1. Universal Healthcare Is Great for Free Enterprise and Great for Small Businesses

The modern-day Republican Party would have us believe that those who promote universal healthcare are anti-free enterprise or hostile to small businesses. But truth be told, universal healthcare is great for entrepreneurs, small businesses and the self-employed in France, Germany and other developed countries where healthcare is considered a right. The U.S.’ troubled healthcare system has a long history of punishing entrepreneurs with sky-high premiums when they start their own businesses. Prior to the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, many small business owners couldn’t even obtain individual health insurance plans if they had a preexisting condition such as heart disease or diabetes—and even with the ACA’s reforms, the high cost of health insurance is still daunting to small business owners. But many Americans fail to realize that healthcare reform is not only a humanitarian issue, it is also vitally important to small businesses and the self-employed.

2. Comprehensive Sex Education Decreases Sexual Problems

For decades, social conservatives in the U.S. have insisted that comprehensive sex education promotes unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. But in fact, comprehensive sex education (as opposed to the abstinence-only programs that are common in the American Bible Belt) decreases sexual problems, and the data bears that out in no uncertain terms. Public schools in the Netherlands have aggressive sex education programs that America’s Christian Right would despise. Yet in 2009, the Netherlands had (according to the United Nations) a teen birth rate of only 5.3 per 1,000 compared to 39.1 per 1,000 in the U.S. That same year, the U.S. had three times as many adults living with HIV or AIDS as the Netherlands.

3. American Exceptionalism Is Absolute Nonsense in 2015

No matter how severe the U.S.’ decline becomes, neocons and the Tea Party continue to espouse their belief in “American exceptionalism.” But in many respects, the U.S. of 2015 is far from exceptional. The U.S. is not exceptional when it comes to civil liberties (no country in the world incarcerates, per capita, more of its people than the U.S.) or healthcare (WHO ranks the U.S. #37 in terms of healthcare).

4. Adequate Mass Transit Is a Huge Convenience

When it comes to mass transit, Europe and Japan are way ahead of the U.S.; in only a handful of American cities is it easy to function without a car. New York City, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, DC are among the U.S.’ more mass transit-oriented cities, but overall, the U.S. remains a car culture—and public transportation is painfully limited in a long list of U.S. cities. Many Americans fail to realize that mass transit has numerous advantages, including less air pollution, less congestion, fewer DUIs and all the aerobic exercise that goes with living in a pedestrian-friendly environment.

5. The Bible Was Not Written by Billionaire Hedge Fund Managers

Christianity in its various forms can be found all over the developed world. But the U.S., more than anywhere, is where one finds a far-right version of white Protestant fundamentalism that idolizes the ultra-rich, demonizes the poor and equates extreme wealth with morality and poverty with moral failings.

6. Learning a Second or Third Language Is a Plus, Not a Character Flaw

In the Netherlands or the Scandinavian countries, becoming proficient in two or three foreign languages is viewed as a sign of intellect and sophistication. But xenophobia runs so deep among many neocons, Republicans and Tea Party wingnuts that any use of a language other than English terrifies them. Barack Obama, during his 2008 campaign, was bombarded with hateful responses from Republicans when he recommended that Americans study foreign languages from an early age. And in the 2012 GOP presidential primary, Newt Gingrich’s campaign ran an ad in South Carolina attacking Mitt Romney for being proficient in French.

7. Union Membership Benefits the Economy

In 2014, a Gallup poll found that 53% of Americans approved of labor unions while 71% favored anti-union “right to work” laws. Union membership is way down in the U.S.: only 6.6% of private-sector workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, belonged to unions in 2014 compared to roughly 35% in the mid-1950s. The U.S.’ overall unionization rate (factoring in both public-sector and private-sector workers) is 11.1%, which is quite a contrast to parts of Europe, where overall union rates range from 74% in Finland and 70% in Sweden to 35% in Italy, 19% in Spain and 18% in Germany. That is not to say unionization has not been decreasing in Europe, but overall, one finds a more pro-labor, pro-working class outlook in Europe. The fact that 47% of Americans, in that Gallup poll, consider themselves anti-union is troubling.

8. Paid Maternity Leave Is the Norm in Most Developed Countries

The U.S. continues to lag behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to maternity leave. Paid maternity leave is strictly voluntary in the U.S., where, according to the organization Moms Rising, 51% of new mothers have no paid maternity leave at all. But government-mandated maternity leave is the norm in other developed countries, including the Netherlands (112 days at 100% pay), Italy (140 days at 80% pay), Switzerland (98 days at 80% pay) and Germany (98 days at 100% pay).

9. Distrust of Oligarchy Is a Positive

In February, the Emnid Polling Institute in Germany released the results of a poll that addressed economic and political conditions in that country: over 60% of the Germans surveyed believed that large corporations had too much influence on elections. ThE survey demonstrated that most Germans have a healthy distrust of crony capitalists and oligarchs who take much more than they give. Meanwhile, in the U.S., various polls show a growing distrust of oligarchy on the part of many Americans but with less vehemence than in the German Emnid poll.

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Why Mushrooms and MDMA Are Not As Dangerous As You Thought

Using data pooled over five years from over 190,000 adults, researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that users of certain nonaddictive psychedelic drugs had notable effects on mental health. The study found that 19 percent of users reported reduced likelihood of psychological distress in the past month, were 14 percent less likely to have suicidal thoughts, were 29 percent less likely to plan a suicide, and 36 percent less likely to attempt it.

Anti-Obamacare Sheriff Now Says He Needs $60,000 For Medical Bills, Still Refuses To Get Insurance

Anti-Obamacare Sheriff Now Says He Needs $60,000 For Medical Bills, Still Refuses To Get Insurance

Not content to merely cut off his nose to spite his face, an Arizona conservative sheriff has chopped off his whole head to spite Obama.

Recently, Sheriff Richard Mack, who brands himself as the “Constitutional Sheriff,” had a major heart attack. Thankfully, he survived, but was left in crippling debt from medical expenses. No problem, you might think. The new healthcare laws under the Affordable…

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The GOP’s latest budget proposal offers the same-as-it-ever-was scorched earth approach to cutting funding for domestic programs, including the ones that serve low-income women and victims of violence. The hottest Republican presidential contender for 2016 just suggested that he might eliminate the federal minimum wage. Senate Republicans have vowed to block the confirmation of Loretta Lynch until Democrats essentially agree to force child victims of trafficking to carry pregnancies to term. And some of the most prominent women in the party are blaming the pay gap on old people watching porn at work.

The GOP wants to attract women voters by putting a happy face on policies that will make their lives miserable

Here’s Why You Should Skip Your Next Receipt

Most Millennials have likely heard about the negative health effects of BPA. You may have ditched your Nalgene water bottle when you found out that the plastic contained the endocrine-disrupting chemical. If you’re particularly cautious like me, you might even buy the more costly BPA-free cans of soup at your neighborhood grocery store (when you can afford them). But what about the receipt given after purchase? Ever wonder why the paper feels slightly powdery?

The receipt coating is BPA, too. And the level of BPA on receipts is much higher than those found in the linings of canned food. Plus, the chemical isn’t “fixed” like it is in plastics, making it even easier to absorb in this format — and possibly worse.

'Cyborg' spinal implant could help paralysed walk again

Paralysed patients have been given new hope of recovery after rats with severe spinal injuries walked again through a ‘groundbreaking’ new cyborg-style implant.
In technology which could have come straight out of a science fiction novel or Hollwood movie, French scientists have created a thin prosthetic ribbon, embedded with electrodes, which lies along the spinal cord and delivers electrical impulses and drugs.
The prosthetic, described by British experts as ‘quite remarkable’, is soft enough to bend with tissue surrounding the backbone to avoid discomfort.
Paralysed rats who were fitted with the implant were able to walk on their own again after just a few weeks of training.
Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne are hoping to move to clinical trials in humans soon. They believe that a device could last 10 years in humans before needing to be replaced.
The implant, called ‘e-Dura’, is so effective because it mimics the soft tissue around the spine – known as the dura mater – so that the body does not reject its presence.
“Our e-Dura implant can remain for a long period of time on the spinal cord or cortex,” said Professor Stéphanie Lacour.

How Sitting Is Slowly Killing You

According to MindBodyGreen, we sit an average of 9.3 hours per day. That may not be surprising since many Americans put in nearly 50 hours of work each week, averaging 9.4 hours per day, according to a Gallup poll released last year. We wind up sitting (and working) more than we sleep, and MindBodyGreen warns that this is incredibly unhealthy. Sitting more than six hours a day makes you up to 40 percent more likely to die within the next 15 years than someone who spends less than three hours per day sitting (also, who are these people? I want to know their secret!). People with sitting jobs face double the risk of cardiovascular disease than those who stand up a great deal at work.

After almost two decades of fighting for equal access to healthcare, transgender New Yorkers who are covered by Medicaid can finally get the transition-related care they need. 

For the last 17 years, transition-related healthcare has been excluded from New York State’s Medicaid program. But the state’s Department of Health has added a new regulation lifting that ban, meaning trans New Yorkers who use Medicaid will now have access to hormones and other treatment. 

The new regulation, which formally took effect on March 11, eliminates a 1998 regulation which stated that coverage “is not available for care, services, drugs, or supplies rendered for the purpose of gender reassignment….” In 2013, TLDEF submitted a 38-page letter urging the state to rescind the 1998 regulation. The new regulation ensures coverage for many common treatments for gender dysphoria, the diagnostic term used to refer to discomfort or distress caused by a difference between a person’s gender identity and their sex assigned at birth.

The regulation was proposed last December and was subject to public comment before its adoption last week. TLDEF submitted comments on the regulation, urging New York to improve the proposed regulation by removing all restrictions for medically necessary transgender health care. While certain restrictions on coverage remain in place, the administration has committed to seeking further guidance and considering changes to the regulation in the future.

Hell yes. Healthcare is a basic human right. There is no excuse for waiting any longer to ensure that everyone has access to it. Everyone. 

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Jolie acknowledges in the piece that her decision to have surgeries to remove her breasts, ovaries and fallopian tubes may not be the right choice for others in her situation (and testing positive for BRCA 1/2 mutations does not automatically mean surgery is the right option), but “choice” can be elusive for the millions of women who don’t have adequate healthcare or any healthcare at all. But millions of women in the United States are still going without care, and the fate of the Affordable Care Act will  soon be determined by a Supreme Court. If the law survives the high court, Republicans have shown no signs of slowing efforts to dismantle the law that has extended coverage to more than 16 million Americans.

Angelina Jolie wrote a powerful editorial about her medical choices. But for millions of women, it’s pure fantasy

The Affordable Care Act was a small step in the right direction and not the fundamental overhaul still desperately needed by America’s dysfunctional and unfit-for-purpose ‘for profit’ healthcare system but even so, by it’s 5th birthday this week ‘Obamacare’ had resoundingly confounded right-wing prophets of doom and exceeded expectations across a range of metrics including, critically, reducing the nation’s uninsured rate by a third .. (story here)

Robotics gloves develop to give stroke patients therapy at home.

A team of European researchers have been developing robotic gloves aimed at helping stroke victims to receive advanced therapy at home. The SCRIPT project (Supervised Care and Rehabilitation Involving Personal Tele-robotics) has led to two prototypes that help develop hand and wrist movement while recording monitoring and recording the patient’s ability to perform a variety of tasks.
The system is designed to allow patients to continue receiving therapy at home once in-clinic rehab sessions are over. The hope is that well targeted therapy in the comfort of the home will lead to meaningful improvements in patients that may otherwise plateau in their motor ability.
Dr Farshid Amirabdollahian, a senior lecturer in adaptive systems at the University of Hertfordshire’s School of Computer Science who co-ordinated the project, said: “This project focused on therapies for stroke patients at home. Our goal was to make motivating therapies available to people to practise at home using this system, hoping that they have a vested interest to practise and will do so. We tried this system with 30 patients and found that patients indeed practised at home, on average around 100 minutes each week, and some showed clinical improvements in their hand and arm function.”