Birth Control

St. Patty's Day Mini News Roundup

O'Neill's pub, New York City, St. Patrick's Day 2006. Photo by Flickr user MikeL-911, used here under a Creative Commons license.

Let's start with the most outrageous major news story from this morning. Yes, AIG payouts to banks with TARP funds it received is outrageous. And yes, we need to know more about the relationship between Goldman Sachs and AIG. But I am referring to the Pope's opinion that condoms either can worsen or already worsen crises in Africa. I hope that we've reached a point in our history in which the words of a politician or religious leader cannot override scientific fact. Perhaps the right thing to do is to ignore Pope Benedict XVI, as we live in a secular world and shouldn't have to listen to what the leader of a shrinking, anti-sexuality, minority religion thinks about condoms, and the role they play in worsening crises in the world's poorest continent.

But I am a strong birth control and HIV prevention advocate. I'm going to try a bad analogy here, but condoms are to the fight against HIV and unintended pregnancy what the AK-47 is to to rise of insurgent warfare. In other words, condoms are cheap, effective, and have changed the landscape in the context of their use (in this case, barrier birth control, not civil war). If anything, this world needs more condoms, not less (OK, that's where the AK-47 analogy ends - there's over 70 million Kalashnikov rifles in the world). The world still has a deadly pandemic on its hands, and the HIV virus is most transmitted in Africa and Asia. Condemning condom distribution and/or their use is an opinion that is not grounded in scientific fact, logic, or reality itself.

It certainly seems to this author that the Pope discounted the effects of civil war, genocide, poverty, and refugee crises, and pointed a finger at a life-saving medical device for making life worse in Africa.

Embarking on his first visit to Africa, the Pope said that distributing condoms is 'not the answer' to figting HIV in Africa. Well then, seat belts are 'not the answer' to reducing deaths in motor vehicle accidents. And immunizing children against polio is 'not the answer' to keeping the disease nearly extinct in the human population.

Considering that Africa is the only continent where Roman Catholicism is growing, and the very conservative, irrational views of both the African senior clergy and the Vatican on issues of human sexuality and birth control, I think it is a fair prediction that the next pope will be African. It was my prediction last time, and I'm sticking to it the next time around. The growth of Catholicism in Africa has been explosive, thanks primarily to the strategic evangelical projects under Pope John Paul II, who visited the continent 16 times.

To his credit, the Pope did make this statement when he arrived in Cameroon:

"In the face of suffering or violence, poverty or hunger, corruption or abuse of power, a Christian can never remain silent," he said on his arrival.
Certainly the Catholic Church is a powerful voice for peace and justice. I just feel that attacking condoms is highly ill-advised.

Freedom is on the Retreat: Coup in Madagascar hands power to Andry Rajoelina, a man too young to become president under the current constitution. While I understand that outgoing president Marc Ravalomanana is not a poster child for democracy, I have to agree with the African Union that his ouster is an undemocratic coup d'etat.

Late-breaking changes to Formula One rules: And there are a few of them. Drivers must put in more autograph session hours and be more available to the media. Low-budget teams will have the option to operate under a $42M annual budget cap in-exchange for more freedoms regarding technical and aerodynamic changes during the season. And car weights will now be announced (and published online) after Saturday qualifying. But most significant and surprising of all, the FIA has announced that the number of race wins will determine the drivers championship, with points only being used in the result of a tie. That's huge. Had that rule existed in years past, Philippe Massa would have won the driver's championship last season, and Nigel Mansell would have three F1 titles instead of one.

My take is that this rule change is risky. What would happen if a driver won 6 or 7 races before August? Would he and the team have an incentive to sit-out consecutive races and coast-in for the championship come October? Races in F1 are all run on team strategy. So will the new strategy be to win the first race, and then do everything short of foul play to knock-out contenders in subsequent races? This will be interesting, but I fear it is going to be a bad experiment. There was a reason F1 used a points-based championship for decades. The current teams were asking for a restructuring of the points system and the FIA imposed a radical rule change instead.

And last on my list, a recycled Slate St. Patrick's Day article: The man behind the green beer and myth, by David Plotz (originally published on March 17, 2000).

Public Health Crisis Roundup

Gloucester, MA: Alleged teen pregnancy 'pact' quadruples the normal number of pregnancies at Gloucester High School. It's a localized public health anomaly that will be sensationalized by the media, and studied by scholars for years.

Japan: The number of domestic suicides topped 33,000 in 2007, the second-highest recorded number since the nation began compiling them. The article correctly points out that Japan does not have the highest suicide rate in the G8. That would be Russia. But as Parag Khanna and others point out, Russia cannot be considered a part of the elite industrialized world, given its shrinking population and increasingly vast, sparsely populated regions. Russia is too big, too corrupt, and is losing too many smart people. But that's another post for another time.

Taller Elizabeth Scalia (a.k.a. The Anchoress) *

Thanks to Sadly, No! for bringing this to light. I had to make the summary longer than her actual comment, so this is 'taller' Anchoress, not 'shorter.'

The Anchoress:

  • Sex is an elitist, luxury pastime, like horse racing. The UN has no understanding of people's hierarchy of needs when it decided to send 200,000 condoms to Burma yesterday. These people need to die, not screw. That was God's intent with the cyclone. Now if you excuse me, I will resume lamenting that I'm not getting any while I'm shut-in my own home, waiting for the next deathly illness to strike.

Clif at Sadly, No! is absolutely right when he says:

Perhaps this poor woman can take her rosary, tie her hands together with it, and never touch a keyboard again.

Oh, we remember The Anchoress, right? She wrote that hot, wet ode to George W. Bush precisely two years ago. A little too hot for a Catholic, actually, talking about Bush's pitching arm and sweaty blue dress shirts.
* ‘Shorter’ concept created by Daniel Davies and perfected by Elton Beard.

Put NYC Pigeons On Hatch Control

Hollywood has just initiated a birth control program for pigeons (apparently it is called hatch control in bird world). We in New York need to do the same. Enough of these urban pests. Squirrels, you are OK. Pigeons, there's way too many of you.

Hollywood pigeons to be put on the pill

Associated Press
Monday July 30, 2007

Hollywood residents believe they've found a humane way to reduce their pigeon population and the messes the birds make: the pill.

Over the next few months a birth control product called OvoControl P, which interferes with egg development, will be placed in bird food in new rooftop feeders.

"We think we've got a good solution to a bad situation," said Laura Dodson, president of the Argyle Civic Association, the group leading the effort to try the new contraceptive. "The poop problem has become unmanageable and this could be the answer."

Community leaders planned to announce the OvoControl P pilot program, which Dodson believes is the first of its kind in the nation, at a news conference Monday.

Dodson said representatives from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals contacted her group with the idea to use OvoControl P. Other animal rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, support the contraceptive over electric shock gates, spiked rooftops, poisons or other methods.

It's estimated about 5,000 pigeons call the area home. Their population boom is blamed in part on people feeding the birds, including a woman known as the Bird Lady, who was responsible for dumping 25-pound bags of seed in 29 spots around Hollywood.

OvoControl P has been registered with the state Department of Pesticide Regulation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Developed by Rancho Santa Fe-based Innolytics, the substance contains nicarbazin, which interferes with an egg's ability to develop or hatch, said Erick Wolf, Innolytics chief executive.

The pilot program was expected to show results within a year, and the Hollywood area's pigeon population is expected to shrink by at least half by 2012, Dodson said.

Someone tell Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs that we need to take similar action in New York City.