Plan B

Last Friday, the FDA further delayed making a decision about Plan B, the emergency-contraception drug. Currently, seven states allow women access to the drug without a prescription, but approval by the FDA for distribution without a prescription would have national scope.

What is apparently surprising about the further delay is that the recently appointed head of the FDA personally pledged to resolve the status of Plan B by the first of September, and Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. had blocked the appointment of the FDA head until Lester Crawford, the now-serving FDA head, made his pledge to Congress. The delay appears to directly violate his pledge.

Secondly, the FDA’s own scientists have recommended that Plan B be approved for non-prescription sales; the FDA appears to be ignoring their advice.

Today, the “highly regarded women�s health chief at the Food and Drug Administration” resigned in protest over the delay. She said:

“There�s fairly widespread concern about FDA�s credibility” among agency veterans as a result, Wood told The Associated Press hours after submitting her resignation Wednesday.

“I have spent the last 15 years working to ensure that science informs good health-policy decisions,” Wood, director of FDA�s Office of Women�s Health, wrote in an e-mail about her departure to agency colleagues. “I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended by the professional staff here, has been overruled.”


“It is time for the FDA to stop playing games with the health and well-being of millions of American women,” said Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. “Day by day, the public�s confidence in the FDA�s ability to make decisions based on scientific evidence of safety and efficacy is eroding.”

Shower Pictures

Gear junkie

This is my new toy; I got a used copy of this lens for a great price. Now all I need is something very small and far away to take pictures of!

How little could you live on?

The US poverty rate rose for the 4th straight year, to 12.7%. That’s 37 million people. I’m not sure whether to think this is high or low, but it almost certainly understates the number of Americans that have to struggle to get by. In 2005, the poverty line for a family of two with no children was $12,649. For a family of four with two children, the poverty line was $19,157.

The US median income was unchanged in nominal terms, which I assume means it declined in real terms. Finally, 45.8 million Americans have no health insurance.

Bolton’s First Efforts

You may have heard that John Bolton, the Bush nominee for UN Ambassador who was so popular during the Senate confirmation process that Bush resorted to bypassing the Senate by appointing him to the ambassador post during a Congressional recess, has gone to work.

The UN has been working to finalize an internal document that makes institutional-reform recommendations and statements of policy, that was to be “signed by world leaders when they meet in New York in September”. The document has been in the works for “the past year”. Last week, Bolton circulated a letter listing 750 alterations proposed by the US. The scope of the changes is so sweeping that the UN formed a working group of 30 countries to plow through the requested changes.

What is the nature of Bolton’s (and hence Bush’s) proposed changes to the document?

  • It removes references to a pledge to halve world poverty by 2015
  • It removes references to the International Criminal Court, since the US opposes this institution (on the grounds that it could be used to try American troops for crimes abroad, which, of course, is kinda the idea)
  • It removes references to the Kyoto Protocol, which the US disapproves of and hasn’t ratified, on the grounds that it would harm US companies if they had to curb their greenhouse emissions
  • It removes a proposal that nuclear powers (which would include the US) dismantle their nuclear arsenals
  • It removes a clause that would “lay down clear guidelines for the Security Council to take military action against regimes that cannot or will not protect their citizens from genocide or ethnic cleansing” (read )
  • It strengthens passages about fighting terrorism

Bolton seems to be shaping up to be everything he was feared to be: a bully who will project US unilateralism and high-handedness on the world scene.

The US preaches abstinence abroad

This makes me very upset. Stephen Lewis, the UN secretary general’s special envoy for HIV/Aids in Africa, is accusing the US of undermining efforts to combat AIDS in Uganda:

Stephen Lewis, the UN secretary general’s special envoy for HIV/Aids in Africa, said US cuts in funding for condoms and an emphasis on promoting abstinence had contributed to a shortage of condoms in Uganda, one of the few African countries which has succeeded in reducing its infection rate.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the condom crisis in Uganda is being driven by [US policies],” Mr Lewis said yesterday. “To impose a dogma-driven policy that is fundamentally flawed is doing damage to Africa.”

The condom shortage has developed because both the Ugandan government and the US, which is the main donor for HIV/Aids prevention, have allowed supplies to dwindle, according to an American pressure group, the Centre for Health and Gender Equity (Change).

In 2003, President Bush declared he would spend $15bn on his emergency plan for Aids relief, but receiving aid under the programme has moral strings attached.

Recipient countries have to emphasise abstinence over condoms, and - under a congressional amendment - they must condemn prostitution.

The Ugandan and US governments have denied that there is either a change of policy or even a condom shortage in Uganda (even though I heard on NPR yesterday that the price of condoms in Uganda has recently tripled).

From this article and radio reports, I gather that the main concern is that the Ugandan government, which has thus far been very successful in controlling the spread of AIDS by distributing and promoting the use of condoms, is changing its tune to emphasize abstinence instead (as required by US foreign aid money). The fear is that as condoms are de-emphasized, those who are sexually active will use them less frequently, and the disease will start spreading again.

What I want to know is, why does a country that prides itself on (supposedly) fostering and supporting a wide range of religious beliefs domestically, believe it’s acceptable to project specifically Christian moral values onto other countries, using the lever of foreign-aid money? It should be distasteful to all Americans that taxpayer money is being used to foist a specific religious viewpoint onto the rest of the world.

Inside the Eye of a Hurricane

These people are clearly insane. They fly Lockheed-Martin WC-130s straight into hurricanes to collect weather data. They have some pictures taken from inside the eye of various hurricanes; blue skies above a ring of dense clouds!

Seattle Monorail already owns property

I hadn’t realized until today that the Seattle Monorail project, which may never see the light of day after its financing plan was rejected, has already exercised eminent domain to purchase about $72M in property. There are some upsides and downsides to this:

  • Downside: Many of the eminent-domain condemnations were challenged in court, and Seattle taxpayers have already forked out the money to defend the acquisitions even though they may not now be needed
  • Upside (for taxpayers): Much of the property has risen in value during the ongoing real estate boom, so taxpayers may get back some extra money when the property is sold off again
  • Downside (for landowners): The original owners, though, many of whom fought hard to keep their property, have no special right to repurchase it, and may be stuck competing for their land at increased prices!

Shower Thanks

Many thanks to everybody who came by Bonnie and Alan’s house yesterday to wish the pluot well! Laura and I are very fortunate to be surrounded by such supportive and loving friends and family. Special thanks to Kari and Zeynep for organizing the whole event, and to Bonnie and Alan for the use of their spacious house and grounds.

The Pluot Wish List

We are blessed to have everything we need in abundance: loving friends and family, good food, a happy home, and two kittens. For this we are very thankful. Somehow we’ve also managed to aquire most of the things that make life easier with a newborn: stroller, cosleeper, carseat, etc. with this in mind, if you wish to welcome the pluot with anything more than all you have already, please consider services or maybe your favourite children’s book…

If you choose something off our silly list-just leave a comment so others know. :)

Services that we would just love:

  • A meal or 2, or cleaning during the first weeks
  • Diaper service for 6 months
  • Post-partum doula services

A few of the things that we still mean to get:

  • Guinness and other alcohol in large quantities because I hear we’ll probably take to the drink
  • Diaper covers (sometimes called wraps) for cloth diapers from bummis, or motherease(new or gently used, sizes 6mths and up)
  • Moby Wrap Infant Carrier

A few things we’ll probably need to get eventually:

  • 3 sheets for mini cosleeper
  • Mini co sleeper height adjustment leg things
  • White euro baby bathtub by Primo
  • Baby clothes basics for 9-24mths

Pure luxury items that no child really needs
But wouldn’t they look so hip flying through the airport on their carseat with wheels?

  • Gogokidz wheels for carseat
  • Svan highchair in natural
  • Regular diaper bag (comes with stroller blanket if you type “thriftymama” in the comment section) in chocolate dahlia fabric or Curry ginger dahlia fabric
  • Explorer travel seat by chicco

The Frozen Meats

The Frozen Meats played the Rendezvous in Seattle this past Wednesday; I was there with a camera.

Lighting at a small-venue concert is always pretty dicey, so I had brought my fastest prime lens (a prime lens is a lens that doesn’t “zoom”, and a fast lens is a lens that admits more light, so you can shoot pictures in low lighting conditions. Primes are almost always “faster” than zooms).

My friend Zeynep was there too, and she wanted to take some pictures. But a few moments after I handed her my camera, she asked “how do I zoom?”. I told her she couldn’t. After another few minutes, she handed the camera back and explained that there are only so many pictures you can take without zooming.

Some very famous photographers have used prime lenses exclusively. Henri Cartier-Bresson, the “father of photojournalism”, is an example; he took nearly all of his photos during his entire career with a small Leica 35mm camera and a “normal” 50mm prime lens.

Many serious photographers advise new photography students to spend their first years shooting only with one or two prime lenses to get a feel for how to frame and expose images properly before buying a zoom. Some shun zooms entirely.

The Pluot Update

A pregnancy web site claims that the Pluot is now “sensitive to touch”. Since it only mentions this after the baby passes the threshold of medical viability, I’m wondering what babies who are emergency-delivered earlier are like? Maybe they go through life without a sense of touch?

Anyway, the recommended activity for this stage of pregnancy is to poke the baby to see if it will poke you back, or have the mom roll from side to side to see if the baby will react to being sloshed around. This seems mean! How would you like it if someone poked you repeatedly to see if they could get you ticked off enough to take a swing back at them? Weird.

So being considerate expectant parents, we don’t poke the Pluot (much). We wait for it to decide to say hello on its own.

Photo of the Day

Another scene from Needles:

Bush: God’s Personal Tool

I was surprised to read in this Salon article a quote attributed to Bush that I had not heard before, although I was able to find it repeated on a number of fringe web sites. Apparently,

In July 2003, during a meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Bush told the newly elected leader of the Palestinians that “God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did.”

I find this quote more than a little disturbing, if accurate. The least actually-frothing-at-the-mouth site that repeats this quote that I could find with some casual Googling is this still pretty-far-out-looking Christian-right site that opines earnestly:

[W]e’re paying heed because the President is a very spiritual man who may be prone to searching for direct heavenly word (he starts out every day with prayer and spiritual reading), and he has spoken about a “mission” involving terrorists. Thus, there is a chance that he said something like that. Evangelicals — among whom we would categorize the President — are prone to listening for the voice of God.

And this is good. We do well to seek the Lord’s guidance (in fact, anything else is foolish), and God speaks to all of us all of the time. We should acknowledge his infusions of advice and heed his promptings.

In this case, the Lord’s promptings are estimated to have cost somewhere around 25,000 lives. I guess sometimes you gotta break some eggs.

Cars an increasingly major source of pollution

This Seattle PI article says that a recent study of pollution in the Puget Sound area indicates that cars are becoming an increasingly major source of pollution, as opposed to toxins from industry. Take the bus!

More Hollywood Sex

Shortly after my last post, Slate put up a full article about the demise of sex in Hollywood movies.

Sex and violence: only one is OK for public consumption

Slate has an interesting audio piece (which ran on NPR) about how there is less and less sexual nudity in Hollywood movies. The interviewee claims that this is largely because:

  • Hollywood studios don’t make money on theater ticket sales, they make money on DVD sales and TV licensing
  • There’s no nudity on network TV
  • Wal-Mart won’t stock DVDs with explicit sexual content

The interesting thing is, the interviee claims that Wal-Mart will happily stock movies with explicit violence, like, say, “Kill Bill”.

Photo of the Day

A random scene in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park, in Utah:

Seattle plans for Global Warming

Has everyone just accepted the idea that global warming will definitely be altering our environment in the 21st century? It sounds like the city of Seattle is resigned to this idea; the Seattle PI reports that the city is concerned that the current plans for the Elliott Bay sea wall aren’t adequate, because water levels in Puget Sound are expected to rise due to global warming.

A rare Laura Post

[Posted by Laura]

I was reading previous posts and realize the pluot is not getting much coverage! So, let’s see what’s going on… We don’t know whether this babe is a girl or a boy, but tend to think of it as either “the pluot” or she. “It” isn’t right. He/She all the time is cumbersome. But really- the problem is: what would we do with a boy? Don’t they hit and stuff? I’m going to need remedial help on the care of boys. I don’t *want* to have a gender preference but-there it is. At the same time, I’m pretty confident that as soon as this kid arrives we won’t care whether the pluot’s a banana or “she” is a he. Babies. Hehe. I love surprises!!!!