Barack and Hillary win again in 2013

Don’t believe the pundits.

For the sixth consecutive year, Barack Obama ranks as the Most Admired Man among Americans, and Hillary Clinton is again the Most Admired Woman. The Gallup Poll organization reports that for 2103 both won by comfortable margins.

“Sixteen percent named Obama, compared with 4% each for former


President George W. Bush and Pope Francis; Clinton (15%) finished ahead of television personality Oprah Winfrey (6%), first lady Michelle Obama (5%), and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (5%).

“Each year, Gallup asks Americans to name, in an open-ended format, the man and woman living anywhere in the world they admire most. This year’s poll was conducted Dec. 5-8. Obama has won Gallup’s Most Admired Man designation each year since 2008, the year he was elected president. However, similar to his declining job approval rating this year, the percentage naming him fell to 16% from 30% in 2012. The remainder of the top 10 Most Admired men includes three former presidents (Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter) and two religious leaders (the Rev. Billy Graham and Pope Francis). The sitting pope has finished in the top 10 each year since 1977. In addition to Pope Francis, actor, director, and political activist Clint Eastwood and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz finished in the top 10 for the first time. This year’s poll was conducted at the time of South African human rights leader Nelson Mandela’s death. The widespread news coverage of his death helped make him top of mind for many Americans, and 7% named him as Most Admired Man. However, because the question wording specifically asks for the name of a living man or woman, Gallup does not rank deceased figures who are mentioned. Hillary Clinton has been named Most Admired Woman a total of 18 times, more than any other woman in Gallup’s history, including each of the last 12 years. Clinton first won the distinction in 1993, when she was first lady, and has continued to rank at or near the top of the list while serving in a variety of public roles including as U.S. senator and as secretary of state. The 15% naming her this year is down from 21% last year and is the lowest figure for her since 2006. Continue reading “Barack and Hillary win again in 2013”

Guns and mental illness

imgresLawmakers who refuse to support effective gun safety measures often prefer to talk about better screening of the mentally ill to identify deranged would-be perpetrators before they can carry out mass shootings. As a New York Times Op Ed entry today reads:

“This is, of course, a political dodge. Even in the handful of states where law enforcement agencies are trying to confiscate the guns of unstable individuals, state and federal laws too often enable the mentally ill to reclaim their guns as a right under the Second Amendment.

“In Connecticut, which has gun confiscation laws that were tightened after the Newtown school massacre, an angry man who was off his medications for paranoid schizophrenia threatened to shoot his mother and the police if they confiscated his weapons. The police managed to seize his 18 rifles and shotguns and seven high-capacity magazines. But the man expects to reclaim his arsenal in April, asserting he is back on his medications and has had no further police incidents (although he told Michael Luo and Mike McIntire of The Times that he has experienced paranormal activities).

“Similar cases from other states and cities show that seriously troubled individuals are able to reclaim their weapons, despite serious concerns about the threat to public safety. “There is no common-sense middle ground to protect the public,” a law enforcement adviser in Ohio warned.

“Most mentally ill persons are not violent, though The Times’s analysis of 180 confiscation cases in Connecticut (dealing with people posing an imminent risk of injury to themselves or others) found that close to 40 percent of those cases involved people with serious mental illness. The common denominator in gun violence, however, is not deranged individuals; it is the easy access to assault rifles and other high-powered weapons afforded all Americans. A few determined states are attempting to deal with this issue, but real solutions must involve federal legislation and national standards, which are nowhere in sight.”

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The Boy Scouts’ New Year

The Boy Scouts of America will accept openly gay youths starting on New Year’s Day, a historic change that has prompted the BSA to ponder a host of potential complications — ranging from policies on tentmates and showers to whether Scouts can march in gay pride paradesimages-3

Yet despite their be-prepared approach, BSA leaders are rooting for the change to be a non-event, comparable to another New Year’s Day in 2000 when widespread fears of digital-clock chaos to start the new millennium proved unfounded, as Huffington Post reports:

“My hope is there will be the same effect this Jan. 1 as the Y2K scare,” said Brad Haddock, a BSA national executive board member who chairs the policy implementation committee. “It’s business as usual, nothing happens and we move forward.”

“Some churches are dropping their sponsorship of Scout units because of the new policy and some families are switching to a new conservative alternative called Trail Life USA. But massive defections haven’t materialized and most major sponsors, including the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches, are maintaining ties.

“There hasn’t been a whole lot of fallout,” said Haddock, a lawyer from Wichita, Kan. “If a church said they wouldn’t work with us, we’d have a church right down the street say, ‘We’ll take the troop.'” Continue reading “The Boy Scouts’ New Year”

Linking tenure to student success

An administrative law judge in Florida this week upheld new rules by the State Department of Education that require significantly more of state college faculty members — particularly in the areas of student success — for them to earn continuing contracts (the equivalent of tenure).

As InsiderHigher Ed reports, “The United Faculty of Florida, the faculty union in the state, had challenged the new rules as beyond the scope of the department’s powers. But the judge rejected that view and said that the board was within its rights. The rules affect faculty members at the state college system, which was formerly a community college system but no longer uses that label as many of the former community colleges have introduced some four-year programs. The system — with 28 colleges, nearly 25,000 faculty members and 879,000 students — is among the largest in the United States.

“Colleges and universities nationally have been under increasing pressure to demonstrate their success (as institutions) in student learning. And there has been a strong push in some K-12 districts to evaluate teachers in part based on student learning gains as measured by tests. But the movement is unpopular with educators, who say that such systems tend to punish instructors who — however talented and committed they are — teach poorly prepared or disadvantaged students.

The rules that have now been approved state that each district president, after consulting with faculty, should develop a system to evaluate faculty members, using “appropriate criteria to measure student success.” Those criteria “may include”:

  • Demonstrated or documented learning gains.
  • Course completion rates.
  • Graduation and/or certification rates.
  • Continued success in subsequent and additional courses or educational pursuits.
  • Job placements in the appropriate field.

“The criteria would be used not only for awarding new continuing contracts, but also for the equivalent of post-tenure reviews, which are also mandated by the new rules. The faculty challenge to the new rules said that the state board lacked the authority to make such specific changes in the way continuing contracts are awarded.”

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Inside Higher Ed

Drugs and religion

The notion that hallucinogenic drugs played a significant part in the development of religion has been extensively discussed, particularly since the middle of the twentieth century.

As reported in today’s The Atlantic, “Various ideas of this type have been collected into what has become known as the entheogen theory. The word entheogen is a neologism coined


in 1979 by a group of ethnobotanists (those that study the relationship between people and plants). The literal meaning of entheogen is “that which causes God to be within an individual” and might be considered as a more accurate and academic term for popular terms such as hallucinogen or psychedelic drug. By the term entheogen we understand the use of psychoactive substances for religious or spiritual reasons rather than for purely recreational purposes.

“Perhaps one of the first things to consider is whether there is any direct evidence for the entheogenic theory of religion which derives from contemporary science. One famous example that has been widely discussed is the Marsh Chapel experiment. This experiment was run by the Harvard Psilocybin Project in the early 1960s, a research project spearheaded by Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert. Leary had traveled to Mexico in 1960, where he had been introduced to the effects of hallucinogenic psilocybin-containing mushrooms and was anxious to explore the implications of the drug for psychological research.

“On Good Friday 1962, two groups of students received either psilocybin or niacin (a nonhallucinogenic “control” substance) on a double-blind basis prior to the service in Boston University’s Marsh Chapel. Following the service nearly the entire group receiving psilocybin reported having had a profound religious experience, compared to just a few in the control group. This result was therefore judged to have supported the entheogenic potential of hallucinogenic drug use. Interestingly, the experiment has subsequently been repeated under somewhat different and arguably better controlled circumstances and the results were substantially the same. Continue reading “Drugs and religion”

Catherine Lord: Velvetpark award

“The Avant-Garde” – Catherine Lord, Artist / Art Historian


Recently announced: Velvetpark’s Top 25 Queer Women of 2013. According to Velvetpark’s description of the awards: “As with previous years, this is not a hierarchical list. These 25 represent a collection of women viewed on equal footing, each contributing to LGBTIQ visibility in the fields of the arts, activism, academia, and/or social equality. They are female-identified or non-gender binary persons who have created a critical work or whose body of work warranted attention this year.

“This year, Catherine Lord co-authored with Richard Meyer the most comprehensive queer art history book to date, Art and Queer Culture(Phaidon Press). Lord and Meyer have culled through every genre and movement from the late 19th C. to the present, from the neighborhoods of Holbron to Harlem, covering artists from Oscar Wilde to Jasper Johns, from Mickalene Thomas to Wu Tsang. They elucidate how queer lifestyle was/is not only an inspiration but the subject for the artists’ works. This history, as Lord and Meyer, conclude is not an evolution from outsider to assimilation into mainstream society, but a history of the liminal. The book finds queer art and artists existing between the cracks of high and low art, public and private life, between the deviant and the normal. This is work will be one for the college classroom and your bookshelf.
Continue reading “Catherine Lord: Velvetpark award”

Transgender panics

When New York City moved in 2006 to make it easier for transgender people to revise the gender on their birth certificates, the proposal was widely expected to pass.

But the anti-discrimination measure failed. As a study from the University of Chicago reveals, “In part, this is because of public opposition to removing the requirement that individuals have genital surgery before claiming a different gender.

“The backlash was intense,” said Kristen Schilt, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Chicago. “There was such a fervor over taking the surgery requirement out, a sense of, ‘Absolutely not. There’s going to be chaos.’”

“Schilt calls this public reaction “gender panic,” a concept that she and co-author Laurel Westbrook explore in their study, “Doing Gender, Determining Gender,” published in the October issue of the journal Gender and Society. The authors examined mainstream news coverage of transgender-related news and policy issues, and found trends that reflect entrenched views about transgender people and broader gender issues. Like the terms “moral panic” and “sex panic,” Schilt describes gender panic as a deep, cultural fear, set off in this case when the “naturalness” of a male-female gender binary is challenged. When such challenges affect public policy, Schilt said, “that’s when the panic starts to get really hot.”

“Since the 1960s, American society has tended to uphold values of autonomy and equality, including gender self-identity, Schilt said. Transgender people typically are accepted in “non-sexual” spaces like the workplace. But acceptance hits a wall when it comes to places reserved for women. In the case of New York birth certificates, the “panic” centered on how such a policy could lead to granting access to women’s bathrooms and locker rooms for individuals who identify as women but have male anatomies. Continue reading “Transgender panics”

On women Navy SEALS

Last month, three women became the first of their sex to graduate from the Marine Corps’ famously grueling Advanced Infantry Training Course.The Marine Corps was asking a simple question by running small groups through these courses in experimental test batches, two to five women at a


time: Can the female body withstand the rigors of infantry training? The answer, these women showed, is that it can, as discussed i a recent article in The Atlantic

“So far much of the debate surrounding integration has focused on the physical capabilities of women, as if this were the singular issue. Admittedly the strain of infantry training, or even combat, is relatively easier for a 6-foot tall, 180-pound man, but there are women fit enough to survive these punishing courses. As for combat, well, if we’ve proved anything over the last decade of war, it’s that women can sustain its rigors.

So if the barrier to integrating women into the infantry isn’t a physical one then what is it?

“It’s cultural. And that’s why the infantry may not be the best place to start in military gender integration. Instead, as counterintuitive as it might sound, the military should begin with its Special Operations Forces: elite units such as the Green Berets and SEALs. Although not the obvious move, starting here would likely make for a smoother transition over all.

Guns: one year after Sandy Hook

images-3How quickly a year passes.

One year ago,  Americans were jolted by yet another episode of gun-crazed carnage, at yet another school, this one in Newtown, Conn. Across the nation, grieving onlookers vowed that this would be the time that the United States passed comprehensive gun control laws. But as In These Times reports, “since then, another 194 children have been killed by guns, according to a study by Mother Jones—ten times more than were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. In September the Washington Navy Yard massacre resulted in another dozen murders, and just today, as if on cue, another horrific school murder by a shotgun-wielding youngster occurred in Centennial, Colo.

“Despite the frightening frequency of such episodes in our gun-weary nation, the outcry has not led to any successful legislative action at the federal level. While President Barack Obama has issued a well-meaning but ineffective call for a “common sense” balance between gun control and gun rights, federal legislation is going nowhere in a highly partisan, paralyzed, do-nothing Congress. In April, a majority of 54 senators voted in favor of a bill to broaden background checks to all online and gun show sales, but in the filibuster-gone-wild Senate, where 60 out of 100 votes are needed to end discussion and allow a vote, that wasn’t enough.

“At the state level though, there have been a few signs of legislative spark. In, Colorado, after being traumatized by previous mass shootings, most famously at a school in Columbine and a movie theater in Aurora, Democrats in Colorado passed some of the nation’s toughest gun control legislation this year. Shortly afterward, though, gun rights supporters responded by recalling the two state senators who had championed the bills. Continue reading “Guns: one year after Sandy Hook”

Rise of the administrative class

In the two decades from 1985 to 2005, student enrollment in the US rose by 56 per cent, faculty numbers increased by 50 per cent, imagesdegree-granting institutions expanded by 50 per cent, degrees granted grew by 47 per cent, administrators rocketed by 85 per cent and their attendant staff by a whopping 240 per cent, reports the Times Education Supplement.

“The obvious question is – why? Have students become so needy that a university needs not only a “dean of student life” but several associate deans, assistant deans and a plethora of deanlets – Ginsberg’s coinage of the term “deanlet” is wonderfully offensive – to cater to their whims and shield them from the temptations of booze, drugs and illicit sex? Have we become so trapped by information technology that we need an IT officer apiece in order to function?

“A common explanation of the growth in administrative numbers, both in the US and the UK, is that government demands for information and an increasingly complicated regulatory environment make it impossible to manage with fewer administrative staff than institutions actually employ. Ginsberg doesn’t deny that some growth in numbers could be accounted for in this way, but he argues, I think rightly, that most cannot.

“Because the US has a genuinely private and a genuinely public higher education sphere, it’s possible to compare administrative growth across the sectors; and because public universities and colleges are vastly more tightly regulated than private universities and colleges, it ought to be the case that they have added far more administrators. In the 30 years from 1975 to 2005, the reverse was true. Administrative and managerial staff grew by 66 per cent in the state sector against 135 per cent in the private sector. Continue reading “Rise of the administrative class”

Atheists at Christmas

Christmas is a special time for atheists.

But as Mother Jones reports, “Americans don’t like atheists much. It’s something we get reminded of every December, as Fox News commentators decry a secularist “war on Christmas.” But the distrust spans the seasons: Barely half of Americans say they would vote for an atheist for president; 48 percent, meanwhile, would disapprove of their child


marrying one. Still, atheist America is growing: One-fifth of the public has now joined the rank of the so-called “nones,” the religiously unaffiliated.

“So how do you build an atheist? Or a whole country of them like the Czech Republic, where 78 percent of people describe themselves as either not religious or an outright “convinced” unbeliever?

“In the last decade, a growing body of psychology research has begun to home in on an answer to that question. Not surprisingly, the psychology of religion and the psychology of atheism are closely intertwined; on the whole, these studies tend to show that for most people, religion comes pretty naturally. “It seems like religiosity, or religious beliefs, are encouraged by a number of basic intuitions that we have about the world that seem to be built into our brains,” explains Ara Norenzayan, a pioneering researcher on the psychology of religion at the University of British Columbia, on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast (stream above).

“But there are large exceptions to that statement: Some half billion people worldwide, according to one estimate, reject God. Who are they? Here are three major factors, based on Norenzayan’s research, that tend to produce a secular mindset:

“Less “mentalizing.” One of the most surprising scientific findings of the research on the causes of religiosity (or the lack thereof) involves a trait called “mentalizing.” “This is the idea that we have a basic social cognitive capacity to infer and read the minds of other people,” explains Norenzayan. Continue reading “Atheists at Christmas”

Some disabled oppose gun restrictions

Slowly and with a hitch in his step, Sal Foti made his way to the handicapped shooting lane at Targetmaster Indoor Firearm Range & Gun Shop.images-1

The lane is closest to the door, wide enough for a wheelchair or other equipment and marked with a handicapped sign, reports the LA Times “Foti, 57, a retired public relations executive, has suffered since childhood from rheumatoid arthritis, which stiffens his joints, making it difficult for him to walk or stand for long.

“To put up even the target is hard for me,” he said, “It’s nice to see that ranges are starting to understand and accommodate handicapped shooters. Given the aging population and the fact that we’ve got more of these military folks coming back disabled, I think there’s going to be more of a need for it.”

“The group Disabled Americans for Firearms Rights, formed before the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., saw its membership quadruple to 19,000 after the event, energizing its lobbying on behalf of gun owners. Many disabled citizens have difficulty wielding traditional pistols and rifles, which has prompted some to become vociferous allies in the campaign to block new restrictions on assault-style weapons.

“They’re banning these weapons for arbitrary reasons — because it has a certain grip or stock — when in reality those are the features that someone with a disability like me needs to operate a firearm,” said Scott Ennis, a hemophiliac who started the Connecticut-based disabled firearm-owners group and serves as its president. Like Foti, Ennis suffered joint damage that makes it difficult for him to grip and shoot. Continue reading “Some disabled oppose gun restrictions”

New York bans e-cigs

The New York City council has voted to add electronic cigarettes to the city’s strict smoking ban, in what could be the latest of many anti-tobacco measures put in place by the outgoing mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

As The Guardian reports, “Only weeks after New York became the first major city to raise the legal age for buying tobacco to 21, the city council voted 43-8 to add electronic cigarettes to the city’s Smoke-Free Air Act.


“Bloomberg’s other initiatives have included bans on trans fats and attempting to limit the sale of large sugary drinks. If the mayor signs the bill as expected, smoking e-cigarettes – or “vaping” – would be prohibited at public and private venues such as beaches, parks, restaurants and office buildings after 120 days.

“The council speaker, Christine Quinn, who sponsored the bill, said at a press conference that the public use of e-cigarettes threatened to undermine enforcement of anti-smoking laws because their appearance was similar to traditional cigarettes and could “renormalise smoking in public places.”

“E-cigarettes are slim, reuseable metal tubes that contain nicotine-laced liquid in a variety of flavours such as bubble gum and bacon. As a “smoker” puffs on the device, the nicotine is heated and releases a vapour that, unlike cigarette smoke, contains no tar, which is known to cause cancer and other diseases.

“Critics of the law contend that such a ban would do more harm than good. Richard Carmona, a former US surgeon general and a current board member at NJOY, one of America’s largest electronic cigarette manufacturers, sent a letter to the council recently to urge rejection of the bill. “I’m extremely concerned that a well-intentioned but scientifically unsupported effort like the current proposal to include electronic cigarettes in New York’s current smoking ban could constitute a giant step backward in the effort to defeat tobacco smoking,” Carmona wrote. Continue reading “New York bans e-cigs”

Without sports ABC gains female viewers

The first initial in the ABC television network stands for “American,” but it might well stand for “asterisk.”imgres

Paul Lee, a top ABC executive, says the network is the most watched by the target demographic, “if you take sports out.” As the New York times reports, “this amounts to a footnote: “not counting sports.”

“Among the four big broadcasters, ABC has competed this fall with no help from the N.F.L. and virtually no help from sports programming at all.

“What does it mean for a network to try to survive on a largely sports-free diet? Mainly, it means building a lifeline to women. Television viewing is widely dominated by women — every broadcast network but Fox has a majority female audience, as do the vast majority of cable networks. The scale is unusually tipped at ABC, where much of its sports programming has moved to ESPN, which shares the same parent, the Walt Disney Company.

“About 62 percent of the ABC audience is female. (CBS is the next most female-skewed at 57 percent.) More strikingly, the top five most popular shows among women are on ABC, as well as seven of the 10 most popular. All of those shows have an audience that is more than 70 percent female. (No. 1 is “Grey’s Anatomy” with an audience just under 76 percent female.) Continue reading “Without sports ABC gains female viewers”

Obama will not attend Sochi games

Barack Obama is sending Russia a clear message about its treatment of gays and lesbians with his choices to represent the United States as delegates at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The tennis great Billie Jean King will be one of two openly gay athletes in the US delegation for the opening and closing ceremonies. For the first time since 2000 the US will not send a president, former president, first lady or vice-president to the games, reports LA Times.

“Russia has come under fierce criticism for passing national laws banning “gay propaganda”. Though the White House did not specifically address the Russian laws in making its announcement on Tuesday, spokesman Shin Inouye said the delegation “represents the diversity that is the United States” and that Obama “knows they will showcase to the world the best of America diversity, determination and teamwork”. The White House said Obama’s schedule would not permit him to attend the games.

“It’s a positive sign to see openly gay representatives in the delegation,” said Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy group that recently sent a letter urging Obama to include gays and lesbians in the delegation. “Hopefully it sends a message to the Russian people and the rest of the world that the United States values the civil and human rights of LGBT people.” King said she was “deeply honoured” to be named to the delegation. Continue reading “Obama will not attend Sochi games”

Cautious optimism among booksellers

All across the country, booksellers have a Christmas wish: that the e-book thrill is gone.

Shoppers at McNally Jackson Books last week. Sarah McNally, the owner, reported “consistent” sales growth year over year, reports the New York Times

There is reason to believe it will come true. E-book sales have flattened in


2013, giving publishers and bookstores hope that consumers’ appetite for print books will be renewed during the most crucial sales period of the year.

“But there are plenty of reasons for holiday anxiety, too, starting with a compressed shopping season, the result of Thanksgiving falling later than it has in a decade. Booksellers also have to contend with the absence of a blockbuster title to drive sales and fill stores, the way the Steve Jobs biography did two years ago. And they must compete with steep discounts on print books from Amazon. It is a grab bag of factors, any one of which could tilt the fortunes of retailers as the holiday book-buying season enters its final days.

“This is the time when publishers release their splashiest books and count on Christmas shoppers being much more willing to part with $25 for a weighty hardcover. The leveling off of e-book sales should help. The Association of American Publishers, which collects monthly data from about 1,200 publishers, said last month that e-book sales had been flat or in decline for most of 2013. In August, e-book sales were approximately $128 million, a 3 percent decline from August 2012.

“I don’t know if it’s a saturation point with digital,” Len Vlahos, the executive director of the Book Industry Study Group, said in a recent interview. “But all the data we see suggests that we’ve hit a state of equilibrium. The trend lines have flattened out. Three years ago, it was a nascent market, but now it looks like a maturing market.” Jennifer Enderlin, the publisher of St. Martin’s Press Paperbacks and Griffin, said that she thought e-book sales were finding their level, and that it would “start affecting print books in a good way.” “Independents seem to be having a good run right now,” she said of the bookstores. “They’re having a nice renaissance.”

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Celebrity cancers discourage smoking

When a celebrity is diagnosed with a smoking-related cancer,imgres interest in quitting smoking among the general public increases, according to a new study.

Huffington Post reports that a ” team of researchers found that when Brazil President Lula da Silva was diagnosed in 2011 with laryngeal cancer, which he said was caused by smoking, online search activity regarding quitting smoking and media coverage on quitting smoking increased in the days after. Plus, this interest in smoking cessation remained higher than normal even a month after his diagnosis was announced.

“This study is the first to demonstrate that celebrity diagnoses can prompt the public to engage in behaviors that prevent cancer,” study researcher Seth M. Noar, a health communication professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a statement. “Harnessing this finding will save far more lives than screening alone.”

“Noar and his colleagues, from the Santa Fe Institute, San Diego State University and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, examined Google news archives to look at media coverage, and also analyzed Googled searches, in the weeks following the announcement of da Silva’s laryngeal cancer diagnosis in October 2011. They found that news coverage about quitting smoking rose 500 percent right after his diagnosis was announced, and stayed higher by 163 percent for the week following his diagnosis. During this time, Google searches for quitting smoking also were 67 percent higher than normal. Continue reading “Celebrity cancers discourage smoking”

Medicare reconsiders surgery rules

The federal Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that it will reconsider a longstanding denial of gender-confirming surgeries for transgender people on federally subsidized healthcare.

Since 1989, both Medicare and Medicaid, the federally-run health program for low-income families and individuals, have explicitly excluded the coverage of gender confirmation surgeries for transgender individuals, reports The Advocate images

“Under National Coverage Determination 140.3, the programs have been exempted from covering these surgeries, though the data cited in the government’s justification is based on a 1981 National Center for Health Care Technology report. “Because of the lack of well controlled, long term studies of the safety and effectiveness of the surgical procedures and attendant therapies for transsexuals, the treatment is considered experimental,” reads the report in its explanation for why such procedures are not covered by insurance. “Moreover, there is a high rate of serious complications for these surgical procedures. For these reasons, transsexual surgery is not covered.”

“A lot has changed since 1981, however. The American Medical Association and American Psychological Association have since issued statements in support of gender-confirmation surgeries as a medical necessity and acceptable treatment for those suffering from gender dysphoria.

“In a ruling released December 2, the Department of Health and Human Services Departmental Appeals Board declared that the current National Coverage Determination record “is not complete and adequate to support the validity” of the determination excluding coverage for gender-confirming surgeries. The board determined that the 1981 report, which reviewed medical and scientific sources published between 1966 and 1980, is no longer “reasonable in light of subsequent developments.”  Continue reading “Medicare reconsiders surgery rules”

Hottest Catholic priests calendar

0212_MayJune_sJust in time for Christmas mass, photographer Piero Pazzi, has delivered his annual “Hot Priest Calendar” where he has selectively photographed some of the sexiest Roman Catholic priests from Vatican City, Italy.


More images at the Daily Grind:

Suspicious fires plague Detroit public art

On Detroit’s Heidelberg Street, where a local artist turned the shell of a crime-ridden neighborhood into an interactive public art project, visitors coming to see offbeat display are noticing something that’s not part of the quirky exhibition: yellow fire tape.

The Guardian reports that “There have been at least eight fires since early May – the latest last Sunday – leading to questions about who might be

Heidelberg art installation in detroit numbers house

targeting the installation known as the Heidelberg Project, and why they want to burn it down.

“Founder and artistic director Tyree Guyton and his compatriots vow to carry on, make more art and overcome the assault on his vision, yet worry threatens the whimsy as the fires snuff out building after building.

“Now, piles of rubble alternate with the three remaining house installations within the two-block area on the city’s east side that has become famous over the years for the exhibition featuring shoes, clocks, vinyl records, stuffed animals and other found or discarded objects.

“The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been investigating along with Detroit authorities. An ATF spokesman, Donald Dawkins, said investigators have interviewed several people, some more than once, but he said there is no one yet that officials consider a suspect or person of interest. El Don Parham, chief of the Detroit Fire Department’s arson unit, said it’s far too early to speculate on a motive but believes that “someone is pinpointing” the Heidelberg Project. Continue reading “Suspicious fires plague Detroit public art”