Favorite Invention Thursdays

That teeny tiny little robot just straight up picked up a sperm cell, carried it over to an egg, and inseminated it.

 

Yes yes I am aware that the world is dangerously overpopulated already and that many of you are of the opinion that inventing technology involving fertility is not the best use of our resources right now… but THAT’S AMAZING!!

Sorry Environment, But This One’s a NOPE

It almost seems fitting that, after talking about cool environmentally-friendly inventions I love, I’m going to talk about one that I have absolutely no interest in. While I do try to be conscientious of the environment when I make life choices, there are some things that I am not willing to sacrifice.

I became aware of these inventions because having a vagina while in possession of a social media account means that certain things are assumed about you and the products you might be interest in buying, despite your browser history not reflecting any such inclination. In the past few months, my Facebook feed has been pushing Thinx panties and moon cups on me relentlessly, with multiple videos about them in one feed.

Since ignoring them was obviously not making them slowly disappear, I finally accepted my fate and decided to read the comments under one of the videos. They were both predictable, and brought a pet peeve of mine to a boil that I finally wanted to share here.

Boys (and particularly squeamish girls) beware. What follows is going to be an unabashed, balls to the wall gorey discussion about periods. If you don’t think you can handle it, read no further.

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Wow, That’s Actually Not the Worst Thing She Said

I’ve posted before about how deeply annoyed I get with people who flippantly dismiss illnesses like depression as if they are not real, or in need of medicine. I made it clear that it is close to the top of my list of pet peeves, and so of course when I saw this exchange on my FB feed I shared it immediately, taking heart that it had gone viral not for the pseudoscientific drivel, but for the epic response underneath.

Spoken like a true Gryffindor good sir/madam. I shared it, then I sort of forgot about it.

After a few days of likes and a revisiting of the post, I realized that I had no idea who Katie Hopkins was. I figured she must be a celebrity, or her name and picture would have been redacted from the meme, but I wanted to be sure. While I agree with vehemently educating anyone who perpetuates such ignorant and dangerous ideas, if she was just a private person with a minor following of friends and family who then became infamous because of a viral takedown, I might feel a little sorry for her. So, to be sure, I googled Katie Hopkins.

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Alone, It’s Interesting. With Context…

It is absolutely horrifying.

I came across this picture on IFLScience. It was in the thumbnail of the article, and I thought to myself… hmmm. That’s an interesting picture. It’s clearly an X-ray of an adult’s head. But… what’s that extra stuff? An artefact? Something from an item of clothing that he or she had not removed before taking the X-ray?

The image I am referring to is this one.

Which was then followed by this one.

You see it, right? There is something off about this X-ray.

So, what is this image really of? Do you really want to know?

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The UK Starts to Push Back

Parental consent is a legal gray area, one that different countries tackle in different ways. How much legal authority can a parent have over their child’s life? Where do the wishes of a parent end and the rights of a child independently of their parent’s wishes begin?

Generally speaking, parental consent is supposed to end when harm begins. As straightforward as that sounds it is actually anything but, and different countries allow different levels of leeway before the courts step in and determine that a parent cannot make a certain decision for their child. For example many countries allow parents to decide to physically discipline their children while others, like Sweden, do not allow any form of corporal punishment. Some countries allow parents to refuse certain kinds of medical treatment on behalf of their children based on their personal or religious beliefs, while others do not.

A few days ago, a UK court set a legal precedent by ordering a mother to vaccinate her two sons after determining that her concerns were not reasonable.

We all know that certain children cannot be vaccinated for a variety of legitimate medical reasons. Children who are severely immunocompromised, for example, or children who have an allergy to a component of the vaccine. Her concerns were not based on a suspicion of any real medical diagnosis, however. She was refusing to vaccinate her children on the basis that they are vegan, toxin-free, and that their strong immune systems would inherently protect them against all those nasty diseases anyway.

I am so very, very glad that the judge came to this decision.

As happy as I am that these two boys will receive proper preventative care, it must be said that their father was a strong defender of their health in this case. He brought the case forward, he testified that she was over-protective, paranoid and mistrustful of conventional medicine, and he fought for their ability to be vaccinated from the beginning. With a parent on either side of this issue, I am sure that it was much easier for the courts to come to the right decision in this case. But what about children who have the misfortune of being born to two paranoid, overprotective and mistrustful parents? Who will stick up for their right to access to health care? While I love this step in the right direction, the battle for the protection of children’s health is far from over.

I understand that legal intervention into how a parent raises their children must be expanded with extreme caution. A country which nitpicks your parenting choices, or a state-imposed “correct” way to raise your kids is a country that no one wants to live in. However, it is also important to remember that children are people, not property. They may be too young to make certain decisions for themselves, but they are human beings nonetheless, and as such they should have certain rights and protections under the law. Personally, I think that access to lifesaving  health care should be one of those things that every person, regardless of their age, should have a legal right to.

I am curious to see how this story progresses, and if a test case involving both parents refusing to vaccinate their children will come up. Let’s see if the UK courts take a stand on behalf of all children.

 

Kids Who Die For Ignorance

There has been another deadly outbreak of a preventable disease in Europe. This time, it is the measles which is spreading rapidly across Romania, and so far, 17 children have died.

Romania has seen nearly 2,000 cases of measles since February 2016, World Health Organization data shows.

The country’s vaccination rate is 86 per cent, well below the 95 per cent recommended for “herd immunity” against infectious disease.

Romania’s measles outbreak has killed 17 children there, none of whom were vaccinated.

Romania’s vaccination rate has fallen sharply over the last decade, driven in part by a vocal anti-vaccination movement there. The country now has Europe’s highest measles infection rate, and its fifth-lowest vaccination rate.

These stories are becoming more and more frequent, and I cannot stand it when another one comes out. When people spew this anti-vaccination nonsense on social media, I can’t let it go. I will engage that person and explain why they are wrong, and how their beliefs are destroying lives. It is not the same as when someone posts a quote from Mother Teresa, or a belief that nature is sacred and spiritual or what have you. Those are personal, relatively benign opinions. The anti-vaxx movement, on the other hand, is one of the most dangerous campaigns of misinformation in existence.

If you’re not yet convinced, the article goes on to explain how Europe’s protection against preventable disease is falling rapidly.

Of 32 European countries that have had measles cases since February 2016, 22 had measles vaccination rates below 95 per cent.

In January, 84 per cent of Europe’s measles cases happened in seven countries, all of which had vaccination rates under 95 per cent.

About 10 per cent of children with measles get ear infections, which can lead to hearing loss, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control warns. About five per cent will get pneumonia, and one in 1,000 will die.

When I talk about these stories, I usually get two main questions.

  1. Why do you bother engaging with anti-vaxx people? Don’t you know that you will never convince them?
  2. Why do you keep bringing these stories up? Aren’t you preaching to the choir? We all agree here that vaccinations are important.

So, let me answer those questions.

  1. I engage with people who post anti-vaxx beliefs on social media because allowing this misinformation to go unchallenged is precisely what has gotten us into this mess. While I understand that someone firm in their beliefs is very unlikely to change their mind, perhaps people who are on the fence and see the post will be less persuaded to become an anti-vaxxer if they see a reasonable exchange, rather than a one-sided pile of bad science and lies. Also, even if it is extremely hard to change someone’s firm belief, they are endangering innocent children with their ignorance, and so I have to at least try.
  2. I bring these stories up for one simple reason. A study was conducted on people who were “skeptical” of vaccine safety. This study, and many others, found that reiterating the science behind why anti-vaxx is bullshit did nothing to change their beliefs, if anything it made things worse. The only thing that made the slightest impact was to show them how bad these diseases can be. In other words, reminding people of the real risks of not vaccinating their children is the only thing that has a hope of bringing those numbers of vaccinations back up.

So, please, share this story. You don’t need to share this post, but share that article, and every other article that you come across which talks about the children that are getting sick and dying because of this nonsense. Maybe, just maybe, you know a new parent who is being swayed by the anti-vaxx argument, and that parent might see those images of those sick kids and think better of it.

It is important to remember that not everyone is iron clad in their convictions, nor is anyone born convinced of anything. You can persuade people if you share information before they become absolutely convinced of falsehoods. You could save a life.

 

 

 

Healthy Sunday Cooking With Crys: Brazilian Bean Salad

Beans, beans, good for the heart

The more you eat them the more you fart

The more you fart the better you feel

So eat your beans for every meal!

Perhaps that was a touch childish, even for me, but that schoolyard rhyme is actually quite accurate. Apart from the fact that beans make you fart, which is a given, they actually are quite good for your heart as well, though indirectly.

Beans are full of dietary fiber, and eating plenty of it is associated with lower body weight and less cardiovascular disease, as it can lower blood cholesterol levels, hence being indirectly “good for the heart”. Beans also contain complex carbs and protein, and taken together these things help feeling fuller for longer. As to why beans also make you fart, I’ll leave that fun fact at the end, which will also include the reason why adding fiber to your diet by buying those powdery products to dissolve in your water is not really the best thing for you.

So, for this week’s healthy recipe, I’ll be making a very easy recipe that I learned when visiting my father in Bahia, a fresh and delicious salad made with black-eyed peas.

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Bad Science: Now That’s a Double Whammy!

Recently, I came across a story that might have just hit the bad science motherload. It refers to an Italian pharmacy, which is authorized by the Italian government to sell products online. One of these products is called Dr. Reckeweg R20, and its product description just about blew my mind. As the article is in Italian, I’ll translate it for you here.

For starters, it is a homeopathic remedy, claiming to contain a product called “Ovaria”. According to the website, this product is made from the extract of ovaries, and is used in the treatment of:

irregolarità mestruali, disturbi del climaterio, deficit di memoria, depressione, disturbi funzionali delle ghiandole, complesso di inferiorità, criptorchidismo, enuresi notturna, impotenza, frigidità femminile, tendenze lesbiche, oligo e azzoospermia, congestioni”

Translation: irregular menstrual cycle, hot flashes, memory deficits, depression, disrupted glandular function, inferiority complex, cryptochidism [a.k.a. the absence of one or both testes from the scrotum], involuntary urination, impotence, female frigidity, lesbian tendencies, oligo- and azoo-spermia, congestion”.

Ooh where to begin.

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You Are Not Alone

I mentioned that, recently, I was helping a friend of mine deal with a mental health crisis. As someone who deals with an anxiety disorder myself, I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed, to see no way out, to feel ripped by remorse and worst of all, to feel completely and utterly alone in my suffering. Our society deems mental illness as something rare, secretive and uncommon. Unless you have a “real” mental illness, like schizophrenia, you feel like you are weak, plagued with #FirstWorldProblems, and that if you cannot function in your day to day privilege that the vast majority of the world only dreams of having, then you really should be embarrassed of your pain, and you should hide it from everyone.

Luckily, this antiquated mentality is being challenged, and it is important that as many people as possible know that these thoughts are complete and utter bullshit. A recent study conducted in New Zealand found that a whopping 83% of people experience at least one episode of mental illness from age 11 to 38. These could be either transient, recurring or long-lasting, were of varying severity, but it is becoming ever more clear that having these episodes is not only common, but rather should be dubbed “the new normal”.

Coinciding with ongoing studies, we see an ever increasing number of celebrities who have spoken openly and candidly about their struggles with mental illness. Most recently Wentworth Miller, most famously known for his role in Prison Break, gave a speech about his struggles with depression from childhood to the present day.

 

Given the stigma which is still associated with admitting to mental illness, I applaud Wentworth Miller and all of the public figures who have had the courage to speak openly of their struggles. I think that their honesty, combined with the medical research into this field, will be what finally condemns this stigma to the barrel of yet another embarrassment of our history. I think that these messages, from many different sources, will provide comfort to those who still think that they are weird, weak, abnormal or foolish for being depressed, or riddled with anxiety.

The sheer statistics dictate that many of you reading this have struggled or are currently struggling with a mental illness. I want to remind all of you, you are not alone. What you are feeling is both normal and not founded in reality. Seeking help is not an admission of weakness, it is not the ultimate sign of defeat, any more than seeking antibiotics for your sore throat is. It is simply seeking the help you need to get back to your day-to-day life as quickly, healthily and happily as possible. Don’t despair, don’t blame yourself, and don’t give up. You deserve support, and you deserve to be happy.