Justice Sotomayor refuses to block contraceptives mandate

Posted on Dec 27, 2012

Wed Dec 26, 2012 8:03pm EST

(Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has refused to block enforcement starting next week of a requirement in President Barack Obama’s 2010 healthcare overhaul that some companies provide insurance coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices.

In an order issued on Wednesday, Sotomayor said two for-profit companies controlled by Oklahoma City billionaire David Green and his family did not qualify for an injunction while they challenge the requirement in court.

Hobby Lobby Stores Inc, an arts and crafts chain with more than 500 stores, and Mardel Inc, a chain of 35 Christian-themed bookstores, said it violated their religious beliefs to require that their group health plans cover treatments that could induce abortions.

They said they face possible fines of $1.3 million a day if they disobey the mandate, which takes effect on January 1.

Sotomayor, who hears emergency appeals from the 10th Circuit, said it was not “indisputably clear” that Hobby Lobby and Mardel deserved an injunction, noting that lower courts have been divided in similar cases on whether temporary relief is proper.

“Even without an injunction pending appeal, the applicants may continue their challenge to the regulations in the lower courts,” and following a final judgment ask the Supreme Court at that time to consider their appeal, she said.

Sotomayor did not rule on the merits of the companies’ religious-based claims.

Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the nonprofit Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represents the chains, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. At least 42 lawsuits have been filed over the issue, the fund has said.

Hobby Lobby and Mardel claimed that the contraceptives provision violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

But on November 19, Oklahoma federal judge Joe Heaton refused to issue a preliminary injunction, saying the chains did not have the same religious rights as Green family members. Then on Thursday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver refused to issue a injunction during the chains’ appeal.

Forbes magazine in September called David Green, 71, the 79th richest American, with a net worth of $4.5 billion.

The case is Hobby Lobby Stores Inc et al v. Sebelius et al, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12A644.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Zooey Deschanel Sara Cox

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Study: Virtual Women Show Twice as Much ‘Skin’ as Men

Posted on Dec 27, 2012

In a world of no weather, and pixel-perfect bodies, female avatars are disproportionately bare.



PROBLEM: How hot she feels — in either sense of the word — might have something to do with a woman’s decision to show a lot of skin. Cultural norms surrounding modesty and fashion factor heavily as well. Environmental influences aside, what can be made of the notion of a “spontaneous human tendency to reveal naked skin”?

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METHODOLOGY: In order to overcome the usual limitations on unfettered human behavior, researchers in Canada turned to Second Life, a virtual world inhabited by virtual people, or avatars, in various states of virtual dress. Trolling public spaces, they collected 404 images of male and female avatars and scored them based on how much of their skin was exposed.

To control for the different cultural norms that might exist in the Second Life world, they compared their samples to avatars used in a separate Star Wars role-play. Naturally, “only humanoid avatars that were not covered by fur were included in the analysis.”

RESULTS: Female avatars revealed significantly more virtual, naked skin than their virtual male counterparts: The least-clothed category, with up to a quarter of one’s skin covered, was occupied by 10 percent of females as opposed to 1 percent of males, while the most-clothed category was occupied by 5 percent of females and 71 percent of males.

2nd life -tiff.jpg

This difference was not necessarily more prominent in avatars that had been hypersexualized — meaning their bodies were unrealistically proportioned. Instead, skin exposure seemed to be favored by females regardless of body type.

Finally, while male Star Wars reenactors did not differ much from the movie characters, the females showed significantly more skin than their big screen counterparts. 

CONCLUSION: That female avatars were twice as exposed as male avatars. That is, according to the authors, evidence that there is an intrinsic sex difference in human skin disclosure, “outside of external climatic, environmental, and physical constraints.” 

IMPLICATIONS: The female avatars (who, it’s important to note, might not have been manned by female players — the authors had no way of knowing) didn’t seem to entirely equate naked skin with sexual attractiveness. Even though they were equally able to control their body types and the way they dressed, large breasts and tiny waists weren’t related to how much skin they chose to show. And on Second Life, there are no explicit cultural norms for what it is or is not okay to wear in public. So why all the bare shoulders, plunging necklines, and exposed thighs? Maybe women just liking showing off their skin more. And maybe there’s nothing wrong with that.

The full study, “Virtually Naked: Virtual Environment Reveals Sex-Dependent Nature of Skin Disclosure,” is published in the journal PLoS ONE.

This article available online at:


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Doctors call for appropriateness criteria

Posted on Dec 27, 2012

Published: Dec. 27, 2012 at 12:19 AM

NEW YORK, Dec. 27 (UPI) – A team of U.S. researchers say healthcare leaders and the medical community should develop evidence-based appropriateness criteria for elective procedures.

Lead author Dr. Hassan M.K. Ghomrawi, assistant professor of public health at Weill Cornell and an outcomes research scientist at Hospital for Special Surgery, said currently, there were no appropriateness criteria for the most common elective procedures.

Ghomrawi said total-joint-replacement surgeries — such as hip and knee replacements — were among the most common inpatient surgeries in the United States.

Patients requesting joint-replacement surgery vary from those disabled by their joint arthritis to those who do so to maintain an active lifestyle without pain. Total-joint-replacement surgeries are expected to quadruple over the next two decades, contributing to the rise in U.S. healthcare costs and increasing the risk of medical complications.

“The purpose behind establishing criteria is to use evidence-based metrics to prioritize patients most in need,” Ghomrawi said in a statement. “We don’t want to sacrifice necessary care when thinking of cost-containment.”

Experts predict the number of elective surgeries would grow drastically, exceeding 4 million by 2030, but these projections don’t reflect the increase in the number of patients who will gain health insurance coverage when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented in 2014.

The article was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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9/11 responders may have higher risk of some cancers

Posted on Dec 26, 2012

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Rescue and recovery workers who provided aid after the World Trade Center attacks may have an increased risk of certain types of cancer, including prostate and thyroid cancers, a new study suggests.

However, that finding was based on a relatively small number of cancers. And neither relief workers nor people who lived, worked or went to school near the towers had a higher-than-average chance of being diagnosed with all cancers combined up to seven years later.

“There’s a lot of interest in the question of, does exposure to the World Trade Center cause cancer?” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the New York City Health Commissioner.

In part, that interest has been driven by a debate on whose health care should be covered by the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act – set up to care for World Trade Center victims – and what conditions should be included.

Based on this study, Farley said the role of the attacks on cancer risk is “complicated.”

“Most of the people who have had cancer so far would have had it anyway,” Farley told Reuters Health.

But because cancer can take 20 or more years to develop, the true risks may not become clear for many years, he added.

Researchers have predicted that exposure to dust, smoke and other chemicals after the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks may have put people who were nearby or involved in the clean-up efforts at risk of some diseases, including cancer.

To see how those workers and residents had fared through 2008, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene tracked 55,778 enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry. That included 21,850 people involved in the rescue and recovery efforts.

Using state cancer records, the research team, led by Jiehui Li, recorded any new diagnoses among those groups and compared their chance of cancer to data from all of New York State during the same time period.

In total, there were 1,187 new cancers among everyone in the health registry. The overall rates for both rescue workers and residents were similar to the rate of cancer diagnoses across the state.

Out of 23 types of cancer the researchers examined, three cancers were more common in rescue and recovery workers during the last two years of the study: prostate cancer, thyroid cancer and multiple myeloma – cancer of the bone marrow cells.

Aid workers were between 1.4 and 2.9 times more likely to be diagnosed with one of those cancers in 2007 or 2008 than other New Yorkers, the researchers reported Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

That was based on 67 prostate cancers, 13 thyroid cancers and seven myelomas among responders.


Dr. Jacqueline Moline from North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, New York, said studies have consistently shown a higher rate of thyroid cancer in responders – but it’s unclear why rescue workers would also be at increased risk of prostate cancer.

Farley said it could be that people who were exposed have had better health care in recent years, so they’ve been checked for prostate and thyroid cancer more often.

“It may be that these would be cancers that would never have been picked up” had workers not been screened, he said.

Moline, who has studied cancer in World Trade Center responders but wasn’t involved in the new report, also noted that seven years isn’t a very long time to track the growth of solid tumors.

“I think as times goes on we are going to see increased rates of cancer in those who were exposed, at higher rates than we would expect if they weren’t exposed,” she told Reuters Health.

Researchers should especially be on the lookout for whether certain cancers show up earlier than usual, or in unexpected populations – for example if lots of non-smokers are diagnosed with lung cancer, Moline said.

“We don’t have a really good handle on what happens when people are exposed to a complex mixture of carcinogens,” she added.

“I think we’re not going to get a full answer for many years.”

That’s a concern, Moline said, because the Zadroga Act only provides health monitoring and care for people affected by the attacks through 2016 – before some related cancers may have even been diagnosed.

Farley said the major health risks linked to the World Trade Center attacks so far have been breathing problems such as asthma and mental health problems, including post traumatic stress disorder. But he said he and his colleagues will continue to monitor cancer in relief workers and residents.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/JjFzqx Journal of the American Medical Association, online December 18, 2012.

Mariah Carey Kim Katrel

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Jesus would be on Facebook says German priest

Posted on Dec 26, 2012

A German Archbishop is convinced that Jesus would take to modern methods of viral communication if he were around in 2012.

Published: Dec. 26, 2012 at 11:37 AM


With the Pope now on Twitter, it only makes sense that Jesus would join him in the divine digital age.

it’s not hard to imagine the conversations.

@pontifex: Oh Jesus, hear our prayers!

@jesus: I’m busy. Go ask dad.

Freiberg Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, chairman of the German Bishop’s Conference, is convinced that the son of God would be as social media obsessed as his mortal counterparts.

“Jesus would certainly today be on Facebook and Twitter,” Zollitsch said to Ruhr Nachrichten newspaper. “He was always looking for people, and took unusual routes to do this.”

“Fundamentally all media are suited to bring the word of God to the people,” he said.

Jesus, were he to join in the social network, would undoubtedly have plenty of fans and followers.

Wonder if “hey @jesus man, can I get a retweet?!! i’m a huge fan!” would be a more direct approach than old-fashioned prayer?

Paula Jai Parker Sydney Moon

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Dems tax-cut stance a reversal

Posted on Dec 26, 2012

Published: Dec. 26, 2012 at 9:17 AM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 26 (UPI) – Democrats’ insistence on maintaining lower U.S. tax rates for 98 percent of taxpayers is a reversal of their initial stance on the rates, experts said.

With the Jan. 1 deadline approaching, R. Glenn Hubbard, dean of the Columbia Business School who designed the tax cuts enacted during the administration of George. W. Bush, told The Washington Post he finds it “deeply ironic” Democrats want to preserve the lower tax rates for the first $250,000 of income. He noted Democrats strongly opposed enactment of the cuts when they first were proposed a decade ago.

The tax cuts, which have been extended several times, are set to expire and coincide with across-the-board spending cuts imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, pushing the economy over the so-called “fiscal cliff” economists say could throw the country back into recession.

Though efforts to avoid the cliff so far have fizzled — the latest last week’s “Plan B” offered by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, but rejected by his caucus — investors still are hopeful a deal can be reached, Julia Coronado, chief North American economist at BNP Paribas, told The New York Times, noting markets have been “incredibly complacent.”

“The longer this goes on, the more nervous I get about first-quarter growth. If negotiations were to linger into March, then the first quarter could be much weaker,” said Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist for Barclays Capital. Maki told the Times it’s likely no agreement will be reached before the Jan. 1 deadline although something is possible after that.

Steven Elmendorf, chief of staff to former House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., said economic conditions have changed and that’s why Democrats want to preserve the tax cuts in part.

“The world changes, and the economy is where it is,” he told the Post. “With people’s economic status, we should not be raising taxes on people earning under $250,000.”

“The reason there’s been this movement toward broad consensus on renewing the tax cut for working- and middle-class families is that will give us a sharper progressivity in the tax system that is very much desired by Democrats and progressives who’ve seen an income distribution more and more distorted toward the wealthy,” said Betsey Stevenson, former chief economist in President Obama’s Labor Department and a professor at the University of Michigan.

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Japan approves Novo’s new combination insulin Ryzodeg

Posted on Dec 26, 2012

COPENHAGEN | Tue Dec 25, 2012 5:49am EST

(Reuters) – Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk said on Tuesday Japan’s health regulator had approved its new combination insulin, that it plans to market as Ryzodeg, for the treatment of diabetes.

Ryzodeg is a combination of Novo’s new ultra long-acting insulin degludec, or Tresiba, which Japan became the first country to approve in September, and its rapid-acting insulin Novorapid.

Tresiba, Novo’s biggest new drug hope, had a setback in November when regulators in the United States, where Novo expects to generate the bulk of sales, said Tresiba has a higher heart safety risk than other diabetes treatments, raising fears that it may not be approved there.

Novo has also filed for approval of the drug in the European Union, Canada, Switzerland and other countries.

Tresiba and Ryzodeg are seen as strong new competitors in the long-acting, or basal, insulin market, which has long been dominated by Sanofi’s Lantus. Competition is hotting up in the space, with Eli Lilly also having a promising new contender in development.

Novo has said previously that the exact timing for the launch of Ryzodeg would be decided after a price listing for Tresiba, which it plans to launch in Japan shortly after completion of price talks.

(Reporting via Stockholm newsroom; editing by Patrick Graham)

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