September 22, 2007

Double Dose: New York Says No To Funding Abstinence-Only Education; More Research on the Research Studies; and “Wack!” Opens in Washington

New York Just Says No: Kudos to New York for joining at least 10 other reality-based states that have just said no to federal grants for abstinence-only sex education. The decision was announced Thursday by the state health commissioner, Dr. Richard F. Daines, reports The New York Times.

In a statement posted on the Health Department’s Web site, Dr. Daines said, “The Bush administration’s abstinence-only program is an example of a failed national health care policy directive.” He added that the policy was “based on ideology rather than on sound scientific-based evidence that must be the cornerstone of good public health care policy.”

The state had also spent $2.6 million annually to fund the same programs over the last decade. That money will now be spent on other existing programs for sex education, Dr. Daines said in an interview.

Beware of Fat People: Referring to claim published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine that fat is similar to a contagious virus “spread from person to person like a fashion or a germ,” especially among friends — Lakshmi Chaudry writes in The Nation:

“The argument just didn’t sound right to me when I first heard it — and certainly didn’t co-relate to any reality I could detect in my varied body-shape/weight circle of friends. So I was delighted to read this blistering take-down in TCS Daily penned by Jonathan Robison, who exposes the research for what it is: junk science that can’t tell the difference between cause and correlation.”

Egypt’s Movement to Stop Genital Mutilation: After two girls (ages 12 and 13) died in Egypt this summer following surgeries to remove the clitoris (female circumcision to some, genital mutilation to critics), a nationwide campaign is underway to stop the practice. The New York Times reports that is has become “one of the most powerful social movements in Egypt in decades, uniting an unlikely alliance of government forces, official religious leaders and street-level activists.”

But it’s an uphill battle. A recent government survey found that “the practice of female circumcision is virtually universal among women of reproductive age in Egypt.” Michael Slackman writes:

The force behind this unlikely collaboration between government, nongovernment organizations, religious leaders and the news media is a no-nonsense 84-year-old anthropologist named Marie Assaad, who has been fighting against genital cutting since the 1950s.

“I never thought I would live to see this day,” she said, reading about the subject in a widely circulated daily newspaper.

Plus: In an op-ed published in the Modesto Bee, Unicef Executive Director Anne M. Veneman praises the work of Tostan, a Senegal-based organization that has helped to reduce the rate of genital mutilation by working “with communities in local languages to help provide women with a voice in the decision-making.”

Coffee is Good/Not Good for Me: I would have thought that after last Sunday’s lengthy New York Times Magazine cover story on the trouble with epidemiological studies, which Rachel discussed closely here, there’d be no more to say on the matter this week. But that was before I saw the L.A. Times health feature by Andreas von Bubnoff on the same issue. The main story, Scientists Do the Numbers, was paired with related stories on health studies that have come up with contradictory findings; a look at whether there’s a rush to publish medical studies; and tips to help readers assess research.

Making Mammograms Accessible to All: “Despite widespread education that early detection saves lives, women with physical and mental disabilities undergo fewer clinical breast exams and fewer mammograms than nondisabled women, nationally and in Oregon and southwest Washington. One national study found an 11 percent gap,” reports The Oregonian.

Dot Nary, a doctoral trainee at the Research and Training Center on Independent Living at the University of Kansas who has written for radiation professionals about having mammograms as a wheelchair user, tells the Oregonian that it’s critical for technologists to consider how to better care for people of different abilities. Medical care is so standardized — “those of us who don’t have standard bodies have trouble.”

That’s Wack!: “Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution,” the groundbreaking exhibit that opened earlier this year at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is now at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.

Barbara Pollack of the Washington Post writes:

It is thrilling to see Louise Bourgeois’s “Unconscious Landscape,” a pile of breast-like forms cast in bronze. Or Elaine Sturtevant’s film “Duchamp Nu Descendant un Escalier,” her take on Duchamp’s famous painting, “Nude Descending a Staircase.” Take time to watch all of Yoko Ono’s early videos, especially “Rape,” a 1969 film in which a camera crew tracks and harasses a young German woman. And don’t miss Yvonne Rainer’s “Film About a Woman Who …,” a 1974 work that was a landmark in the field of feminist film criticism.

In fact, this show has lots of works that are often reproduced in art history textbooks but are too rarely seen in museums. [...]

By bringing together all of these artworks for the first time, “Wack!” does much more than make history. It gives another generation a chance to see art that was not made for a marketplace or even with the hope of having an audience, but with a determination and belief that art can change the way we live. That kind of optimism seems awfully old-fashioned, given the current cynicism in the art market. But who knows? Maybe this time around, feminist art will exert its free-wheeling influence once again.


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