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News 28.06.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 28.06.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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It may be time to stop talking about “red” and “blue” America. That’s the provocative conclusion of Michael Podhorzer, a longtime political strategist for labor unions and the chair of the Analyst Institute, a collaborative of progressive groups that studies elections. In a private newsletter that he writes for a small group of activists, Podhorzer recently laid out a detailed case for thinking of the two blocs as fundamentally different nations uneasily sharing the same geographic space.

“When we think about the United States, we make the essential error of imagining it as a single nation, a marbled mix of Red and Blue people,” Podhorzer writes. “But in truth, we have never been one nation. We are more like a federated republic of two nations: Blue Nation and Red Nation. This is not a metaphor; it is a geographic and historical reality.”

To Podhorzer, the growing divisions between red and blue states represent a reversion to the lines of separation through much of the nation’s history. The differences among states in the Donald Trump era, he writes, are “very similar, both geographically and culturally, to the divides between the Union and the Confederacy. And those dividing lines were largely set at the nation’s founding, when slave states and free states forged an uneasy alliance to become ‘one nation.’”

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 28.06.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 28.06.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

After the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed on September 11, 2001, in a haze of horror and smoke, clinicians at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in Manhattan offered to check anyone who’d been in the area for exposure to toxins. Among those who came in for evaluation were 187 pregnant women. Many were in shock, and a colleague asked if I could help diagnose and monitor them. They were at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD—experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbness or other psychiatric symptoms for years afterward. And were the fetuses at risk?

My trauma research team quickly trained health professionals to evaluate and, if needed, treat the women. We monitored them through their pregnancies and beyond. When the babies were born, they were smaller than usual—the first sign that the trauma of the World Trade Center attack had reached the womb. Nine months later we examined 38 women and their infants when they came in for a wellness visit. Psychological evaluations revealed that many of the mothers had developed PTSD. And those with PTSD had unusually low levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol, a feature that researchers were coming to associate with the disorder.

Surprisingly and disturbingly, the saliva of the nine-month-old babies of the women with PTSD also showed low cortisol. The effect was most prominent in babies whose mothers had been in their third trimester on that fateful day. Just a year earlier a team I led had reported low cortisol levels in adult children of Holocaust survivors, but we’d assumed that it had something to do with being raised by parents who were suffering from the long-term emotional consequences of severe trauma. Now it looked like trauma leaves a trace in offspring even before they are born.

In the decades since, research by my group and others has confirmed that adverse experiences may influence the next generation through multiple pathways. The most apparent route runs through parental behavior, but influences during gestation and even changes in eggs and sperm may also play a role. And all these channels seem to involve epigenetics: alterations in the way that genes function. Epigenetics potentially explains why effects of trauma may endure long after the immediate threat is gone, and it is also implicated in the diverse pathways by which trauma is transmitted to future generations.

The implications of these findings may seem dire, suggesting that parental trauma predisposes offspring to be vulnerable to mental health conditions. But there is some evidence that the epigenetic response may serve as an adaptation that might help the children of traumatized parents cope with similar adversities. Or could both possible outcomes be true?

Read the rest of this article at: Scientific American

When I was 21, the cool thing to be was famous on Instagram. Now the cooler thing to be is a mystery. Anonymity is in.

The youngest adult generation and the most online generation is frustrated with being surveilled and embarrassed by attention-seeking behaviors. This has instigated a retreat into smaller internet spaces and secret-sharing apps, as well as a mini-renaissance for Tumblr, where users rarely use their full names. (The majority of new users are Gen Z, according to Chenda Ngak, a spokesperson for Tumblr’s parent company.) The voice- and text-chat app Discord, known for a culture of anonymous and pseudonymous discussion, now has 150 million users; anonymously run hyper-niche meme accounts are suddenly the coolest, most exciting follows on Instagram. The group-therapy app Chill Pill offers a “world of future friends and better days” but does not permit the sharing of any personally identifying information. (I downloaded the app but can’t make a real account—I’m over the age limit, which is 24.)

Something has shifted online: We’ve arrived at a new era of anonymity, in which it feels natural to be inscrutable and confusing—forget the burden of crafting a coherent, persistent personal brand. There just isn’t any good reason to use your real name anymore. “In the mid 2010s, ambiguity died online—not of natural causes, it was hunted and killed,” the writer and podcast host Biz Sherbert observed recently. Now young people are trying to bring it back. I find this sort of exciting, but also unnerving. What are they going to do with their newfound freedom?

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

News 28.06.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 28.06.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Last fall, Deborah, a woman in her mid-sixties whom I’ve known for most of my life, showed up late to a small noontime gathering at our friend’s home in northern California. I hadn’t seen her since 2019, which wasn’t atypical. I hadn’t seen most people, even those I was closest to.

Deborah brought bagels and a quiche, which she placed on the kitchen counter and urged us to eat; she owns a small catering company that she had slowly built up over the past decade. When she sat down, I asked her the most banal question: “How are you?” By then, a year and a half into the pandemic, we had reached the understanding that we were all experiencing variations on a theme. I wasn’t sure what I expected her to say. Deborah looked into my eyes, and then past them. That’s when she told me how she lost it all.

About two months earlier, Deborah, whose last name is being withheld to protect her privacy, received a text message alerting her to some potentially fraudulent activity on her Chase Bank account, and asking whether she had made a particular purchase. She hadn’t, and texted back as much. The next day she got a phone call. “Hello, Deborah,” a voice said. “This is Miss Barbara from Chase Bank.” Miss Barbara explained that someone had used Deborah’s debit card, and that Chase wanted to replace it. Deborah, of course, wanted that, too. Miss Barbara said that since Deborah was already under fraud alert, the bank would need to verify her identity. To do so, they had her read out a four-digit verification code that would be sent to her via text message. Deborah read the string of numbers. Then Miss Barbara asked for Deborah’s address. She supplied it.

When Deborah’s new card didn’t show up, Miss Barbara called again to apologize: UPS had been unable to locate the house. Deborah had heard this plenty of times since moving to the outskirts of a new town, so she didn’t find it suspicious. Miss Barbara said she would place an order for a new card, and she had Deborah dictate another verification code. This happened again and again, six times in all. The card never arrived. Deborah grew frustrated, but the repeated calls didn’t alarm her or her partner. Each time the card failed to appear, Miss Barbara rang, and Deborah verified her account.

While Deborah didn’t suspect fraudulence, she tired of waiting. She told Miss Barbara to forget it, that she would visit the nearest bank branch herself, even though it was a good forty minutes away and she felt out of place among its wealthy clientele. Miss Barbara tried to dissuade her: there had been many bank closures since the start of the pandemic. The hours could have changed, lines could be long, she could be exposed to the virus. Deborah’s last call with Miss Barbara was on Friday, October 8; the following Monday was a bank holiday. That Tuesday, Deborah and her partner drove to the branch, stopping first for lunch. She had two bank accounts; the card in question was associated with her business account. She put her personal card down for lunch—no trouble.

Read the rest of this article at: Harper’s Magazine

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News 28.06.22 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

CORPUS CHRISTI, Tex. — Brooke Alexander turned off her breast pump at 6:04 p.m. and brought two fresh bottles of milk over to the bed, where her 3-month-old twins lay flat on their backs, red-faced and crying.

Running on four hours of sleep, the 18-year-old tried to feed both babies at once, holding Kendall in her arms while she tried to get Olivia to feed herself, her bottle propped up by a pillow. But the bottle kept slipping and the baby kept wailing. And Brooke’s boyfriend, Billy High, wouldn’t be home for another five hours.

“Please, fussy girl,” Brooke whispered.

She peeked outside the room, just big enough for a full-size mattress, and realized she had barely seen the sun all day. The windows were covered by blankets, pinned up with thumbtacks to keep the room cool. Brooke rarely ventured into the rest of the house. Billy’s dad had taken them in when her mom kicked them out, and she didn’t want to get in his way.

The hours without Billy were always the hardest. She knew he had to go, as they relied entirely on the $9.75 an hour he made working the line at Freebirds World Burrito, but she tortured herself imagining all the girls he might be meeting. And she wished she had somewhere to go, too.

Brooke found out she was pregnant late on the night of Aug. 29, two days before the Texas Heartbeat Act banned abortions once an ultrasound can detect cardiac activity, around six weeks of pregnancy. It was the most restrictive abortion law to take effect in the United States in nearly 50 years.

For many Texans who have needed abortions since September, the law has been a major inconvenience, forcing them to drive hundreds of miles, and pay hundreds of dollars, for a legal procedure they once could have had at home. But not everyone has been able to leave the state. Some people couldn’t take time away from work or afford gas, while others, faced with a long journey, decided to stay pregnant. Nearly 10 months into the Texas law, they have started having the babies they never planned to carry to term.

Texas offers a glimpse of what much of the country would face if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade this summer, as has been widely expected since a leaked draft opinion circulated last month. If the landmark precedent falls, roughly half the states in the country are expected to dramatically restrict abortion or ban it altogether, creating vast abortion deserts that will push many into parenthood.

Sometimes Brooke imagined her life if she hadn’t gotten pregnant, and if Texas hadn’t banned abortion just days after she decided that she wanted one. She would have been in school, rushing from class to her shift at Texas Roadhouse, eyes on a real estate license that would finally get her out of Corpus Christi. She pictured an apartment in Austin and enough money for a trip to Hawaii, where she would swim with dolphins in water so clear she could see her toes.

When both babies finally started eating, Brooke took out her phone and restarted the timer that had been running almost continuously since the day they were born. She had two and a half hours until they’d have to eat again.

Brooke and Billy first met at the downtown skatepark with a big group of friends, one clear night in May of last year. They didn’t talk that first day, but Brooke noticed how effortlessly Billy dropped into the quarter-pipe, the way his blond hair flipped out from underneath his red beanie. She followed him on Instagram, and her stomach did a little dance when she saw that he followed her back.

Soon, they were spending almost every day together, throwing themselves into the Gulf of Mexico waves on Padre Island and watching the sun set over the pier. At the skatepark, he’d help her do the tricks she’d been scared to try alone.

“Pinkie promise me you’ll do it,” he’d say, all blue eyes and dimples, as she peeked over the edge of the ramp. Once he hooked her little finger, there was no backing down.

Billy was different from the other guys Brooke knew. He held her hand in public and introduced her to his dad. When she took him to the mall, he grinned each time she stepped out of the dressing room, telling her how good she looked in each new crop top she tried on. He made her feel pretty. “I wasn’t used to feeling like that,” Brooke said.

Brooke took the pregnancy test at 11 o’clock on a hot night at the tail end of the summer. When the two pink lines appeared, she looked over at Billy, then slid onto the bathroom floor, finally connecting the signs she’d ignored for weeks.

The nausea she’d chalked up to food poisoning. The two missed periods. That moment a few weeks back, when Billy put a hand on her stomach and asked if she was sure she wasn’t pregnant.

Leaving Billy in her bedroom with the pregnancy test, Brooke grabbed her keys and drove to her best friend’s house, where they sat on his bed and examined her options.

She could always get an abortion, she told him. Then he reminded her of something she vaguely remembered seeing on Twitter: A new law was scheduled to take effect Sept. 1. Brooke had 48 hours.

The abortion clinic in South Texas, two and a half hours from Corpus Christi, had no open slots in the next two days, with patients across the state racing to get into clinics before the law came down. When Brooke called, the woman on the end of the line offered the names and addresses of clinics in New Mexico, a 13-hour drive from Corpus Christi.

Read the rest of this article at: The Washington Post

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.