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Elika Roohi

What’s Going on with R. Kelly? A Guide

R&B artist R. Kelly was arrested in Chicago recently. The arrest followed the release of Surviving R. Kelly, a series on Lifetime, which brought to light allegations of sexual abuse of underage women by the singer. Accusations against the star have been ongoing for decades—here’s everything you need to know about what’s happened and why it took so long to get here.

The early years

Marriage to Aaliyah

When Kelly released his debut album, Born into the 90’s, in 1992, keen listeners noticed lyrics that said, “Little cute Aaliyah’s got it.” This was assumed to be a reference to Aaliyah Haughton, who at the time was 13 years old.

Aaliyah was a protégé of Kelly’s, and he reportedly married her in 1994, when she was 15 and he was 27. Vibe magazine published a copy of what they reported was the couple’s marriage license in August 1994, which listed Haughton’s age as 18. Kelly, for his part, always publicly insisted that the wedding never happened.

The marriage was annulled the following year when Aaliyah’s family became aware of it. Six years later in 2001, Aaliyah died in a plane crash at age 22.

First reports of abuse

In 2000, the Chicago Sun-Times published a report of Kelly having sexual relationships with girls as young as 15. This was the first story about the singer from reporter Jim Derogatis, who has spent his career from that point forward investigating Kelly and attempting to bring him to justice.

According to the story, Chicago police had twice investigated allegations that Kelly was having sex with an underage girl but dropped the investigations because she would not cooperate.

This was indicative of a pattern to come. In 2001 and 2002, Kelly faced a litany of charges that seemed to have no consequences. Tracy Sampson, an aspiring rapper and former intern at Epic Records, filed a lawsuit against Kelly, claiming that he initiated a sexual relationship with her when she was 17. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

He was then sued by Patrice Jones, who alleged she was 16 when she began a sexual relationship with Kelly. She also accused Kelly of pressuring her into terminating a pregnancy. He was also sued by Tina Woods, who alleged he secretly taped their sexual encounter, and that the tape was sold. Both cases were settled out of court.

In June 2002, Kelly was indicted on 21 charges related to child pornography. He was arrested in Florida and later released on bail. After years of delays, the artist finally went to court in 2008 to face the charges of child pornography, by which point had been reduced from 21 to 14 counts. He was found not guilty on all counts.

That BuzzFeed article

In the intervening decade, Kelly’s alleged indiscretions mainly stayed out of the news. However, an explosive article published by BuzzFeed in July 2017 drew all allegations against Kelly to light once again. The story accuses the singer of holding a group of adult women against their will in a sex cult.

The BuzzFeed story seemed to burst the dam that was holding back accusations against Kelly. Afterwards, one woman broke a nondisclosure agreement to say that she began a sexual relationship with Kelly when she was 16. Rolling Stones published an interview with a woman who supported all the claims made in the BuzzFeed piece.

The fallout from Surviving R. Kelly

Despite all the accusations against the singer, nothing has yet been proven with regard to allegations of sexual abuse of underage girls. Kelly has publicly denied everything and, when he has been brought to court, has settled all cases.

In January 2019, the documentary Surviving R. Kelly premiered to big ratings, which renewed calls for the singer to be investigated. In February, it came to light that prosecutors investigating Kelly are looking into a newly surfaced video that appears to show the music star having sex with a young woman.

A grand jury in Cook County, Illinois, indicted Kelly on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse—a Class 2 felony—involving four alleged victims. The indictment accuses Kelly of sexual acts with three children older than 13 but younger than 17. There was no age range listed for one of the alleged victims.

Following these charges, he was arrested on 22 February and released several days later on bail. Kelly maintains his innocence, pleading not guilty to all charges and calling the charges lies.

That wild interview

Kelly went on CBS News for an interview with Gayle King earlier this week. The artist was questioned by King about the allegations of sexual assault for more than an hour; however, a single second, captured in a dramatic photograph caught the attention of many.

The moment from the interview sparked many reactions, from those who commended King for her composure during the moment to those who said it speaks to the universal experience of black women in America to those who suggested that it was nothing new for people to feel intimidated by emotional displays by black people.

The same day that the interview aired, Kelly was arrested (again) for failing to pay $161,000 in back child support. Failure to pay child support in any amount over $20,000 is a felony under Illinois law.

What took so long?

With accusations of sexual misconduct against R. Kelly dating backing to the early 1990s, many are wondering what’s taken so long?

The artist has been the subject of investigations and allegations for nearly three decades; however, he’s managed to evade consequences by settling cases out of court, winning over a jury and women deciding not to press charges. In addition to this, things seem to have just fallen through the cracks—for instance, the six-year gap in between the charges of child pornography and it being brought to court.

“For so long, people have wanted something to happen, anything to happen,” Kenyette Tisha Barnes, the co-founder of #MuteRKelly, a campaign to encourage streaming services and radio stations to stop playing Kelly’s music, said to The New Yorker. “But, for some reason, it hasn’t. #MuteRKelly is attempting to trust the process, understanding that within that process are systems and cogs that move at a turtle’s pace. Yet it’s time for the collective D.A.s and federal prosecutors to make an indictment.”

See also: Harvard Dean Under Fire for Representing Harvey Weinstein

Harvard Dean Under Fire for Representing Harvey Weinstein

A Dean at Harvard has come under fire for agreeing to represent Harvey Weinstein in the producer’s highly publicized sexual assault case.

Law Professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. is the director of Harvard’s criminal law clinic. His law career is impressive—Sullivan has helped to overturn scores of wrongful convictions and free thousands from wrongful incarceration, a professional record which has made him a highly sought-after defense attorney.

However, his other professional hat—that of faculty dean at Harvard’s Winthrop House—has recently come into conflict with his law career. Students on campus are calling for his resignation after learning that he will represent Harvey Weinstein as a part of the producer’s defense team.

Around 50 students demanded that Sullivan be removed as Dean at a demonstration last week outside the president’s office on Harvard Yard. Some wore tape covering their mouths. They held signs that read, “Your Silence is Violence,” “Remove Sullivan” and “Harvard’s Legacy Ignoring Survivors.” A Change.org petition has already gathered around 300 signatures, and anti-Sullivan graffiti has also appeared on campus buildings.

In defense of the defense team

The situation has garnered national media attention, with major newspapers weighing in on the issue. In an opinion piece published by The Atlantic, journalist Conor Friedersdorf noted that “…if enough attorneys ‘feel the need to think twice… there will be no distinction between a trial by public opinion and a trial in a court of law.’”

The right to representation is a tradition older than the nation itself. The Boston Globe asked what would have happened in 1770 if Harvard students had demanded that the administration remove the privileges of John Adams, the founding father and Harvard graduate who defended the British soldiers who took part in the Boston Massacre.

Famously, Adams took the case to illustrate the principle of innocent until proven guilty and to illustrate the integrity of the nascent nation’s legal system. “It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished,” Adams said.

“But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, ‘Whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,’ and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizens that would be the end of security whatsoever.”

Political correctness culture

Some argue that students demanding Sullivan’s resignation is another indicator of the new climate that has been sweeping across college campuses in America—one that has professors prefacing their lectures with “trigger warnings” and stopped popular comedians like Chris Rock from performing.

This new climate presumes an extraordinary fragility of the collegiate psyche with its main goal that of protecting students from psychological harm. Often called by the media a “resurgence of PC culture,” it is somewhat more restrictive than the movement from the 1980s and ‘90s, which sought to specifically rein in hate speech and challenge the literary, philosophical and historical canon to include more diverse perspectives.

Harvard has had faculty lawyers represent notorious defendants before—perhaps most notably, attorney and Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz for O.J. Simpson’s legal defense in 1995. (Notably, Dershowitz this week joined Weinstein’s defense as well.) Those critical of the new campus climate are asking, shouldn’t a defense lawyer be allowed to defend? What’s different between 1995 and today?

After #MeToo, everything matters more

Perhaps it is not so much Sullivan’s choice to join the defense team of a generally unpopular subject, as that he is joining the defense team of a person now singularly identified as the face of sexual malevolence.

This episode “displays the intensity of the anger at sexual malfeasance and the institutional indifference that has allowed such misconduct,” wrote The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Anger is warranted” as “sexual harassment and assault are all too prevalent and prohibitions against them remain all too ineffective.”

Students are seeing Sullivan joining Weinstein’s defense team not as a professional decision undertaken with the workings of the legal system in mind, but as a symbolic choice in an age where sexual assault on campus is an epidemic. And the Ivy League has endured its fair share of accusations. The documentary The Hunting Ground criticized Harvard—among other universities—for failing to protect students from sexual assault on campus. And an analysis by the Washington Post in 2016 found that Harvard was in the top 10 schools in the country with the highest total of rape reports on campus.

“Sullivan has failed to address the incongruity of his two roles—defending Weinstein in his role as defense attorney, while simultaneously working to promote a safe and comfortable environment for victims of sexual misconduct and assault in his capacity as faculty dean,” wrote the Crimson Editorial Board in an opinion piece. “We condemn his choice to represent Weinstein and urge him to address the tension between the two roles more directly than he previously has.”

In response to students’ concerns, Harvard administrators have launched a “climate review” to gauge the opinions of Winthrop House residents on the matter. No other action has been taken for the time being.

See also: Sylvia Plath’s “Newly Discovered” College Story

Selma Blair’s Incredible Moment at the Oscars

Selma Blair’s Incredible Moment at the Oscars

Actress Selma Blair made headlines this week when she attended a post-Oscars party with an unusual accessory. To go with her Ralph & Russo mint green, powder blue and pink block gown, the Cruel Intentions and Legally Blonde star turned heads as she walked with a monogrammed black cane which included a real pink diamond.

Blair suffers from multiple sclerosis, or MS, an incurable condition that affects the brain and spinal cord, creating problems such as double vision, partial blindness, muscle weakness, trouble with sensation and trouble with coordination.

She was diagnosed with MS in August 2018, and the Oscars were her first public event since announcing her diagnosis. Blair revealed that she had the condition in an Instagram post last October, writing, “I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken gps. But we are doing it. And I laugh and I don’t know exactly what I will do precisely but I will do my best.”

View this post on Instagram

I was in this wardrobe fitting two days ago. And I am in the deepest gratitude. So profound, it is, I have decided to share. The brilliant costumer #Allisaswanson not only designs the pieces #harperglass will wear on this new #Netflix show , but she carefully gets my legs in my pants, pulls my tops over my head, buttons my coats and offers her shoulder to steady myself. I have #multiplesclerosis . I am in an exacerbation. By the grace of the lord, and will power and the understanding producers at Netflix , I have a job. A wonderful job. I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken gps. But we are doing it . And I laugh and I don’t know exactly what I will do precisely but I will do my best. Since my diagnosis at ten thirty pm on The night of August 16, I have had love and support from my friends , especially @jaime_king @sarahmgellar @realfreddieprinze @tarasubkoff . My producers #noreenhalpern who assured me that everyone has something. #chrisregina #aaronmartin and every crew member… thank you. I am in the thick of it but I hope to give some hope to others. And even to myself. You can’t get help unless you ask. It can be overwhelming in the beginning. You want to sleep. You always want to sleep. So I don’t have answers. You see, I want to sleep. But I am a forthcoming person and I want my life to be full somehow. I want to play with my son again. I want to walk down the street and ride my horse. I have MS and I am ok. But if you see me , dropping crap all over the street, feel free to help me pick it up. It takes a whole day for me alone. Thank you and may we all know good days amongst the challenges. And the biggest thanks to @elizberkley who forced me to see her brother #drjasonberkley who gave me this diagnosis after finding lesions on that mri. I have had symptoms for years but was never taken seriously until I fell down in front of him trying to sort out what I thought was a pinched nerve. I have probably had this incurable disease for 15 years at least. And I am relieved to at least know. And share. 🖤 my instagram family… you know who you are.

A post shared by Selma Blair (@selmablair) on

“If I can help anyone be more comfortable in their skin, it’s more than I’ve ever done before,” Blair said to Vanity Fair magazine.

Blair has received widespread support and encouragement for being so vocal about her condition. Among celebrities who have reached out to Blair to offer their support are Marc Jacobs, who has a handbag named after the actress; Amy Schumer, whose father suffers from MS; and Kris Jenner, who sent Blair an extravagant flower arrangement.

Figures suggest that nearly one million people are living with MS in the United States. Many MS sufferers and family members of MS sufferers have taken to social media to voice their appreciation for the actress bringing such a debilitating condition to light.

On Sunday at the Vanity Fair Oscars party, she told the magazine: “I really feel like people with disabilities are invisible to a lot of people.”

Looking ahead, Blair is interested in working with a fashion designer to create a line of clothes that are chic, yet also comfortable and able to be worn by those suffering from MS or other similar debilitating conditions.

She told Vanity Fair that one of her main complaints about MS is the lack of stylish clothing available to disabled people. It might sound frivolous, but to Blair, who has always used clothes as a form of self-expression, it is a matter of identity.

“I would like to partner with someone like Christian Siriano on a line for everyone—not just people who necessarily need adaptive clothing, but for those who want comfort, too. It can still be chic. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice style. Like, let’s get elastic waistbands to look a little bit better.”

College News is all for it.

See also: Highlights from the 2019 Oscars

Go Plastic-Free with These Tips

Every day, approximately eight million pieces of plastic find their way into the oceans. Nearly three-quarters of all litter on beaches is plastic. And this volume of plastic pollution leaves an impact—plastic kills more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year.

Here are some staggering facts about the current state of our plastic pollution crisis:

  • A plastic bag is used for a total average time of 12 minutes. It then takes up to 1,000 years to decompose.
  • Since the 1950s, around 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide. That’s equivalent to the weight of roughly a billion elephants or 47 million blue whales. And only nine percent of it has been recycled.
  • There are five trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans—enough to circle the earth over 400 times.

While the problem seems large beyond measure, every small action by even just a single person has an impact. Consider these plastic-free alternatives in your personal journey to contribute to a happier, healthier planet.

Carry a reusable bag

This is Plastic-Free-Living 101. Make sure you keep a spare cloth bag in the back of your car, bottom of your backpack or purse, or just generally around so you can grab it before heading out to do your shopping. Worldwide, about 2 million plastic bags are used every minute. You can do your small part in dropping that number.

Use plastic-free containers

Glass or metal jars can be used to store grains, nuts, flour and other foods, as well as laundry detergent, dish soap and lotions. Always make sure to have a reusable water bottle on hand as well—one million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.

Keep plastic-free items in your backpack

Try packing a bamboo cutlery set, paper straw and your own water bottle to eliminate the need for most single-use plastics while on the go. Restaurants and vendors all over the world are getting much more used to people bringing their own containers.

Buy in bulk

To avoid plastic food packaging, try shopping in the bulk aisle at the market and bringing your own glass containers. Weigh the jar beforehand to avoid being overcharged.

Buy used items

Some plastic is unavoidable, especially in modern appliances. For things like a vacuum cleaner, try looking around for a second-hand one either online or at a local thrift shop. If you’re not buying new, you’re also avoiding all the packaging.

Recycle “good” plastics

Whenever you can, recycle your plastics. Recyclable plastic includes clear plastic bottles, bottles for shampoos, yogurt containers, toys and reusable food containers. Things like disposable cutlery, cling wrap and coffee cups and lids likely won’t be able to be recycled, so try to find non-plastic alternatives for these.

Wear natural fibers

Synthetic fibers from clothing are an enormous plastic pollution problem, because they are a key contributor to microplastic pollution. When possible, choose clothing made of cotton, wool, hemp and silk. Or consider buying your clothes second hand.

Make your own

As so many products are packaged in plastic, it can feel unavoidable. For certain things, you can try making your own at home. For example, try a DIY toothpaste made out of baking soda, coconut oil and essential oils.

See also: Five Books About Climate Change You Need to Read Now

Why Beyoncé’s Shout Out to Meghan Matters

In case you missed it, Beyoncé and Jay-Z pulled an incredible stunt yesterday while accepting their award for Best International Group from the Brits via a video message that was sent to the ceremony in London to play as their acceptance speech.

In the video, the Carters recreated their Apeshit music video, where they were standing in the Louvre in front of the Mona Lisa. However, instead of the famous painting, they were standing in front of a portrait of Meghan Markle.

A timely tribute

Queen B herself took to Instagram to explain the meaning behind the Duchess of Sussex’s image appearing in their acceptance video. “In honor of Black History Month, we bow down to one of our Melanated Monas. Congrats on your pregnancy! We wish you so much joy,” read part of her caption.

This was a “wow” moment, said the Deputy Music Editor at The Guardian on Twitter. “Very classy, pointed support of a black woman being treated repulsively by the UK tabloids,” she wrote.

Bey posted on her site about the Duchess as well, writing: “Today we’re pleased to honor Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex. Meghan’s background as a film and tv actress has allowed her to use her platform for good. Meghan’s charitable work in communities of color began years before becoming the Duchess of Sussex.”

“She became the Duchess of Sussex following her marriage to Prince Harry of the British royal family in May 2018, becoming one of the few Black women to join a royal family.”

“In honor of Black History Month, we bow down to one of our Melanated Monas. Congrats on your pregnancy! We wish you so much joy.”

We think it’s no coincidence that the album the Carters were nominated for it called Everything is Love.

That incredible portrait

If you’re wondering where the regal portrait of Markle comes from, it was created by artist and illustrator Tim O’Brien. The portrait was featured on the cover of the alumni magazine for Kappa Kappa Gamma, the sorority Meghan was a member of between 2001 and 2003 when she attended Northwestern University.

According to TMZ, artist O’Brien was shocked and honored to see his piece displayed behind the Carters in the video. He reports that no one asked him for permission and he’s certain that they didn’t buy the portrait from him online (it costs $75 and is available here), but he’s willing to give them a pass.

The latest on Meghan

The Duchess of Sussex has been receiving a lot of harsh and critical press over the last several months, so much so that a group of her close friends anonymously spoke out to People magazine trying to set the record straight recently. Beyoncé’s tribute was in part to lend support to Meghan, according to some.

Over the last several days, Markle was spotted in New York where she was presumed to be attended a baby shower organized by some of her close friends, including Serena Williams, Amal Clooney and Suits co-star Abigail Spencer.

See also: Everything You Want to Know about Jennifer Lawrence’s Engagement

Valentine’s Day Scams on the Rise

In 2018, when we got Dirty John, the Fyre Festival and Anna Delvey, it seemed like we were living in the time of peak scams. But it turns out that was just the warm up to 2019—a year that is bringing us countless scam-focused documentaries, series, movies and podcasts. We’re calling it: this year is the year of the scam, and Valentine’s Day is bringing all of the scammers out of hiding.

Scammers have always relied on romance to grease the wheels of their cons, so it makes sense that the most romantic time of year can become a playground for grifters. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center said in 2016 that it received 15,000 romance scam complaints during that year alone. And girlfriend grifts accounted for a loss of over $1 billion in North America since 2015.

The rules your parents gave you about not meeting strangers from the internet don’t quite apply anymore, with online dating sites and apps on the rise. There are plenty of legit people on online dating sites that spend time messaging before meeting. Here are a few tips to spot the ones that are fake. On this Valentine’s Day, keep your boo close and your common sense closer. A good rule of thumb? If someone seems too perfect, they probably are.

Too hot to be true

Scammers catfish you by using good-looking photos and tales of financial success. Oftentimes, they pretend to be in the military—a story which gives them a good reason to be overseas. In fact, the military man con is so common that some actual men in the military have discovered that their photos are being regularly used for nefarious purposes. Marine Juan Avalos is one of those people, and he now includes a warning on his account about catfishing because his photos are stolen so regularly.

Moving fast

A romance scammer will tell you they love you quickly and start talking about a future together early on in the relationship. But scammers are usually following a script, feeding the same lines to dozens of people at once. If they say they’ve never felt this way before right off the bat, your alarm bells should ring.

Talking about trust

Con artists are relentless and ruthless, showing no compassion for their victims and attempting to extort them for every last penny. They use every trick in the book, including appealing to your instincts about trust, manipulating you by talking about how important this is. However, this is usually the first step to asking for money.

Not interested in hooking up on a hook-up app

Be wary of someone who always has an excuse to postpone your dates, usually by saying they are traveling or live overseas. Given how frequently your Tinder crush flakes on you, it can be hard to differentiate this behavior, but maybe this is a sign to stop giving these guys a second chance overall.

Suspicious language

If this person claims to be from your hometown, watch to make sure that their language matches that of your region. If they have poor spelling or grammar, use overly flowery language, or use phrases that don’t make sense, it could be a sign that they working off of a romance scam script.

Never wire money

Never. No. Nope. Just don’t do it. Don’t ever send money or personal information that can be used for identity theft to someone you’ve never met in person. Never give someone you’ve never met financial resources to visit you. In fact, if someone you’re chatting with online requests you credit card info, bank numbers or other personal information, cut off the conversation right then.

See also: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West Expecting Baby No. 4

What You Need to Know from Yesterday’s State of the Union Address

Following the longest government shutdown in history, President Donald Trump yesterday addressed Congress in the annual State of the Union speech.

The President’s State of the Union message is traditionally meant to bring Americans together. However, even before his speech began, President Trump’s stage was marred by deep division and bipartisanship.

The annual address was delayed owing to a 35-day government shutdown, during which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Trump issued statements back and forth about the date of the speech in an ongoing power struggle. The only other time a State of the Union address has been delayed was in 1986, when President Reagan made the decision to postpone the speech in light of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

Even setting aside the turmoil of the last six weeks, the President’s annual speech comes after a year that saw (among many other breaking stories) a contentious Supreme Court Justice appointment, a divisive midterm election, an ongoing battle over immigration policy and the Mueller investigation.

The shocking news comes alongside the just plain unbelievable news of the last 12 months—a porn star accepting a $130,000 payment to stay silent about her affair with the President; Kanye West visiting the Oval Office and typing in his iPhone passcode on national TV (000000); and the First Lady wearing her now-infamous coat that read “I Really Don’t Care Do U?” when she boarded a plane on a trip to visit migrant children at the border.

So, with this backdrop, President Trump took the national stage on the evening of February 5, 2019 and delivered his State of the Union address. Here’s what you need to know.

Women in white

Democratic women came to the House floor wearing white in honor of the 100th anniversary of Congress voting to grant women the right to vote. The show of solidarity was a visually striking scene amongst the usual black suits, thanks to the record number of women elected to Congress in the 2018 midterms.

These advances for women were, in fact, mentioned specifically by the President in his speech: “All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before—and exactly one century after the Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in the Congress than ever before.”

He was interrupted by cheers as the women—almost exclusively Democrats—high fived and hugged each other to celebrate the momentous achievement. To which the President responded, “You weren’t supposed to do that.”

The celebration of the record number of women in Congress turned into a “USA! USA!” cheer that the entire chamber took up. Despite the fact that many of the women elected in 2018 were not only driven to run but spurred to victory by their opposition to the President and his policies, he seemed to love the moment.

“That’s great, really great,” he said. “And congratulations, that’s great.”

Addressing the new Congressional reality

For the first time since President Trump has been elected, he’s facing a government that is not entirely Republican. Now that the Democratic majority that was elected to the House of Representatives in the midterms has assumed office and the government is open again, the President is facing the possibility of investigation. He addressed this specifically in his speech.

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way,” said Trump.

It’s a statement that alludes to the power the Trump presidency believes the executive branch should have—particularly given that the administration is in the midst of an investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, his company is in the midst of an investigation by the Southern District of New York and House Democrats are preparing a series of investigations into, among other things, Trump’s Cabinet, his taxes and the firing of FBI director James Comey.

But it’s a statement that could also be a response to the attitude behind the comments such as that of incoming Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), who said just hours after being sworn in “We’re gonna go in there, and we’re gonna impeach the motherfucker!”

The border wall is still a rallying point

The border wall is one of the central promises of the Trump campaign, the matter that kept the government closed for over a month and a point of contention for the administration. And it is one from which the President is not backing down.

When the government was reopened, it was through a bill offering a three-week fix to a problem to which a solution had not yet been come. In his speech, Trump noted that there are just 10 days left for Congress to pass a bill to “secure our very dangerous Southern border” in order to avoid another shutdown.

Many people were listening to find out if the President would declare a national emergency on the southern border during his State of the Union address—something that would allow the border wall to be built without Congressional approval. There were no mentions of declaring a state of emergency or whether Trump would resort to this measure in future if no other way of getting the wall built became apparent.

In a divided country, none of this means much

Part of the mass interest in the State of the Union address lies in following the reactions of the opposing party. The audience got this from New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s eye roll and California Senator Kamala Harris’ expression of dismay, as well as a few other faces caught on camera.

https://twitter.com/SenGillibrand/status/1092979700039905280

However, for most of us, watching the reactions of our Congressional representatives reminds us that one big speech doesn’t change people’s views—and the State of the Union is just one big TV show anyway.

See also: Trump’s Wall: The President’s Oval Office Address

How to Stay Warm When It’s So, So Cold

Chicago and the rest of the Midwest are facing a dangerous drop in temperatures this week—the mercury is predicted to plunge as far down as -55F as the coldest airmass in three and a half decades hits the region.

Wisconsin, Michigan and Chicago have all declared a state of emergency, and weather forecasters are issuing dire warnings of lung damage and freezing flesh without proper attire.

Although the worst of the cold snap will be over the north-central region of the U.S., practically the entire eastern two-thirds of the nation will see freezing temperatures, all the way down to central Florida. That’s nearly 200 million people who will be affected.

The harsh cold doesn’t disprove global warming however. Extremes of temperature are actually an indication of the impact of climate change. As a whole, the earth’s temperature is about one degree above the average right now, according to the University of Maine’s Climate Reanalyzer.

If you find yourself in one of the areas affected by the polar vortex, follow these tips to stay safe and warm.

1. Choose the right coat

Sub-zero days are not the time to wear your nice coats. Leave your pea coats and other thin jackets in the closet and opt for a down coat instead. Down coats provide the best heat retention, so they’re your best choice during a week like this one. Down jackets are measured on a scale from 400 to 900 that indicates the quality of the insulation. The higher the number, the warmer the coat will be.

2. Pick the best boots

When stepping out on a sub-zero day, it’s important to take that step in the warmest possible boots. The extremities of the body, such as fingers, toes, ears, nose and lips, are the most likely to be affected by frostbite, making your footwear choice even more important.

If you’re looking for a quality winter boot, the best thing to keep your eye on is the amount of insulation. Synthetic insulation is measured in either millimetres or grams. A higher number means the boot has more insulation and will be warmer and more comfortable. It’s also worth checking if the lining of your boot is removable so it can be taken out and hung up to dry in case it gets wet.

3. Hats, gloves and scarves

Up to 45 percent of body heat escapes through the head and chest, so make sure you’re wearing a warm hat and have a scarf or a coat that zips up to your chin. Protect your hands from frostbite with warm gloves or consider wearing mittens, which are an even better choice at a time like this.

4. Cover your face

This week, it’s important to give up on all pretenses of fashion and instead cover your entire body with cold-weather gear—including your face. When the temperature drops significantly below zero, you need to protect your lungs from the cold air by wearing a balaclava or buff face mask over your mouth. This will warm the air before it enters your lungs, preventing damage from the extreme cold.

5. Layer after layer

Underneath your hat, scarf, gloves and balaclava, make sure you are dressing in layers! Wear thermal underwear under your pants and sweaters. The air trapped between each layer holds your body heat, helping you stay warm. Layers also give you more control over regulating your body temperature, which will help you avoid sweating—something that can be dangerous at these low temperatures.

6. Stay hydrated

Severe cold can be just as dangerous as severe heat! Stay hydrated by drinking lots of hot tea. Pro tip: Alcohol does not keep you warm and will just contribute to your further dehydration.

7. Dogs get cold too

If it’s too cold for you outside, it’s probably too cold for your pet as well. Limit your pets’ time outdoors this week as much as you can. If you have to take them outside, consider bundling your pet up with a coat or sweater. It may seem silly but dressing your dog in booties when they go outside will not only keep their paws warm, but also prevent salt, sand and chemicals from irritating your pup’s paws.

When it is really cold outside, pets burn more calories, so leave them a little more food than normal. And make sure they drink a lot of water to prevent their skin from getting too dry.

8. Protect your pipes

Leave your faucets on a very slow drip and open the cabinet doors under the sink to prevent pipes from freezing overnight.

9. Care for your car

To avoid shuffling out of the house and discovering a cold, dead vehicle that won’t turn over, keep the gas tank at least half full and consider using coolant with antifreeze protection down to the lowest temperature. Also, try starting your car 15 minutes before you have to drive to let it properly warm up.

When it’s extremely cold, it’s important to make sure your vehicle is in top shape—including checking the battery, tire pressure, oil levels and windshield wipers. And it’s a good idea to pack a winter emergency kit with a blanket, boots, flashlight, extra batteries, ice scraper and jumper cables in your trunk as well.

Additionally, take the time to properly brush off and scrape your windshield before hitting the road. Don’t be a peephole driver—one of those people who think it is okay peek out the windshield through a tiny hole in the frost. You know who you are.

10. Finally, trust that you will be able to survive this

Students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks—the coldest, darkest college in America—manage to survive consecutive months of sub-zero weather every winter. They go outside during winter to bike, ski and run too! By taking a few extra precautions and ensuring that you are wearing the proper clothes, you will be just fine until the harsh cold eases up, which should be within the next week.

See also: We Need to Talk About Zac Efron’s Ted Bundy Movie

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Has Posted Her Skincare Routine

Regardless of your politics, it’s hard to dispute that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is having a moment right now. The Freshman Representative of New York’s 14th district has been in the headlines for months for everything from her views on environmental policies and health care reform to her clothes, old videos of her dancing and—now—her skincare routine.

Ocasio-Cortez revealed her secrets on Instagram stories today, saying the secrets to her glowing skin are double cleansing, toner, sunscreen and cutting back on her dairy intake.

One follower clapped back, saying they weren’t interested in skincare—they just wanted to know how Ocasio-Cortez wrote her speeches.

“That’s okay,” wrote Ocasio-Cortez in her response on Instagram, “we all have different interests.” She followed up by recommending studying great orators of history, like Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Dolores Huerta and Angela Davis, to improve public speaking.

This is typical of the Congresswoman’s use of Instagram. In the last month, she’s posted about loving a press-on nail and also given her followers a peek into how offices for members of Congress get picked.

She also uses Instagram Live to host discussions about public policy and answer questions. She does this while making dinner, usually something simple, like instant-pot mac’n’cheese, which further endears her to her fans.

“FDR may have had ‘fireside chats,’ but AOC has ‘cooking black bean soup on Instagram Live’ and guys, it is [flames],” wrote one viewer.

See also: Trump’s Wall: The President’s Oval Office Address

Your Seven Day Break on the Pill is Bogus—Here’s Why

The seven-day break built into the schedule of the contraceptive pill isn’t backed by medical science—it is instead from a gynaecologist in the ‘60s who, by mimicking the natural rhythms of a woman’s cycle as closely as possible, was trying to persuade the pope to let the Catholic Church adopt the birth control form.

Periods on the Pill

Women on the Pill, the most popular method of birth control, know how it goes: take the Pill for three weeks and then either switch to a sugar pill or forgo taking any tablets during the fourth week.

During the fourth week, women on the Pill will bleed; however, it’s important to note that the ‘period’ you get while on the Pill isn’t a real period. It’s called “withdrawal bleeding,” which refers to the withdrawal experienced from taking a week off of the Pill’s hormones. The drop-in hormone levels cause the lining of the uterus to shed, which is what leads to period-like bleeding.

Some women say they appreciate the bleeding as an indication that they’re not pregnant; however, Pill periods aren’t actually a guarantee of that. Monthly bleeding on the Pill is just a reaction to no longer having contraceptive chemicals in your system.

How did we get here?

If the period experienced by women doesn’t fulfill the functions of a period, is it medically necessary to bleed every month?

Not according to the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, who made headlines this week when it announced about the Pill, “there is no health benefit from the seven-day hormone-free interval.”

In fact, the origin of the Pill’s off week comes from John Rock, one of the gynecologists who was involved with the development of the contraceptive. A devout Catholic, Dr. Rock built in the break in order to please the Catholic Church and, he hoped, earn the endorsement of the pope at the time.

“In the Catholic Church the rhythm method is an accepted form of birth control,” said Sophia Yen, M.D., a gynecologist in California and founder of Pandia Health, to Glamour UK. “So his thought was that if he could make women’s periods rock solid and regular, it would make this method easier to practice [and more appealing to the Church].”

His plan didn’t work—the pope didn’t go for it and ultimately decided the Church wouldn’t support Catholics using birth control of any kind—but nevertheless, the built-in breaks to allow for a monthly period stuck.

In other words, the reason women on the Pill have been having regular periods month after month for the past 60 years is because one man was trying to please another man—and it didn’t even work.

It’s ok to not take a break

For many women, taking the Pill continuously may actually have some benefits. The sudden drop in estrogen levels experienced during the off week can lead to headaches. Continuous use can also reduce acne and eliminate the possibility of painful periods.

It might seem obvious, but most women would happily skip monthly bleeding if they knew it was safe, a survey conducted by Pandia Health in 2018 revealed.

So here we are in 2019—a place where the myth about a “build-up of menstrual blood” when you don’t have a period is still widely accepted and our Pill-period schedules are dictated by a misguided and long-deceased doctor.

Menstruation is closely tied to the concept of female identity and fighting the stigma associated with not having one requires cutting through many layers of internalized attitudes about femininity. The word “unnatural” comes up a lot when discussing medically preventing your period. Yet there are several accepted forms of birth control on the market that do just that, like the hormonal IUD and the shot.

Much of the conversation around eliminating menstruation focuses on women who have debilitating periods, and while it’s important to continue research in this area specifically for women who need to control their painful and heavy periods, it’s also worth considering those who are simply inconvenienced by their periods and would rather not have them.

“I love to travel, I love to spend time outdoors. I love not having to worry about a period,” said one woman to The Atlantic.

With FSRH’s new report, she can rest assured that it is safe to do so.

 

See also: Women’s Health Watch: In Stirrups

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