The Texas abortion legal circus gets under way

As expected, civil lawsuits have been filed against the Texas doctor Dr. Alan Braid who publicly announced that he had violated the new state law that placed such restrictions on abortions that it effectively banned the practice entirely. The law had apparently not specified that one had to be a resident of Texas to file the case and the two lawsuits (so far) have been brought by one person in Arkansas and one person in Illinois. The latter says he is actually pro-choice and his lawsuit was being pursued with the intention of showing that the law is unconstitutional.
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How many steps a day should one take?

I wrote last year that the popular prescription that one should walk 10,000 steps a day in order to obtain the health benefits of activity originated as an advertising and marketing scheme and had no scientific basis. Research suggested that one did not need so many steps to get the benefit. But how many would be desirable?

This article summarizes some of the recent recommendations.
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Abortion bounty hunters and legal standing

In an earlier post, I wrote about how the Texas anti-abortion law, by authorizing anyone at all to bring a lawsuit against anyone who aids someone in getting an abortion, has greatly expanded the legal notion of ‘standing’, that only those who have suffered a direct injury can seek redress from the courts. This is a reasonable requirement since otherwise the courts could be clogged with people bringing lawsuits on any and all matters whether or not they are at all affected by it.

The need for standing is not explicitly mentioned in the US constitution but over the past century, the US Supreme Court has read that requirement into Article III.
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Texas doctor throws down the gauntlet to new abortion law

Texas has passed an extremely restrictive law, effectively eliminating a woman’s right to have an abortion by authorizing any person to sue and collect damages from anyone who provides any kind of assistance to women seeking abortions, and completely stacking the legal deck in favor of the people seeking the bounties.

A doctor in Texas who performs abortions and recalls what it was like in the days before 1972 when abortions were illegal in that state, has decided to challenge the law by performing an abortion and then publicly announcing it.
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Local politics is an unreliable guide

One thing I have learned is never to trust where the political sympathies of an electorate are by what I see in my extended neighborhood or what people say in the places I frequent. This is because a natural type of segregation occurs in which people, if they have that flexibility, tend to gravitate towards places where they sense people share their same values. When we moved to the Cleveland area, when we were looking for a place to live, our primary criteria was a location that was racially and economically diverse and had good schools. It was not surprising that we ended up living in a place that was solidly progressive.

Over the three decades that I lived there, while my local community stayed progressive, the state of Ohio drifted rightward, from being a toss-up state.where Democrats and Republicans both had shots at winning statewide office and electoral college votes, to one that now seems solidly Republican and Trumpian. So much so that Anthony Gonzalez, a Republican member of congress who was first elected to congress in 2018 in a district adjacent to Cleveland and was considered a rising star in the party, has announced that he will not be seeking re-election in 2022 because his vote to impeach Trump has led to threats against him and his family and he did not fancy the thought of being in Congress under a party leadership where unquestioning loyalty to Trump is demanded.
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Another massacre of civilians by US drones

The US military has admitted that the drone strike that it carried out that they initially claimed killed a major ISIS operative in fact killed ten innocent civilians including seven children.

In a briefing on Friday, the commander of US Central Command, Gen Kenneth McKenzie, said he now believes it was unlikely that those who died were Islamic State militants or posed a direct threat to US forces at Kabul’s airport.

“I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians, including up to seven children, were tragically killed in that strike,” McKenzie, wearing military uniform, told reporters. “Moreover, we now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with [Islamic State Khorasan] or were a direct threat to US forces.

For days after the 29 August strike by a single Hellfire missile, Pentagon officials asserted that it had been conducted correctly, even though numerous civilians had been killed, including children. Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, had hailed it as a “righteous strike”.

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The curious history of polywater

One of the more curious incidents in science history is ‘polywater’. The existence of polywater was suggested by a Russian scientist Nikolai Fedyakin in the early 1960s and gained ground as other people also seemed to be able to detect physical properties in certain samples of water that were not present in others, suggesting that a new state of water had been created. Of course, we know that water can be in different states such as ice and steam but what was new was that polywater was a different kind of liquid water.

This article explains how the idea gained ground before it was debunked.
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Norm Macdonald on battling cancer

The comedian just died of cancer at the age of 61. I had never actually seen him perform but read that he had a droll deadpan manner and an offbeat take on the mundane. I came across this audio recording of a stand up bit that he did ten years ago that dealt with something that also has struck me as odd, that when it comes to cancer, people who have it are always described as ‘battling it’, a fighting metaphor that is rarely applied to other ailments.

Macdonald had apparently kept his cancer diagnosis secret so that his death came as a surprise to those who knew him. Maybe he did not want to have people talking about him too ‘battling’ cancer.

Public Service Announcement: Never trust someone’s friend about anything

In the crazy media world we live in these days, I saw multiple headlines about a story in which Nicki Minaj had tweeted that a friend of her cousin who lived in Trinidad and Tobago got swollen testicles and became impotent after taking a covid-19 vaccine and his fiancee called off their wedding. The ensuing publicity resulted in the minister of public health in that country wasting his time investigating this before announcing that they could not any evidence of swollen testicles.

I grant that this story has many clickbait features: A celebrity, covid-19, impotence, and swollen testicles.

But really? Whenever you hear an outlandish story, your guard should immediately go up. And you should definitely ignore the story if it is ascribed to an unidentified friend of even someone you know personally, let alone someone whom you do not know at all. That almost guarantees that the story is at best highly exaggerated or more likely outright false.

This has been a Public Service Announcement. We now go back to our regular programming.