corporation (?!) like Hobby Lobby shouldn’t have to pay for.
Hobby Lobby’s owners aren’t arguing that birth control violates their faith per se, they’re just nursing a crackpot theory that certain forms of birth control cause abortions.
We’re all entitled to our own religious beliefs, but we’re not entitled to our own set of facts. Someone should have taken Hobby Lobby aside a long time ago and said, “Relax, these forms of birth control don’t cause abortions. Go back to selling silk flowers and glue guns, secure in the knowledge that you are not underwriting any form of abortion.” Don’t they have lower courts for that?
Wednesday, Nov 20, 2013, 7:44 pm · By Lindsay Beyerstein
By now, you may have heard that women who took birth control pills for at least three years were twice as likely to develop glaucoma later in life. The germ of this story was a press release by the American Academy of Ophthalmology touting a paper that was presented this week at the Academy’s annual meeting in New Orleans. The study made headlines on ABC News, TIME, CNN and other major outlets. Mainstream outlets ran with headlines like, “Long-Term Pill Use May Double Glaucoma Risk.” The headlines got more sensational as the news diffused outwards to less prestigious outlets. The SheKnows blog ran with the headline, “Could Birth Control Make You Go Blind?”
As Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux explains in The American Prospect, the significance of this study has been wildly overblown. No single study ever settles a scientific question. You always have to look at how a study fits with the evidence as a whole. So far, other studies have not found a a strong link between birth control pills and glaucoma.
Remember that a press release represents the puffery of the salesperson, even when the source is a respected medical society. The AAO wants to make this research sound as newsworthy as possible, so the press release stresses the doubling of the risk, and the burden of glaucoma (60 million sufferers worldwide, a major cause of blindness). It’s the reporter’s responsibility to ask the tough questions that might make the study seem less newsworthy. Unfortunately, in this case, the media set aside the tough questions and played along.
Friday, Nov 8, 2013, 6:14 pm · By Lindsay Beyerstein
Last week, Brown students shouted down outgoing Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to oppose the racist stop-and-frisk policing that defined Kelly’s term in office. Since the university would not cancel Kelly’s talk, despite a student petition urging the school to disinvite him, the activists “decided to cancel it for them," according to organizer Jenny Li.
I was disappointed to hear about the shout-down, not because I have any sympathy for Kelly and his racist policing, but because I was dismayed to see such a dumb tactic used in an attempt to further the worthy cause of discrediting stop-and-frisk. College activists are perennially tempted to shout down campus speakers, and I’ve never seen it work.
Friday, Nov 1, 2013, 4:03 pm · By Lindsay Beyerstein
This morning, some Texas women with scheduled, legal abortions were told that their procedures could not take place because the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at hospitals with in 30 miles of their clinics. As many as 13 of 36 abortion clinics in Texas are unable to comply with the new law, and will have to stop performing abortions immediately. Researchers at the Texas Policy Evaluation Project testified that the hospital privileges provision would block over 20,000 women from accessing abortion care.