Study: A New Strategy To Stop Female Genital Mutilation

Some societies have come up with alternative rite-of-passage rituals to replace female genital mutilation. Above: A Massai teenager in Kenya attends such a ceremony. Tony Karumba /AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Tony Karumba /AFP/Getty Images

Why does female genital mutilation (FGM) — a practice that the U.N. has classified as violence against women — remain so entrenched in parts of the globe?

Researchers in Bristol, England, have come up with a new theory. They looked at data on more that 60,000 women over the age of 40 in five West African countries who had at least one daughter. And they found that in cultures where the practice of cutting all or part of a woman’s external genitalia is prevalent, cut women, compared to uncut women, have more babies who survive.

“In societies where cutting is the norm, being cut gives women social status and more social support among women,” says Janet Howard, lead author of the article and anthropology professor at the University of Bristol. “They have more and better marriage opportunities” — and thus a better chance of bearing children.

The study appears on Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

In many African and some Middle Eastern countries, more than 200 million women and girls have undergone some form of genital cutting as a coming-of-age ritual, according to the World Health Organization — and another 3 million girls are at risk of being cut each year, most of them under the age of 15.

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The practice has no health benefits. And its harms are well-documented: severe bleeding and pain, infection, problems urinating, and even death, according to WHO. Over a lifetime, FGM can diminish sexual pleasure, lead to problems in childbirth, produce chronic urinary tract infections and cause depression and other mental health problems.

For decades, governments and public health advocates have worked to educate people about the medical harm caused by FGM. Still, it remains widespread even as some countries pass laws to stop it, international organizations set goals to eliminate it and education efforts stress its dire health consequences.

Those efforts compete with strong cultural beliefs that if a woman is not cut, she is unclean and must be ostracized by her community — and, in some societies, should not marry. So a woman who is not cut has a reduced chance of marrying and bearing children, says Katherine Wander, professor of anthropology at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York, and author of an accompanying News & Views commentary in the journal.

In those circumstances, “not being cut is a detriment” to bearing children, says Bettina Shell-Duncan, professor of anthropology at the University of Washington in Seattle, who was not part of the study.

In societies where almost every woman is cut, even if an uncut woman manages to find a husband, she’s ostracized by other women, says Wander. “When women who are not cut marry into a family with a cutting tradition, they’re treated quite horribly,” she says. “They’re made fun of. People won’t eat the food they prepare. They’re called dirty and spiritually impure. The primary source of conflict is not with their husband but with other women in the household, who look at them with disgust.”

A common strategy to reduce FGM, says Howard, is to educate groups of people, hoping to bring about a consensus that cutting is bad. “The idea is the group changes all together, they all put down their knives and agree not to cut,” she says.

“This paper suggests that we shift our focus from the risks associated with cutting — most people have heard those messages already,” Wander says.

A first step for public health advocates, she says, might be something as simple as building friendships among cut and uncut women through singing or dancing or based on common concerns like food or water supplies. The idea is that building social networks would lead to the next step, she says: “talking about the benefits girls and women realize from their cut status and then providing other ways to realize those benefits.”

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Opioids Take Heavy Toll On New Hampshire Hospital


February 06, 2017Updated 02/06/2017 10:38 AM

By Jack Rodolico, New Hampshire Public Radio

With the opioid epidemic gripping the country, hospitals have been inundated with patients suffering from addiction. And not all those patients land in a hospital because of an overdose. They’re being treated everywhere, from the nursery to the operating room.

Jack Rodolico (@JackRodolico) from Here & Now contributor New Hampshire Public Radio reports on how the drug crisis is reshaping one hospital in the Granite State.

This story aired on February 6, 2017.

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On College Campuses, Homelessness Is A 'Hidden' Problem


February 06, 2017Updated 02/06/2017 1:28 PM

At least 57,000 college students are estimated to be homeless across the country, according to a survey of financial aid data.

And it’s a problem coast to coast. Last year, the University of California system said that about 1 in 10 of its students was homeless and 1 in 5 didn’t have enough to eat. A recent survey of Massachusetts colleges showed nearly half experienced a rise in homeless students in the last year.

Lorenz Marcellus knows what it’s like to do schoolwork in a shelter. The senior at Bridgewater State University in eastern Massachusetts lost his family home when he was a senior in high school. He lived in a motel before transitioning to a shelter.

“I remember after school thinking, ‘Where am I going to sleep?’ And it wasn’t easy. It was hard on me mentally,” he says.

The research on homelessness on college campuses is relatively scarce and most government resources go to younger children and students in high school, says Shirley Fan-Chan, who serves on the board of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.

“This population is very invisible,” she says. “Not a lot of college students want to come out and identify themselves as homeless. They figure things will be better now that they are in college, getting a better education, and things should be OK.”

But often they are not. Fan-Chan and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Boston surveyed students who didn’t have secure housing, and found those students were more likely to fail courses and drop out of school.

The researchers say increased tuition and reduced state funding have contributed to the problem.

“I remember after school thinking, ‘Where am I going to sleep?’ And it wasn’t easy. It was hard on me mentally.”

Lorenz Marcellus

It’s a reality to which educators at Bridgewater State University — a school that caters to a diverse population of working-class students — are paying close attention. Inside the Catholic Center, Campus Minister Marlene DeLeon maintains a small, but heavily used food pantry. A few shelves are stocked with bags of pasta and canned vegetables.

“The need has increased,” she says. “I hear the doors opening. I see the food being used.”

Even though tuition at this public university is relatively affordable, DeLeon says many students can’t make enough at work to close the gap between financial aid and expenses.

The school is reaching out to students who’ve experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. The Bridgewater Scholars Program offers up to two high-achieving students a $10,000 scholarship that covers most tuition and living expenses.

Marcellus, the senior who became homeless in high school, received one of the grants. Some other students in the program are immigrants who didn’t have family support in the United States. One young woman became pregnant at 15 and got kicked out of her home. Junior Zachary Wright, a math major with near perfect grades, was forced to live on his own when his mother died unexpectedly.

“It’s really hard when you have had one main pillar of support your entire life, and they just disappear,” he says.

Unlike many of their peers across the country, these students say they know what it’s like to have a safety net that’s thread bare. For them the difference between failure and success might be a memory of a loved one urging them on.

“Sometimes struggle breeds confidence, and it breeds the fear of repeating it,” says Michele Wakin, a professor in the school’s sociology department who administers the scholarship. “There aren’t a whole set of people who have been instrumental in their lives. It’s one person who believed in them.”

This story aired on February 6, 2017.

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'America First': From Charles Lindbergh To President Trump

Charles Lindbergh speaks at a rally of the America First Committee at Madison Square Garden in New York, on May 23, 1941. Lindbergh was a leading voice of opposition to U.S. involvement in World War II up until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. AP hide caption

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Charles Lindbergh became an instant American hero when he piloted the Spirit of St. Louis from New York to Paris in 1927, becoming the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic.

Lindbergh was an icon in Europe as well, and he moved to England in the late 1930s. By 1941, though, he was back home, touring the U.S. as the leading voice of the America First Committee — an isolationist group of some 800,000 members that claimed England was trying to drag America into a war he thought it should avoid.

“I have been forced to the conclusion that we cannot win this war for England regardless of how much assistance we send. That is why the America First Committee has been formed,” Lindbergh said in 1941, just months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that launched the U.S. into World War II.

A few momentous years later, after the devastation of the war, isolationism was out of fashion. Instead, America became the driving force in establishing a global web that defines the world to this day — NATO, the United Nations, a strong U.S. military presence in Asia, open seas, a host of trade agreements.

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These arrangements are now being challenged by President Trump. He’s often described them as a burden the U.S. should shed, and he has distilled his approach into the phrase “America First.”

“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first,” Trump said at his inaugural on Jan. 20.

Lindbergh’s America First Committee had many critics, including Dr. Seuss. His cartoons lampooned the group for urging the U.S. to stay out of World War II despite the aggression of Nazi Germany. Dr. Seuss/Courtesy of Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego hide caption

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Dr. Seuss/Courtesy of Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego

Trump has never made the connection to Lindbergh and his group, and there are both similarities and differences. In foreign policy lingo, Lindbergh and his group were isolationists. They wanted to keep the U.S. out of most foreign entanglements.

Trump is more commonly described as a unilateralist — someone who thinks the U.S. can be engaged around the world, but on its own terms, unconstrained by alliances or multinational groups like the United Nations.

Still, Trump, like Lindbergh before him, argues the U.S. should not be the world’s policeman.

Ian Bremmer, head of the Eurasia Group, which analyzes global risk, explained Trump’s worldview this way in an interview with NPR:

“The U.S. should not be promoting its values internationally. It should not be telling other counties how they run themselves. The multilateral institutions that the U.S. has had a significant role in are part of that problem.”

A focus on burdens

Trump has plenty of company in attacking the global status quo. Liberals and conservatives argue that institutions like the U.N. and NATO should, at minimum, be restructured to keep up with a world that’s changed dramatically since they were established. Critics also point to U.S. military actions that have resulted in inconclusive wars at enormous costs.

“Many Americans looked at the policies of the past decades and saw that the U.S. acting as the global sheriff did not benefit them,” Bremmer said. “It was trillions of dollars wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan, with thousands of American lives lost … and they don’t want to see that anymore.”

Trump has talked mostly about disrupting the world order, without saying what would replace it. Yet if the U.S. simply recedes from its superpower role, Russia, China and Iran and others would gladly step in to fill that void, according to many analysts.

“The international order that America created is now under unprecedented threat from multiple directions,” retired Gen. David Petraeus warned recently on Capitol Hill.

Petraeus said the U.S. still has the resources to be a superpower, but he worries about “something perhaps even more pernicious — a loss of self-confidence, resolve and strategic clarity on America’s part about our vital interest in preserving and protecting the system we sacrificed so much to bring into being.”

Trump has focused on the burdens rather than intangible benefits that the U.S. received by working to shape the world in its image for decades. He argues that NATO allies aren’t pulling their weight, those U.S. troops in Asia since World War II are too expensive and trade agreements are costing American workers their jobs.

“For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military,” Trump declared at his inaugural.

Lindbergh (right) at a U.S. military base in the Pacific in 1945. He flew more than 50 combat missions in the Pacific during World War II. AP hide caption

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Lindbergh changes course

Lindbergh once expressed similar sentiments.

“The doctrine that we must enter the wars of Europe in order to defend America will be fatal to our nation if we follow it,” he said in 1941.

But then came Pearl Harbor, and that changed everything. Lindbergh’s movement collapsed — and he not only backed the U.S. war effort, he joined it. Although he had civilian, not military status, he still manged to fly more than 50 combat missions in the Pacific.

And after the war was over, he was often back in Europe, supporting the U.S. effort to rebuild the continent.

Every president faces unexpected crises, and as Trump sets his course in a volatile world, his own interpretation of America First may also be challenged.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent. Follow him @gregmyre1.

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WC Next: Gabriel Garzón-Montano

Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s latest album is Jardín. Mathew Scott/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Mathew Scott/Courtesy of the artist

  • “Crawl”
  • “Sour Mango”

Gabriel Garzón-Montano was born in New York City to French and Colombian parents. His music is gorgeous: woozy, psychedelic and soulful. His debut EP, Bishouné: Alma Del Huila, was released on a small label — but the right people heard it. Mayer Hawthorne played it for the folks at Stones Throw Records, which is releasing Garzón-Montano’s new album, Jardín. Lenny Kravitz heard it and asked Garzón-Montano to open for his European tour. And oh yeah, Drake even sampled it.

Hear two tracks from Jardín, released in January, in this segment.

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WATCH: Huge Green Fireball Streaks Across Midwest Sky

Dashcam video from the Lisle Police Department in Lisle, Ill., captured images of a meteor as it streaked over Lake Michigan early Monday morning. AP hide caption

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If you were outside in the Midwest at around 1:30 a.m. local time this morning, you might have received quite a shock.

A meteor streaked across the sky in a vivid, bright green flash. It set off sonic booms that were loud enough to shake houses in east-central Wisconsin, as National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Last tells The Two-Way.

Take a look at this video, captured on a police dashcam in Lisle, Ill.:

Check out this INCREDIBLE video of the #meteor this morning as viewed from a Lisle, IL police car dash cam! Thanks to Lisle PD for sharing!

— NWS Chicago (@NWSChicago) February 6, 2017

The meteor was visible in much of eastern Wisconsin and far northeast Illinois, Last says. He says the object likely broke up and that pieces might have ended up in Lake Michigan, though it is “probably going to be impossible to tell” exactly what happened.

Last says it is “relatively rare to see one this vivid” — he says meteorologists see video like this every year or every other year from somewhere in the U.S.

The American Meteor Society tracks reports of meteor sightings, and says that it received more than 200 today. Most of those reports were in Illinois and Wisconsin, but there were also sightings in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, New York, Kentucky, Minnesota and Ontario, Canada.


So why the bright green color? “It’s probably the interaction of the material in the meteor and the friction, the heat that is a result of the friction as it moves very very rapidly through the atmosphere,” says Last.

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The AMS explains that the makeup of elements can impact the color we see. For example, it says the element nickel can cause a meteor to appear green.

Meteors traveling at high speeds can “intensify certain colors compared to others,” it adds.

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