Sarah Kliff

Stories by Sarah Kliff

  • The Mormon Church Supports Gay Rights ... Wait, What?

    The Mormon church is supporting gay rights. Sound a little suspicious? That has been the read around the blogosphere as of late, after the Church of Latter-day Saints announced Wednesday that it would support a Salt Lake City ordinance barring housing and workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Cue cynicism: "The Mormon Church views gays as worthwhile human beings in the workplace, but not in their own bedrooms. Got it," quipped a blogger at gay blog Queerty. Over at Seattle's alt weekly: "No one is fooled: this 'rare' action is an attempt to blunt charges of anti-gay bigotry ... in the wake of Prop 8."...
  • Health Care's Prayer Provision: How Complementary and Alternative Medicine Fits Into Obama's Evidence-Based Model

    Should health-care reform require insurers to cover chiropractors? Acupuncturists? Yoga? Spiritual healers? These are the questions raised by a recently noticed health-care amendment requiring insurers to consider covering "religious and spiritual health care." The amendment, covered in this article, comes with backing from Senate heavyweights like Orrin Hatch, John Kerry, and the late Ted Kennedy. And while it does not mention Christian Science by name, it's been widely interpreted as a protection of the church's prayer treatments, which it encourages as an alternative to medical help. Others have understood the provision as even more far-reaching as to include any health provider acting within the scope of their license.The Freedom From Religion Foundation has criticized the amendment as an unconstitutional violation of church and state. Even with its powerful supporters, the amendment seems unlikely to make the final bill; Pelosi already dropped it from th...
  • The Other Gay-Rights Vote: Why Referendum 71 in Washington Matters

    While gay-rights activists mourn their loss in Maine, they should not discount the projected victory of Referendum 71 in Washington state. If the measure passes, the Evergreen State will be the first to approve gay equality by direct will of the people, rather than the court or legislature. ...
  • The Future of Abstinence-Only Sex Ed

    It's been a mainstay of sex ed for more than a decade. Now, as the Obama administration cuts off federal funding, the movement scrambles for money, determined to continue its mission.  
  • Birth-Control Bummer? The Pill May Affect Attractiveness, but Don't Give Up on Oral Contraceptives Yet

    File this one under "most unexpected side effect": birth-control pills both lower a woman's attractiveness and inhibit her ability to choose a good mate. That's the claim put forward by a study in this month's Trends in Ecology and Evolution. The review examines the surprisingly large body of research previously conducted on the relationship between birth control and female attractiveness. Taken as a whole, the studies suggest "oral contraceptives could interfere...with the ability to attract the preferred man."Why, exactly, would the pill stand in the way of a good date? Dr. Alexandra Alvergne and her colleague Dr. Virpi Lumma reviewed a decade of research on the behavioral side effects of hormonal contraceptives to figure out the answer. They found that, when the pill inhibits ovulation, it also eliminates a monthly period when a woman's attractiveness rises. The theory goes like this: Over the course of a menstrual cycle, hormonal...
  • Plan B's Complicated Legacy

    The emergency contraception drug goes generic but still remains out of reach for many women.
  • Michael Jackson's Medical Homicide: What The Coroner's Announcement Really Means

    Michael Jackson’s death took a bizarre turn this afternoon when the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office announced it’d found the anesthetic propofol, usually used in general surgery, and two other sedatives to have caused the singer’s death in June. The drugs were no surprise—court testimony earlier this week established early on that Jackson was on myriad medications the day he died. The big shock came when the coroner announced that the death was being labeled a homicide....
  • Why I Could Hardly Watch the Octomom Documentary

    “People can’t comprehend…why I’m not worried.” That’s just one of the many pearls of wisdom dispensed by Nadya Suleman on last night’s Octomom: The Incredible Unseen Footage. Sorry, Fox, but I think you oversold us. For those who missed it (and I hope, for your sake, you’re in that category) the two-hour special was largely Suleman waving off concerns that 14 children might be too many to handle and complaining about a loss of privacy. She showed off her new house, hid from paparazzi, got a tattoo, and spent a little time with the octuplets, too. Back when the babies were born, 23 percent of Americans followed the story very closely, according to the Pew Research Center. I, admittedly, was among them. Now though, I can hardly make it through a two-hour television special.This comes on the heels of Jon and Kate’s Gosselin slow but steady journey to obscurity. In May, they were at their peak, with 9.8 million viewers tuning in for the announcement of their divorce. The show took a one...
  • The Things We Carry: Artists Confront Compulsive Hoarding

    by Sarah Kliff Right now, in the Museum of Modern Art's second-floor atrium, there is a pile of junk: empty toothpaste tubes, bottle caps without bottles, used Styrofoam containers, slivers of soap. Thousands of items—piles of clothes, pots, pans, toys, books—overwhelm the 3,000-square foot display space. Collectively, these items are a new installation, called "Waste Not," by Chinese artist Song Dong. But before these items were art, they were all the contents of the house of his mother, Zhao Xiangyuan. Zhao grew up during the Chinese Revolution, a time when the government ran massive campaigns emphasizing the values of frugality and thrift. She took the maxims to the extreme, wasting nothing, even a tattered pair of work boots that her son tried to throw away. As her children grew, she saved their tiny shoes and jackets. She saved used tea leaves and shopping bags, soda bottles and toothbrushes. Over fifty years, their small house outside Beijing came to resemble "a landslide ...
  • "Women Are Not Intimidated": An Abortion Provider Responds To George Tiller's Murder

    But for abortion providers, his death may have been less a shock and more a reminder of the grave risks they face everyday. "We’re sitting ducks," says Susan Wicklund, an abortion provider who runs a clinic near Bozeman, Mont. and has been in the field for over 20 years. "We have to accept that if somebody is absolutely intent on targeting us, they will be successful." In her 2007 memoir, "This Common Secret," (PublicAffairs) Wicklund wrote about the harassment and stalking she’s faced over the years: Wicklund varies her daily routines to make herself less of a target; her clinic is regularly subject to protesters and she sometimes wears a bulletproof vest to her work. Tiller’s death, Wicklund says, exacerbates the challenges that she and her colleagues face in making abortion safe and accessible to all women. His murder may deter doctors from entering a relatively dangerous field that’s already struggling with a dearth of providers. 87 percent of co...
  • Why We Cling to Outdated Medical Myths

    Whether it's thinking that vitamin C can cure a cold, or that you must drink eight glasses of water a day, people cling to outdated medical lore long after it's been shown to be wrong. Here's why.
  • Worth Your Time: "This American Life" on Banking

    It's an embarrassing confession for a journalist: I couldn't understand the news. Specifically, news about the economy. "Toxic asset"? "Liquidity"? "Insolvent bank"? All the terms blurred together. I even read all of the Financial Crisis for Dummies articles. No dice. I still felt dumb.Enter "This American Life." The weekly public-radio show has produced two astoundingly lucid episodes—"The Giant Pool of Money," which aired last May, and "Bad Bank," which aired earlier this month—explaining the situation in paint-me-a-picture terms that monetary morons like me can understand. "Bad Bank" sums up multitrillion-dollar balance sheets using an analogy involving $100 and a dollhouse. "Giant Pool" distills the subprime-mortgage crisis with a human tale connecting the dots between a homeowner named Clarence and a Wall Street banker named Mike.Hosts Adam Davidson and Alex Blumberg set a suitably relaxed tone: they sound like your friendly, biz-savvy pals laying out this whole thing over a...
  • Voting Snafus, Afternoon Edition

    By Sarah KliffEarlier today, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida were all in the running to become the problem state of 2012. Where do we stand a few hours later? Pennsylvania has improved and largely dropped off the voting-disaster radar, while Florida and Virginia remain the states to watch. Between those two, it looks like Florida has pulled ahead of Virginia as the most troublesome.  As of 3:30 this afternoon, the Election Protection Hotline had received over 52,000 calls from voters reporting problems. Here's how their voting experts sum up the issues:Florida: This morning, calls trickled in to the Election Protection Hotline from Florida. Now, the Voting Rights Project’s Jon Greenbaum is talking about “massive breakdowns.” In 35 precincts scattered across 15 counties, optical scan machines have gone haywire. At first, poll workers were following the protocol for handling scan ballots: putting them into safe “lock boxes” so that they could be scanned and counted when the...