AMERICAblog News A great nation deserves the truth // One of America's top progressive sites for news and opinion Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:00:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Remote control contraceptives? Yup. Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:00:57 +0000 Implantable contraceptives have been available for quite some time now.

This variety of birth control gets implanted under the skin and remains in place, slowly releasing a hormone that prevents pregnancy.  The patient doesn’t have to worry about missing a dose of her oral birth control pill (BCP), or worry about running out of pills.

However, this method does require a minor surgical procedure to implant the unit.  And, when the hormone contents of the unit’s reservoir are depleted, the unit needs to be surgically removed and replaced.  And that has to be done fairly frequently.  With this unit, the hormone is continually released 24/7.  If the woman decides that she wants to get pregnant, it has to be removed.

Researchers have now developed an implantable contraceptive unit that is programmable.  It is implanted similarly to the one mentioned above, but, depending on how frequently it is used, it can last for about 16 years.  Therefore, it would probably only have to be replaced once.  The initial implant, and one replacement, would give a woman contraception for about 32 years total.  That’s near to what her reproductive lifespan would be.

birth control pills

Pills via Shutterstock

Interestingly, the microchip could be deactivated by the woman herself via remote control, should she decide that she did want to become pregnant.  Or, for example if she or her husband is going into military service, and she has no need for the contraceptive effects of the implant, she can deactivate it, and no hormone will be released for that period.  When she (or her spouse) returns, she can reactivate the implant so that hormone is released again, and she is again unable to bear children.

The reservoirs in this version have “doors” made of titanium and platinum.  When the hormone needs to be released, a tiny current is released from a small battery in the microchip.  The door temporarily melts, the hormone is released.  When the current stops, the door reforms and no more hormone is dispensed.  This can be programmed to be done automatically every day, or as needed.  The researchers are now working on encrypting the chip to make sure that only the woman can program her implant. (An obviously good idea.)

This technology has already been used in humans.  A study was done using a chip like this to treat osteoporosis in post-menopausal women.  The drug was placed in reservoirs in the chip and a programmed daily dose of medication was released.  The women did well with this method having only minor side effects, if any.

With FDA approval this might be something that would be available in about 3-4 years.  Funding for this research was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Family Planning Program.

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Monday morning mental health break: iDiots (video) Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:00:21 +0000 Given the unrelenting barrage of bad news out of the Ukraine and Gaza and everywhere else, I thought we could all use a mental health break.

Here’s ‘iDiots’, a stop-motion video by the visual effects studio, Big Lazy Robot.

iDiots by Big Lazy Robot

iDiots by Big Lazy Robot

And here’s the video:

Consider this post an open thread…

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Russian rebels have kidnapped Malaysia Airlines dead, stacking them in train boxcars Sun, 20 Jul 2014 16:38:04 +0000 ABC just reported that the Russian rebels in Ukraine have basically kidnapped, for lack of a better word, the bodies of 200 of the Malaysia Airlines passengers who were shot out of the sky by Russian surrogates a few days ago.

Ukrainian rescue workers had managed to collect around 200 of the 298 bodies when Russian rebel forces turned their guns on the rescuers and literally stole the bodies.

The Russian surrogates are now stacking the bodies of the passengers and crew, including 80 children, in train boxcars.  The NYT has a photo — for me, it immediately evoked the Holocaust.

As I wrote before, the Russians have basically armed rednecks with rocket launchers. And they know it.  And as Brian Ross just said on ABC, say what you will about how this was an “accident,” but these are people (the Russian rebels) who “do” want to shoot down civilian airliners, who “do” see a benefit in doing just that.

obama-whcd-hannity-giuliani-huckabee-putinAnd as for the Russians, as I noted before, how exactly was this an “accident” any more than intentionally handing a 5-year-old child a loaded gun, and then the child shoots someone, is “an accident”?

What did the Russians think their surrogates in Ukraine were going to be doing with missile systems built for shooting down airplanes (the weapons fly at 3 times the speed of sound, and can shoot down a plane as high as 70,000)?

The Russians knew that their rebels were incapable of operating such complicated equipment, and that there was thus a really good chance that they’d shoot down one of the 300 to 400 civilian airliners that was crossing over eastern Ukraine every day. Yes, 3oo to 400 (from the NYT):

[A]irspace restrictions had been introduced by Ukraine on July 1, initially restricting flights below 26,000 feet, and had not had much effect on the volume of air traffic over the area, indicating that many carriers considered the route safe. Before June 30, around 400 daily flights passed through the area at all altitudes, he said. After the first set of restrictions, traffic dropped by a few dozen flights per day. When the restriction was extended to 32,000 feet on July 14, the daily traffic decreased only by about 50 flights from a month earlier, a reduction of around 12 percent.

A majority of air traffic crossing the area where Flight 17 was struck consists of international overflights that are already at cruising altitude and would not be required to adjust their normal routes to accommodate the new restrictions.

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For Putin, there’s never been a better time to rebuild the empire Sat, 19 Jul 2014 20:25:39 +0000 A big part of the problem President Obama faces in responding to Russian President Putin’s increasingly violence in Ukraine and beyond is that the U.S. does not have a functioning federal government. To be sure, the majority of foreign policy remains in the hands of the Executive branch, but the old saw about “politics stopping at the water’s edge” is no longer operative.

Today’s Republican party openly uses the language of secession, treason, and incitement to coup.

In my opinion, much of Obama’s fecklessness is self-inflicted. But on the other hand, the GOP gladly undercuts him at every turn — which then unavoidably makes him weaker internationally. Through their constant obstructionism, the Republicans have also ensured that the U.S. will never be seen as a reliable negotiating partner.

Putin seems pretty clearly to be looking to reconstitute the former Soviet, now Russian empire, starting with the most strategically significant territories. Europe and the U.S. are in disarray. Whether this is getting into the old “LIHOP” or “MIHOP” territory (the old acronyms associated with 9/11 conspiracy theory truthers and their constant arguments over whether the Cheney administration LET it happen on purpose or MADE it happen) is beside the point. Who benefits from atrocities and unrest in eastern Europe? Russia. Who will have opportunities to expand their ‘sphere of influence’ through intervention, occupation, and intimidation? Russia.

putin-rainbow-hitlerAt this point, I don’t even think we could count on the NATO treaty to mean much if Putin decided to do to Estonia what he did in Crimea. A common defense treaty isn’t worth the paper its written on if the nations involved won’t or don’t want to back up the promises.

Back in the 1980s, when KAL 007 was shot down, the Democrats didn’t contradict their president, even as they were in the opposition in general. They didn’t undercut him. They didn’t immediately insist that everything Reagan said or did was 100% wrong.

That’s not the GOP today. They not only oppose every last thing Obama and the Dems say and do, they yell it loudly enough to make sure the entire world hears it. Or to put it another way, if this was 1941 and Pearl Harbor had just happened, the Republicans wouldn’t vote to declare war, but rather, they’d immediately convene impeachment hearings against FDR. Political opportunism overrides everything else for the GOP.

As commenter The_Fixer points out, the United States isn’t united on anything these days. And all Europe seems to care about anymore is deciding which of their poorer countries is ripe for more bankster plundering in the form of imposed austerity measures.

For a would-be imperialist like Putin, there’s probably never been a better time to rebuild the empire.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN
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Destruction of Malaysia Airlines flight poses huge conundrum for Obama, Europe Sat, 19 Jul 2014 00:40:14 +0000 The Obama administration and western European governments are in a real pickle over what’s going on in Ukraine, and it’s not entirely their fault.

As you know, a civilian Malaysia Airlines jetliner was shot down yesterday over Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers on board.

Today, the US government is saying that the plane was in fact shot down, likely by a Russian missile under the control of rebels that were created, funded and trained by the Russians. What’s more, it’s increasingly looking like the Russians themselves taught the rebels how to use the anti-aircraft missiles that the Russians provided them.

What does this mean for the US and Europe?

As you know, Russia recently annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, and now has been fomenting civil war in eastern Ukraine, possibly as a pretext for a renewed Russian invasion that would then annex more of Ukraine’s territory.

Until now, the US and western Europe have been loathe to get more involved in the Ukraine crisis. Kyiv is not Berlin, or even Tallinn (the capital of Estonia, a NATO member that we have no choice but to defend military). Ukraine was not considered vital to the national interests of either the United States or Europe, so no one was willing to risk going to war — or even cold war — over it, regardless of the ethical and humanitarian implications of letting Ukraine be reabsorbed into a neo-Soviet orbit, of sorts.

The thing is, as a friend explained it to me, western Europe thinks it’s the 19-teens, while eastern Europe thinks it’s the 1930s. What does that mean? It means western Europe is trying to avoid letting small skirmishes turn into World War I, while eastern Europe knows what happens when you appease despots (whether they have a German or Russian accent).

Fast forward to this week, when the Russians (apparently) decided it was no longer enough to kill Ukrainians, they started killing people the Europeans and Americans actually care about — their own citizens.

At this point, US intelligence thinks the Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine shot down the Malaysian airliner, and they suspect it was with a Russian (Soviet) “Buk” missile.  And the Pentagon said today that it was basically inconceivable that the rebels could have learned to operate the missiles without Russian help.  There’s also a serious question as to where the Russian rebels got their Russian weapons from (take a guess).

But it’s worse than that. CNN was saying yesterday that while it would have been obvious to the Russians that this was a civilian airliner, it would have been next to impossible for the Russian rebels in Ukraine to know the difference between a Ukrainian military plane and a civilian airliner.  The Russians knew they couldn’t tell the difference, the Russians knew they were providing weapons and training to people who were planning on shooting down planes in an area that was a major corridor for international civilian air traffic. And the Russians went ahead and trained them to shoot down the planes anyway (if, everything we now suspect ends up being true).

That’s not an accident. And it’s not simple negligence. It borders on premeditated murder.

You train someone to shoot down planes, in a zone full of civilian airliners, knowing full well that the people you’re training have no way of knowing which planes are civilian and which are military.  You know they’re going to be killing innocent people, and you simply don’t care (or perhaps even want them to).  That’s not a “mistake.”

And that puts both President Obama and western Europe in an awful pickle. It’s one thing to ignore a regional power that’s nasty as hell, and insists on brutalizing its own former satellites, but no one you “really” care about (i.e., a NATO ally). It’s quite another thing entirely when the despot starts brutally murdering your own citizens, including the 80 children who were on board that flight. (And then, they send their thugs to close off the crime scene and shoot at the international investigators, as the rebels have done, in an apparent effort to steal the evidence of the crime.) Then what do you?

At the very least, it’s no longer business as usual.  It’s no longer simply a matter of slowly ratcheting up sanctions. (How many western children does Putin have to shoot out of the sky before we doubly or triple-y ramp up sanctions — is there a sliding scale for this kind of thing?)

Screen-Shot-2014-07-18-at-7.31.24-PMBut, it’s even more complicated than that.  While Ronald Reagan was happy to go ballistic on the Soviets after they shot down that Korean Airlines Flight 007, killing 269 civilians (including an American congressman), and then denying it until the US proved it in the United Nations within some incredibly damning recordings.  But what do you do when you’re not Ronald Reagan, when you don’t think it’s in your national interest to declare cold war on Russia and Putin over Ukraine, but Putin doesn’t get the message and then shoots some of your citizens out of the sky in cold blood?

This wasn’t an accident. It was Russia’s new foreign policy. A foreign policy in which western civilian casualties are not just acceptable collateral damage, but perhaps, troublingly, they’re even part of the plan.

There’s been a lingering concern as to whether the new Russia, and the new Putin, were trying to truly reconstitute the Soviet Union in all of its deadly glory.  The hope was that Putin’s Russia could be contained, and that the Russian leader would restrain himself, and kill only his neighbors.  But as often happens with killers, an appetite for murder and lawlessness knows few boundaries.

If today’s suspicions become tomorrow’s truths, then Russia has crossed a line that demands a much sterner response than the one it’s gotten to date — whether we like it or not.

Here’s Reagan’s speech on the KAL shootdown. Whatever else you say about the man, he sure knew how to kick the Russians.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN
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Obama to sign orders protecting gay, trans workers this coming Monday Fri, 18 Jul 2014 19:49:08 +0000 AP is reporting that President Obama will sign two executive orders this coming Monday.

The first, protecting gay and transgender workers of federal contractors from discrimination; and the second, protecting trans federal workers from discrimination.

Interestingly, the executive order protecting gay and trans federal contracting employees will not include a newer, stricter religious exemption than already exists in previous executive orders covering other employees

enda-featuredAn increasingly number of vocal advocatees in the gay community have been demanding that the proposed religious exemption to ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would ban anti-gay and anti-trans job discrimination under federal law) either have a weaker religious exemption than previously proposed, or none at all.

It’s interesting, and brave, that the administraiton appears to be moving ahead without adding a stricture religious exemption. Gutsy even.

]]> 24
US: Pro-Russian separatists likely responsible for downing plane; Russians probably helped them Fri, 18 Jul 2014 17:15:54 +0000 US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told the UN Security Council today that US believes the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet shot down yesterday over eastern Ukraine was likely shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile located in territory controlled by Russian-backed rebels.

Power added that the US could not rule out the possibility that the Russians taught the rebels how to use the system in order to shoot planes out of the sky.

US intelligence, according to CNN, increasingly believes that the missiles were supplied to the rebels by Russia itself.

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 12.07.17 PM

The Pentagon just said, moments ago, that “it is a sophisticated piece of technology, and it strains credulity to think that it could be used by separatists without at least some measure of Russian support and technical assistance.”

As you know, the passenger jet contained 298 people, over 100 of whom were reportedly on their way to the annual international AIDS conference, taking place this year in Melbourne, Australia.

Among the passengers killed, 154 Dutch, 27 Australians, 23 Malaysians, 11 Indonesians, 6 Brits, 4 Germans, and 4 Belgians, among others.

Russian-backed separatist leaders bragged yesterday on social media that they had in fact shot the plane down. After it was discovered that the plane was in fact civilian, and not military, the Russian operative then deleted his confession, but not before I and others grabbed a copy.

CNN added that, “a U.S. defense official said a preliminary classified U.S. intelligence analysis had concluded that the missile that hit Flight 17 most likely was fired by pro-Russian separatists inside eastern Ukraine.”

This was a key point that came up yesterday — regardless of how the rebels got the missiles, they’re apparently a rather complicated system to operate. And thus, did the Russians sign on to, or come up with, the plan to shoot down planes over Ukrainian airspace, and then teach their surrogates to do just that?  If that’s the case, then this isn’t just a random mistake, it’s exactly what the Russians knew would happen, and wanted to happen. From reports I heard yesterday on the news, the Russians would have had to have known that while their rebels could shoot down any plane they wanted, it would be difficult for the rebels to discern whether the plane was civilian or military. But the Russians, it may turn out, simply didn’t care. Anything to create turmoil.

At the same time, Russia’s rebels have now reportedly opened fire on OSCE investigators, and are refusing to give the impartial investigators access to the wreckage.

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 12.01.46 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 12.00.28 PM

One assumes that, since the plane was likely shot down by Russian surrogates, Russia now wants to get the evidence, including the black box, and destroy it.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN
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Stephen Colbert on Rick Perry’s glamorous makeover (video) Fri, 18 Jul 2014 12:00:02 +0000 Texas’ Republican governor, Rick Perry, has apparently undergone a makeover to undo the disaster that was his last presidential campaign.

Well, Stephen Colbert is on it.


]]> 11 108 international AIDS conference participants were on plane shot down over Ukraine Fri, 18 Jul 2014 01:28:23 +0000 UPDATE: The Australian press is saying that over 100 people heading to the AIDS conference were on board the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight that was shot down over eastern Ukraine, possibly by Russian-created and run rebels

MORE than 100 AIDS activists, researchers and health workers bound for a major conference in Melbourne were on the Malaysia Airlines flight downed in the Ukraine.

It is believed that delegates to the 20th International AIDS Conference, due to begin on Sunday, will be informed today that 108 of their colleagues and family members died on MH17.

Among the casualties:

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 7.15.02 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-17 at 7.15.09 PM

Dutch media is saying that Pim de Kuijer, a young activist with Stop AIDS Now and AIDS Fund Netherlands, also died on the flight.


Buzzfeed has found a few more.

Here’s a statement posted by the AIDS conference on its home page:


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Russian agent in Ukraine takes credit for shooting down Malaysian air flight, killing 295 Thu, 17 Jul 2014 22:56:59 +0000

UPDATE: Russian media reported two weeks ago the Russian-backed rebels had taken control of the very anti-aircraft missiles many suspect shot down the passenger plane, killing all 295 on board.

Even worse, the rebel “Defense Minister,” a known Russian agent, claimed credit for the shootdown earlier today.


God bless the Wayback machine, here’s the Russian operative’s original post on Putin-all-controlled social media site


Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 4.12.13 PMScreen Shot 2014-07-17 at 4.29.57 PM


Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 4.57.09 PM

UPDATE: The Ukrainians have released alleged recordings of Russian operatives admitting to having shot down the plane.


Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 4.57.25 PM

UPDATE: CNN is reporting that the US government has concluded that the Malaysia Airlines flight was in fact shot down.

UPDATE: Video shows debris falling from the ski.


Some in the Ukrainian government are saying that a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet, that crashed along the Russian-Ukrainian border, killing all 295 passengers and crew, was shot down.

The Ukrainians are not saying by who.

UPDATE: Russian-backed separatists are reportedly blocking the Ukrainian government from reaching the crash site in order to retrieve the black box. If the Russians get their hands on the black box, kiss the evidence good bye. At that point, there will be “evidence” that the US shot it down with an ICBM.

Further update: The Ukrainians are now saying, at least some Ukrainian officials, that it was a Russian missile that shot down the plane. But we still don’t know whether that would mean the Russians themselves shot it down, or Russian-armed separatists.

The passenger jet, a Boeing 777, went down in eastern Ukraine, the portion of the country where the Russians have silently invaded with special forces in an attempt to foment a civil war.

Malaysian Airlines 777-200ER. (Credit Montague Smith.)

Malaysian Airlines 777-200ER. (Credit Montague Smith.)

NBC has more:

The Ukrainian ministry adviser said that the jet, a Boeing 777, had been shot down over a town in the east of the country, The Associated Press reported. Pro-Russian separatists have been fighting Ukrainian security forces in that region.

The adviser, Anton Gerashenko, said on his Facebook page that the plane was flying at 33,000 feet when it was hit by a missile fired from a launcher known as a Buk. A similar launcher was seen by Associated Press journalists near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhne earlier Thursday.

A Ukrainian cargo plane crashed near the border on Monday, and CNN reported that the evidence is now pointing to that earlier plane being shot down. Which lends credence to concerns that the plane could have been shot down.

This would be a bad turn of events for the Russians. The fact that the plane was a Malaysia Airlines jet — the same company that lost a plane in Asia just a few months ago — only makes the story more bizarre.  It also raises the question of whether someone is targeting Malaysia Airlines. It’s a possibility that has to be considered.

A CNN consultant just said you’d need a truck-based missile launcher to have taken down a jet.  Not a shoulder-launched one.  And the Russians, of course, have such technology. And their infantry has such equipment with them.

Stay tuned.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN
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Tangled turtle freed by diver — then it comes back to thank him (video) Thu, 17 Jul 2014 12:00:45 +0000 This is awfully cool.

Colin Sutton & Cameron Dietrich were diving off of Mexico when they found a sea turtle tangled in a rope.

So one of them dove in and attempted to free the turtle, with their handy GoPro camera in hand. Those cameras really are doing an amazing PR campaign – these videos are amazing.

Here’s the turtle and the diver. You can see the rope, and some kind of blue float tied to it:


Here’s a closer look at the rope and the poor turtle’s leg:


Slowly getting untangled – the turtle seems awfully collegial about the whole thing:


Free at last!


Tooter swims off, free and happy:turle-swimming

Then a funny thing happens, Tooter (as I call him) doubles back and starts heading for the guy who freed him:turtle-5

The turtle then swims with the man, face to face:

Then almost chest to chest:turtle-7How cool is that?

Oops, I meant to include the video!

NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN
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Southern Baptist GOP mom from Alabama speaks out for her 6 y.o. trans kid Wed, 16 Jul 2014 22:30:13 +0000 An impressive video from a self-proclaimed “conservative, Southern Baptist Republican from Alabama” about coming to terms with her 6-year-old “son” informing mom that “he” was really a girl.

It takes a lot of courage for any mom to go public and come out about their child, let alone a conservative Republican from Alabama.


The mom, Debi Jackson, then talks about the arguments people have made, telling her that she’s wrong to embrace her child:

“God hates transgender people. They are sinners and going to hell.”

(Jackson then chokes up.)

My God taught us to love one another. Jesus sought ought those who others rejected….

My daughter is a girl in her heart. She knows it. God knows it. And that’s good enough for me.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN
]]> 27 About that new federal study saying gays are 3% Wed, 16 Jul 2014 18:43:32 +0000 So, about this new federal study that claims that gays are around 3% of the population.

Yeah, not so much.

In fact, this study shows what every previous study shows — not how many gay and bisexual people there are in America, but how many people were willing to tell a complete stranger that they’re gay or bisexual. And that’s a huge difference.

Here’s the thing. I get creeped out when I get those occasionally Nielsen-esque phone calls asking me to answer some survey question. I don’t want to tell a telemarketer (which I who I always assume these calls are really from) what my true political feelings are, or who I actually voted for (even though it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who I supported for president last time around). There’s just something unseemly in divulging what I consider personal information to somebody I don’t even know.

Add questions about my sexual orientation to the mix, and you can fuggedaboutit.

gay couple

Gay couple via Shutterstock

So while I find such studies interesting, they’re not terribly dispositive. You simply can’t get people to give an honest answer about their sexual orientation, and certainly not to some stranger who comes knocking on the door.

My problem, though, is less with the attempt to quantifying the gay-gap, than the fact that few articles about such studies ever note the obvious — that these figures are likely gross underestimates. And the Post, true to form, doesn’t mention this at all.

Another problem with such studies — where they were conducted. One might expect to find more gays in a big city than little town. Or at least, more gays who are willing to acknowledge their sexual orientation in a big city, than a little town. So surveys like this run the risk of both over- and under- sampling, depending on where they were conducted.

And let’s not even get started on who claims to be “bisexual” in these surveys. You run, again, the risk of over- and under- counting as bisexuals might fear the same stigma as gays, and thus under-self-report to a stranger. But to the degree that someone is willing to divulge their non-standard sexual orientation to a stranger, you still run the risk of a somewhat trepidatious gay self-reporting as bi, since some people who are just coming out feel more comfortable calling themselves bi than gay.

None of this means that these surveys can’t come up with interesting, illuminating results. But I wish the press would get into the details, and help us understand whether these surveys truly are accounting for all gay people, and all bisexuals, in the population.

Why? Because the religious right LOVES to tell everyone how “few” the gays are (as if it’s okay to oppress someone simply because they’re less than 3% of the population).

Nonetheless it’s

NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN
]]> 69 A pill a day to prevent HIV? Could it be “that” easy? Wed, 16 Jul 2014 13:00:30 +0000 I’ve written previously about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for preventing HIV (here and here, as well).

For those unaware, PrEP makes use of an antiretroviral pill called Truvada® (a combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine), along with safer-sex practices (e.g., condom use), to vasty decrease the risk of contracting HIV. PrEP is something that HIV negative people use.

Several studies were done using PrEP in different populations (men who have sex with men (MSM), women, sex workers, partners in zero-discordant couples (one member of the couple HIV positive the other HIV negative)) in several countries on different continents. The results were published in a number of papers, several of which are listed in the previous articles I did on PrEP linked above. In brief, most of the studies showed a dramatic decrease, by 92%, in the transmission of HIV when this drug combination was used along with safer-sex practices.

AIDS-HIV activist dispenses awareness information near Yoyogi Park, popular with teens and young adults on Sept. 18, 2009 in Tokyo. 20-30 year-olds have the highest rate of HIV in Japan. cdrin /

AIDS-HIV activist dispenses awareness information near Yoyogi Park, popular with teens and young adults on Sept. 18, 2009 in Tokyo. 20-30 year-olds have the highest rate of HIV in Japan. cdrin /

The Food and Drug Administration approved this drug for PrEP in 2012 in the United States. Earlier this year, the US Public Health Service (USPHS), in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control, (CDC) released guidelines for the use of PrEP. The guidelines were formulated by members of the USPHS, CDC, doctors who treat HIV patients, researchers, HIV patients and others. The guidelines provide criteria for determining when PrEP should be used.

• Provide clear criteria for determining a person’s HIV risk and indications for PrEP use.
• Require that patients receive HIV testing to confirm negative status before starting PrEP.
• Underscore importance of counseling about adherence and HIV risk reduction, including encouraging condom use for additional protection.
• Recommend regular monitoring of HIV infection status, side effects, adherence, and sexual or injection risk behaviors.
• Include a providers’ supplement with additional materials and tools for use when prescribing PrEP.
[. . . ]
For sexual transmission, this includes anyone who is in an ongoing relationship with an HIV-positive partner. It also includes anyone who 1) is not in a mutually monogamous* relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative, and 2) is a
• gay or bisexual man who has had anal sex without a condom or been diagnosed with an STD  in the past 6 months; or
• heterosexual man or woman who does not regularly use condoms during sex with partners of  unknown HIV status who are at substantial risk of HIV infection (e.g., people who inject drugs or have bisexual male partners).

The USPHS, CDC, et al. said that, “[t]he new federal guidelines recommend that PrEP be considered for people who are HIV-negative and at substantial risk for HIV.”

The recommendation is that PrEP should be considered for use in people who are at a substantial risk for HIV.

On July, 11th the World Health Organization (WHO) came out with its opinion on using PrEP. Its report looked at several different groups: MSMs, serodiscordant couples, prison populations, transgender women and others. Here’s what the WHO said about MSMs and PrEP:

Among men who have sex with men, PrEP is recommended as an additional HIV prevention choice within a comprehensive HIV prevention package (strong
recommendation, high quality of evidence).

The parenthetical phrase “high quality of evidence” refers to the validity, and sometimes amount, of research on the topic.

The WHO is essentially saying that it recommends that all MSMs take tenofovir-emtricitabine, and use safer-sex practices, to help prevent them from getting HIV. The USPHS/CDC said that PrEP with Truvada® should be “considered” while the WHO the “considered” to an outright recommendation.

You can access a copy of the full guidelines (free) here: (184 pages), and an overview (8 pages) here.

One concern that some have raised is whether people on PrEP may stop using condoms (thinking they’re fine simply taking the drug). Some people and organizations came out against using PrEP for just that reason, characterizing it as a “party drug.” There was also some Internet-shaming going on against men who were using PrEP.

Of course, if people did stop using condoms, that would increase their risk for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and their risk to contract HIV. Two studies (one cited in the longer WHO report, linked above) show that this doesn’t seem to be true. One study showed that all men enrolled in one PrEP trial increased their use of condoms over what had been their baselines before enrolling in the study.

Another point raised was that there are side effects that can occur when someone takes a medication. The same holds true for PrEP. The WHO study concludes from studies that side effects from taking tenofovir-emtricitabine were low, rarely serious, often remitted over time or after a hiatus from the drug.

The medication involved needs to be taken daily. Some fear that people won’t adhere to a once-daily dosing schedule. That may happen and could increase the risk that HIV may become resistant to this antiretroviral drug combination. However, many of the participants adhered well to their daily dosing. Some others did not. Some of the data showed that even with less than ideal adherence to the medication, protection against HIV transmission was still relatively good.

The cost of the medication is high. Yet almost all health insurances are willing to cover the cost. Their feeling seems to be that, as expensive as it is, it’s less expensive than paying for triple antiretrovirals, hospital admissions, physician specialist consults and other medications necessary to treat complications of someone with HIV or AIDS. Additionally, the manufacturer of the drug has a patient-assistance program available for those who are uninsured and may not be able to pay for the drug.

The recommendations from the WHO and the USPHS/CDC require that those people who get started on PrEP be followed regularly. They are not just given an infinite supply of the drug. They have to see their doctors regularly, be tested for HIV, have other tests done to be monitored for side effects from the drug, have counseling, etc.

PrEP is not just the drug; it’s a program to reduce the spread of HIV.

If you’re not taking PrEP and are sexually active, you at least owe it to yourself to discuss the topic with your doctor. Even if you’re in a monogamous relationship, there may be the possibility that your husband, or you, may have an extramarital affair at some time.

If you want more information on HIV or PrEP you can contact the CDC 1-800-CDC-INFO or call your state HIV/AIDS hotline.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN
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It’s been a travel day with the dog Wed, 16 Jul 2014 11:00:47 +0000 Yesterday was a travel day, as Sasha and I headed to Chicago to see my family for a week, then I’m off to France for my annual medical tourism / house-sitting for Chris and his wife Joelle.

(As regular readers know, I buy my ridiculously overpriced American asthma medication in France because the drug companies charge Americans 5x what they charge Europeans for the exact same drug. J’accuse, Advair.)

The trip involves Sasha, my 10 pound Yorkie-Bichon, flying under my seat, which she really doesn’t like.  But she otherwise adores the airport, as Sasha’s a bit of an attention-hog.  She’s a people-dog.


Sasha invading my packing.


More invasion of the packing-snatchers.


Two hours to flight time, increasingly concerned.

The day didn’t start out terribly well, as we had one of the rudest flying experiences ever with Southwest (I know!).  It started with the ticket taker as we were boarding the plane.  First, the agent told the traveler in front of me to “pay attention,” after the guy accidentally handed him the wrong boarding pass.  Then, when it was my turn, he saw Sasha’s head poking out of the bag and scolded me. I said I knew she needed to be zipped up for the flight, but I’d flown with her 30 times, and had never had a problem with her heading poking out while boarding. But, I said, I’ll zip her in (at the same time handing him my ticket). He refused to take my ticket and just looked at me, waiting for me to jam her head down and zip the dog.

Nice man.

Then I get inside the plane. mentioned it to the flight attendant while walking in, she apologized and made cooing noises at Sasha so she’d pop her head up — the flight attendant then patted her head and praised her. I walked 20 feet down the aisle and got scolded again for Sasha’s head poking out, even though her head was out because the previous flight attendant asked her to poke her head out.  Flight attendant number two couldn’t have been ruder.  Arrogant like a United flight attendant.

The thing is, I know the rules. I also know that Southwest lets penguins walk down the aisle (not kidding, I have photos). And they most certainly let people have their dogs sleeping on the seats next to them (more photos, and it’s something I’ve NEVER asked them to let me do).  So when Rude Agent #2 lectures me about how these are the FAA’s inviolable rules, and suggests that I clearly don’t know what I’m talking about when I explain that I’ve never had anyone complain about the dog’s head while boarding over 30 times now, it irks me.  It irks me because Southwest claims to be different.  They claim not to have a stick up their collective tailside, like some other big carriers.  And when two of the rudest flights I’ve ever flown with my dog happen on Southwest (the first was a codeshare with Air Tran, also out of DC), it starts to make me question Southwest’s commitment to being the good guys of the normally unfriendly skies.

Yes, I get it — there are rules. And unless my little girl was brandishing a pair of boxcutters, I think the
“what airline would ever let a dog’s head pop out of a bag while boarding” attitude could have been toned down a bit.

Not to mention, “pay attention”?


Sasha and my parents’ dog Kukla, paying attention.

Having said all of that, I, as always, had a GREAT experience with TSA. Seriously.

It’s funny, but for all the bad experiences people say they have with TSA, mine have always been great, and certainly better than what I went through in the pre-TSA days.  And the thing is, while my dog seems to provoke some flight attendants to bring out their inner meanie, at TSA, they’re a bunch of ooeey gooey softies when I show up with the old girl.  And it’s really nice.

Even today, it was taking me a bit of time to get everything assembled after the x-ray — you try to juggle a small dog while reassembling your bags and belt.  And the TSA woman came up and offered to help me.  Even with the great service I’ve had with TSA before, this was remarkable.

So for all the legitimate complaints folks make about TSA, try showing up with a cute pooch — you might just find your opinion of them change markedly. :-)

Sasha had her own version of “evil Southwest flight attendant” today when she ran back into her old nemesis, Demon-Cat.


Yes, the cat that trapped me in the bathroom at Easter is back.  Or rather, she never left.

I’m here for a week. Stay tuned.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN
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Freak hailstorm hits Siberia (amazing video) Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:58:27 +0000 A freakishly strong hailstorm hit Russia recently (Novosibirsk, to be exact), and someone caught it on video.

The video starts off all fun and games, then people realize how dangerous it really is. Here are people running out of the water laughing.


After about half a minute they’re not laughing any more.


I was caught in a rather large hailstorm in DC once. I couldn’t believe how much the hail hurt. I mean, it HURT. BADLY. I had to put my dry cleaning over my head and run for cover. I’d never experienced hail this large before, never fully appreciated how damaging larger sized hail really is.

It’s a pretty amazing video.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN
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Archie to die thwarting assassination of gay comics character Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:24:36 +0000 AP is reporting that Archie, the beloved red-haired comic book character, will meet his maker this coming Wednesday when he dives in front of a bullet to save the comic strip’s first gay character, Kevin Keller, who is now a US Senator.

Archie Comics has already revealed some of the end-moment snapshots:


AP has a few more of the images.

The gay in me says “yeah!” While the writer in me says “oy.” One of the things they teach you early on in writing-land is not to follow a story line just because it’s something that “could” happen in real life.  The potential reality of it doesn’t necessarily stop something from coming across as canned, phony, too much.

While I’m all for mainstreaming the gay rights movement, and it doesn’t get any more mainstream than Archie dying for his gay friend, somehow Archie throwing himself in front of a bullet to stop the assassination of his gay senator bff strikes me as a bit late-era-Fonzie-esque.


Then again, I don’t read comic books (though I did as a kid). I have adult friends here in America who do (and adult French people love comic books). So maybe I’m missing the nuance of how “Archie” a move this really is.

And in the end, if tons of Archie fans learn the lesson that “gay is good,” I’m not being the one who stands up and says “no.

Though I might say “meh.”

What do you think? Is this a big deal?

NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN
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She thinks white gay men act too black woman-y. Uh ok. Mon, 14 Jul 2014 15:26:07 +0000 It’s an odd article. And part of the ongoing trend I noted last year of the corporate media publishing sensational anti-gay stories in a last-ditch effort to get more readers before this new economy takes us all under.

The latest entry is Time magazine’s borderline racist, and definitely homophobic, attack on “white gay men” for “stealing” black female culture.

Apparently, gay isn’t just the new black, it’s too black.

In particular, white gay is too black. All white gays. According to the author, Sierra Mannie, we all want to be black women, or something.

Hmm. This gay man isn’t entirely sure who, if anyone, he “acts” like, but it’s definitely not a woman of any race.

It’s a bizarre article.

Here, have a looksie (was that too feminine a word?):

You are not a black woman, and you do not get to claim either blackness or womanhood. There is a clear line between appreciation and appropriation

I need some of you to cut it the hell out. Maybe, for some of you, it’s a presumed mutual appreciation for Beyoncé and weaves that has you thinking that I’m going to be amused by you approaching me in your best “Shanequa from around the way” voice. I don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t care how well you can quote Madea, who told you that your booty was getting bigger than hers, how cute you think it is to call yourself a strong black woman, who taught you to twerk, how funny you think it is to call yourself Quita or Keisha or for which black male you’ve been bottoming — you are not a black woman, and you do not get to claim either blackness or womanhood. It is not yours. It is not for you.

Oh, and she brings up “privilege” too.  I’ve written about privilege before. It’s a concept that’s become trendy (and trite) of late among the great-angry-thinkers of the left, though it’s not entirely without merit. But sadly, it’s usually brought up when someone’s losing an argument and desperately needs to shut their opponent up, and down.

In addition to bringing up the “fact” that gays can “hide” who they are, so apparently they’re not as discriminated against as black women (try that “you can hide” excuse on someone Jewish, then get back to me), Mannie then goes off about how great white gays have it.  You see, they’re “white,” and all white people have a fabulous life in America.

Black people can’t have anything. Any of these things include, but aren’t limited to: a general sense of physical safety, comfort with law enforcement, adequate funding and appreciation for black spaces like schools and neighborhoods, appropriate venues for our voices to be heard about criticism of issues without our race going on trial because of it, and solid voting rights (cc: Chris McDaniel).

And then, when you thought this pillaging couldn’t get any worse, extracurricular black activities get snatched up, too: our music, our dances, our slang, our clothing, our hairstyles. All of these things are rounded up, whitewashed and repackaged for your consumption. But here’s the shade — the non-black people who get to enjoy all of the fun things about blackness will never have to experience the ugliness of the black experience, systemic racism and the dangers of simply living while black. Though I suppose there’s some thrill in this “rolling with the homies” philosophy some adopt, white people are not racially oppressed in the United States of America.

Yes, it’s so easy being gay and white in America.

Matthew Shepard.

Matthew Shepard.

I’m not going to waste additional time on Sierra Mannie’s excellent impression of Suey Park. She’s simply another actor in the grand critical-theory drama that has empowered so many among the farthest reaches of the left.  But what I find most sad isn’t Mannie’s racism or homophobia. Rather, it’s Time magazine giving voice to it at all.

I mean, seriously — Time magazine is printing anal-sex jibes about gay men? (“[H]ow funny you think it is to call yourself Quita or Keisha or for which black male you’ve been bottoming.”) Is this really what the dismal economic climate for media, old and new, has finally led us to?

I’ve written before about how bad it is economically for all of us.  I’d be hard-pressed to guess any media site that’s actually been making good money these past 5 years since the economy collapsed.  A lot of your favorite sites, old media and new alike, are probably nearing the end of their lifespan as revenues refuse to pick up sufficiently.  I’ve done ample chicken-little warnings. When your favorite sites close down, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

But nonetheless, in the drive for eyeballs, it’s one thing to post cat videos at night (we do), it’s another entirely to post bigoted drivel in the hopes that controversy will equal ad dollars (we don’t).  At some point, if we can’t afford to stay in this business as news people, then it’s time to leave, rather than water down the product to such a degree that the lines are permanently blurred yellow.

And before you leave, do read H. Alan Scott’s brilliant take-down of Sierra Mannie. It’s delicious. It wasn’t Scott, but someone else I read, who noted that it wasn’t white gay men who created the whole talking-like-a-black-gurl thing. It was black gay men, dating back to the era of Paris is Burning, a wonderful documentary about drag and poor gay black kids in NYC in 1991. It’s not about mocking women, black or white. For these kids it was about empowerment. It’s an amazing documentary.

One of the neatest things about that documentary, for me at least, was the notion of drag as blending, fitting in. That anyone could be anything, could look “real,” if they simply had the right clothes. I just love the concept, and it’s not untrue. What does a businessman look like? Or an immigrant? Or a gay man? We ascribe so much to the “way” someone looks. And drag turns that on its head.

I wish gay white people would stop acting like black women.

And PS, this.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN
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Yet another study finds gays make great parents Mon, 14 Jul 2014 12:00:23 +0000 A new Australian study has found children in same-sex families are developing normally and are in good physical health.

The study, called the Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families (ACHESS), is a fairly large one, gathering data from over 300 same-sex families and 500 children from those families.

The children ranged in age from newborns up to age 17. In general, the children from same-sex families scored higher in terms of general health than children of opposite-sex parents.

They also had fewer negative behavioral issues than children from opposite-sex parents. The authors write, “Australian children with same-sex attracted parents score higher than population samples on a number of parent-reported measures of child health.”

The ACHESS data joins information from other studies that basically reinforce each other. Children raised in same-sex (or “non-traditional”) families are certainly not being harmed by not having opposite-sex parents. They are being nurtured and developing normally.

(Good guy) protesters outside the Supreme Court, and across from the US Congress, for the oral arguments on the gay rights cases involving DOMA and Proposition 8 in March, 2013. © John Aravosis 2013

A gay couple and their kids outside the Supreme Court, and across from the US Congress, for the oral arguments on DOMA and Proposition 8 in March of 2013. © John Aravosis 2013

Information from a few of the studies that have looked at same-sex couple parenting and the children involved follow. Unequivocally, the data show that children raised by same-sex parents are doing well when compared to children raised by opposite-sex parents.

Here are some points made by studies concerning same-sex parenting and the children’s well-being.

The American Academy of Pediatrics:

Results confirm previous studies in this current body of literature, suggesting that children raised by same-sex parents fare equally well to children raised by heterosexual parents.

Demographics 2013:

I use U.S. census data to perform the first large-sample, nationally representative tests of outcomes for children raised by same-sex couples. The results show that children of same-sex couples are as likely to make normal progress through school as the children of most other family structures. Heterosexual married couples are the family type whose children have the lowest rates of grade retention, but the advantage of heterosexual married couples is mostly due to their higher socioeconomic status. Children of all family types (including children of same-sex couples) are far more likely to make normal progress through school than are children living in group quarters (such as orphanages and shelters).

And another study from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

The 17-year-old daughters and sons of lesbian mothers were rated significantly higher in social, school/academic, and total competence and significantly lower in social problems, rule-breaking, aggressive, and externalizing problem behavior than their age-matched counterparts… Within the lesbian family sample, no Child Behavior Checklist differences were found among adolescent offspring who were conceived by known, as-yet-unknown, and permanently unknown donors or between offspring whose mothers were still together and offspring whose mothers had separated… Adolescents who have been reared in lesbian-mother families since birth demonstrate healthy psychological adjustment.

The Journal of GLBT Family Studies:

Extensive data available from more than 30 years of research reveal that children raised by gay and lesbian parents have demonstrated resilience with regard to social, psychological, and sexual health despite economic and legal disparities and social stigma. Many studies have demonstrated that children’s well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents. Lack of opportunity for same-gender couples to marry adds to families’ stress, which affects the health and welfare of all household members.

These studies, among others, state clearly that children do not need to be raised by an opposite-sex parent couple to develop normally, to grow and mature, be happy and healthy. And they don’t need a mother and father to have a good family structure.

This flies in the faces of statements of what the Mormon, Baptist and Catholic churches profess. It contradicts the dogma from the National Organization for Marriage, that preaches that same line about the need for a female-male dyad as the only stratum in which to be able to raise well-adjusted children. That is just not true.

These organizations, and others, maintain that the “traditional family” is necessary for children’s well-being. Yet multiple studies have shown that isn’t the case. Often the only “evidence” that they have to support their claim is the debunked Regnerus study. And that has been thoroughly discredited by other researchers and professional organizations. Unfortunately, they continue to cling to Regnerus’ work and drag it out, like a moldering zombie anytime that they want to cite research. Equally unfortunately, their base continues to believe them and focus on it as they ignore information to the contrary. I’m sure that for many of them, no amount of evidence to the contrary will change their minds.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN
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If Google were a guy (video) Fri, 11 Jul 2014 21:30:39 +0000 From the College Humor guys, a look at what life would be like if Google were a real person.

And the subjunctive never existed.


NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN
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