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20 states are attempting to pass 'heartbeat laws.' Georgia and Ohio just passed their own.

Roe who?

Activists rally in Lafayette Square to protest the Trump administration's "global gag rule" on NGOs March 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. - The so-called "global gag rule" bans funding to NGOs who provide abortion services or advocacy.

(Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)
  • Four states have now passed "heartbeat laws," which ban abortions at about six weeks.
  • Ohio's new law prohibits rape and incest victims from having an abortion.
  • In Georgia, having a miscarriage could result in an investigation.

Distinguishing between actual news and The Onion has become a tragic sport in recent years, yet even the satire site wouldn't post an article entitled, "Should 11-year-old girls have to bear their rapists' babies? Ohio says yes." Nope, that's the Chicago Tribune.

On April 11, Republican governor Mike DeWine signed the state's Human Rights Protection Act, which bans abortions as soon as doctors can detect a heartbeat—about six weeks. The fact that many women do not yet know they're pregnant is irrelevant. Actually, that's part of the point: Ignorance is embedded in the design of the legislation.

The law, set to go into effect in mid-July, is being trailed by another bill that bans "drugs or devices used to prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum." Even birth control is being taken off the shelves in Ohio.

The recently passed bill features one even more disdainful caveat: If a child is raped, she must still bear the baby—as the headline suggests. While mothers will not be imprisoned for having an abortion (as some erroneous headlines have suggested), there is plenty to grieve about.

Ohio is only one of four states currently enacting "heartbeat laws." Georgia, Kentucky, and Mississippi now have similar laws on the books. Kentucky has yet another on tap, one which would prevent a woman from having an abortion upon learning that her child will be disabled.

Meanwhile, Missouri is foaming at the mouth for its shot while Alabama is about six months away from signing its own version. Louisiana's bill flew through the state Senate, 31-5, and is heading to the House. North Dakota's bill was signed but struck down in federal court. In total, 20 states have attempted or currently have heartbeat laws on the books or in progress.

Source: Wikipedia

Last week, Georgia governor Brian Kemp signed his state's heartbeat bill into law, cutting his state's restrictions on abortions from 20 weeks to six. While this law won't go into effect until January, it also does not allow for women that are impregnated due to rape, incest, or conditions that put the health of the mother on the line. In fact, if a woman has a miscarriage, she could be put under investigation to ensure that an abortion was not performed.

Kemp might soon be hurt in a way that certainly affects him, even if a woman's suffering does not: His state's wallet. Georgia's film industry is booming thanks to a 30 percent tax rebate; it currently supports 92,000 jobs. Some Hollywood producers aren't having it, however, threatening to take their projects elsewhere. While the producers of HBO's "Lovecraft Country," Jordan Peele and JJ Abrams, announced that they're staying on set, they're now donating profits from their show to two charities battling the state's draconian laws.

It's sad that money has to be the motivating factor for as basic a right as abortion in this country, but it might hold power—odd, given how financially conservative those supporting this bill seem to be. Anti-abortion activists generally don't support government assistance to mothers that can't afford children, yet do everything in their power to make sure they have the baby anyway. Even the mother's life isn't of concern, only the ambiguous baby, and only as a concept at that.

Jesse Ventura: Being Pro-Life should mean more than being Pro-Birth

These initiatives in Ohio and Georgia will be challenged in court, likely delaying the process of implementation, as happened in Kentucky when a federal judge blocked the law from going into effect in March. Kentucky only has one abortion clinic as it is, another clever move installed by activists intent on dismantling basic female rights.

These laws continue even as we know what results to expect. In February, an 11-year-old known as "Lucia" was forced to give birth after being raped by her grandmother's 65-year-old boyfriend. She attempted to commit suicide twice after learning of her pregnancy. Though abortion is legal in cases of rape in Argentina, stalling tactics were employed. She was forced to have a Caesarean section in the 23rd week of her pregnancy. The baby did not survive. Lucia will have to live with this horrific incident for the rest of her life.

Pro-Choice and Anti-Abortion: Both sides of the 'Heartbeat' Bill

Even more baffling about this entire situation is that religion is at its core. While the world's religions are truly different—the "every one says the same thing" mentality is more intellectual laziness than inspired truth—a handful of universals exists across cultures: empathy, compassion, trust, devotion, charity.

Sure, the major scriptures were written during tribal times—even more so than today—with the in-group receiving benefits and heretics being destroyed. Extrapolate the gist of meaning for global societies and those messages are truly applicable to all. Love thy neighbor and all that. Reciprocity reigns supreme.

Which is why it's shocking to see many of the professed religious in America acting in direct opposition to the commands of their faith. An 11-year-old girl raped by a senior citizen is not grounds for abortion? You'll look this girl in the eyes and claim it's part of God's plan? How about the potential death of the mother not holding as much weight as a fetus? These are, as many of the politicians behind these laws express, moral issues. The problem is they're on the wrong side of being moral.

Charity means helping even if you don't agree with the other person. Asking a homeless person why they ended up where they are is not compassion, unless you're committed to helping them change their circumstances. Giving them a few dollars is. Charity isn't charity if it's only serving to make you feel better about yourself.

The anti-abortion fervor spreading across nearly half of America is a disease. It has nothing to do with faith or devotion. It's a power grab and tool of manipulation. The more we attach the word "religion" to it, the more disservice we do to those religious who are truly compassionate and charitable. And we certainly need as much of those qualities as possible right now.

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Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.

Credit: Neom
Technology & Innovation
  • The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
  • The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
  • It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
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Human brains remember certain words more easily than others

A study of the manner in which memory works turns up a surprising thing.

Image Point Fr / Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • Researchers have found that some basic words appear to be more memorable than others.
  • Some faces are also easier to commit to memory.
  • Scientists suggest that these words serve as semantic bridges when the brain is searching for a memory.

Cognitive psychologist Weizhen Xie (Zane) of the NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) works with people who have intractable epilepsy, a form of the disorder that can't be controlled with medications. During research into the brain activity of patients, he and his colleagues discovered something odd about human memory: It appears that certain basic words are consistently more memorable than other basic words.

The research is published in Nature Human Behaviour.

An odd find

Image source: Tsekhmister/Shutterstock

Xie's team was re-analyzing memory tests of 30 epilepsy patients undertaken by Kareem Zaghloul of NINDS.

"Our goal is to find and eliminate the source of these harmful and debilitating seizures," Zaghloul said. "The monitoring period also provides a rare opportunity to record the neural activity that controls other parts of our lives. With the help of these patient volunteers we have been able to uncover some of the blueprints behind our memories."

Specifically, the participants were shown word pairs, such as "hand" and "apple." To better understand how the brain might remember such pairings, after a brief interval, participants were supplied one of the two words and asked to recall the other. Of the 300 words used in the tests, five of them proved to be five times more likely to be recalled: pig, tank, doll, pond, and door.

The scientists were perplexed that these words were so much more memorable than words like "cat," "street," "stair," "couch," and "cloud."

Intrigued, the researchers looked at a second data source from a word test taken by 2,623 healthy individuals via Amazon's Mechanical Turk and found essentially the same thing.

"We saw that some things — in this case, words — may be inherently easier for our brains to recall than others," Zaghloul said. That the Mechanical Turk results were so similar may "provide the strongest evidence to date that what we discovered about how the brain controls memory in this set of patients may also be true for people outside of the study."

Why understanding memory matters

person holding missing piece from human head puzzle

Image source: Orawan Pattarawimonchai/Shutterstock

"Our memories play a fundamental role in who we are and how our brains work," Xie said. "However, one of the biggest challenges of studying memory is that people often remember the same things in different ways, making it difficult for researchers to compare people's performances on memory tests." He added that the search for some kind of unified theory of memory has been going on for over a century.

If a comprehensive understanding of the way memory works can be developed, the researchers say that "we can predict what people should remember in advance and understand how our brains do this, then we might be able to develop better ways to evaluate someone's overall brain health."

Party chat

Image source: joob_in/Shutterstock

Xie's interest in this was piqued during a conversation with Wilma Bainbridge of University of Chicago at a Christmas party a couple of years ago. Bainbridge was, at the time, wrapping up a study of 1,000 volunteers that suggested certain faces are universally more memorable than others.

Bainbridge recalls, "Our exciting finding is that there are some images of people or places that are inherently memorable for all people, even though we have each seen different things in our lives. And if image memorability is so powerful, this means we can know in advance what people are likely to remember or forget."

spinning 3D model of a brain

Temporal lobes

Image source: Anatomography/Wikimedia

At first, the scientists suspected that the memorable words and faces were simply recalled more frequently and were thus easier to recall. They envisioned them as being akin to "highly trafficked spots connected to smaller spots representing the less memorable words." They developed a modeling program based on word frequencies found in books, new articles, and Wikipedia pages. Unfortunately, the model was unable to predict or duplicate the results they saw in their clinical experiments.

Eventually, the researchers came to suspect that the memorability of certain words was linked to the frequency with which the brain used them as semantic links between other memories, making them often-visited hubs in individuals's memory networks, and therefore places the brain jumped to early and often when retrieving memories. This idea was supported by observed activity in participants' anterior temporal lobe, a language center.

In epilepsy patients, these words were so frequently recalled that subjects often shouted them out even when they were incorrect responses to word-pair inquiries.

Seek, find

Modern search engines no longer simply look for raw words when resolving an inquiry: They also look for semantic — contextual and meaning — connections so that the results they present may better anticipate what it is you're looking for. Xie suggests something similar may be happening in the brain: "You know when you type words into a search engine, and it shows you a list of highly relevant guesses? It feels like the search engine is reading your mind. Well, our results suggest that the brains of the subjects in this study did something similar when they tried to recall a paired word, and we think that this may happen when we remember many of our past experiences."

He also notes that it may one day be possible to leverage individuals' apparently wired-in knowledge of their language as a fixed point against which to assess the health of their memory and brain.

Does conscious AI deserve rights?

If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.

Videos
  • Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
  • Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
  • One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.

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