Is it time to decriminalize prostitution? Two New York bills answer yes in unique ways

One bill hopes to repeal the crime of selling sex and expand social services; the other would legalize the entire sex trade.

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  • Today in the majority of the United States, it is a crime to sell sex, buy it, or promote its sale.
  • The Sex Trade Survivors Justice & Equality Act would decriminalize prostitution in New York state while maintaining punitive measures against buyers and pimps.
  • Opponents suggest this law would only push the illegal sex trade further underground and seek full decriminalization for everyone involved.
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    Initial antibody test results suggest 2.7 million New York infections

    If confirmed, that's 10 times the official number of infected New Yorkers.

    Image source: Getty Images
    • It may be that many more unsymptomatic New Yorkers have encountered COVID-19 and fought it off.
    • If this is true, the death rate may be lower than currently believed.
    • Andrew Cuomo presented these early findings with the caveat that the study hasn't been completed or published yet.

    We don't really know how many people have or have not been infected by coronavirus. Insufficient testing has left us largely flying blind, though there's been a general suspicion among experts that the disease's incidence is substantially underreported in what data there is.

    On April 22, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo described the preliminary findings of a new series of tests his state is conducting. The tests seek to identify asymptomatic individuals who are carrying antibodies that indicate they've fought off COVID-19 or are currently doing so. So far — and there's much more testing to be done — 13.9% of people tested positive for antibodies. That would suggest some 2.7 million New Yorkers have encountered the coronavirus. That's 10 times the official tally. In New York City, the results are even higher — 21.2% of people tested have the antibodies.

    This could mean that the coronavirus has asymptomatically moved through a larger chunk of the population than previously known, and that the death rate may thus be much less than previously thought.

    Cuomo’s and others' comments on the report

    Image source: State of New York

    Cuomo discussed the report's initial findings at a press conference. Since the study is ongoing, and the report itself not yet made available, his comments are the best information we have so far.

    Said Cuomo, "We're going to continue this testing on a rolling basis. We'll have a larger and larger sample. But I want to see snapshots of what is happening with that rate. Is it going up? Is it flat? Is it going down? And [the antibody study] can really give us data to make decisions."

    Not everyone is convinced of the study's value. NYC Health, for example, has raised warnings regarding the potential for false positives and negatives, and cites the remaining "void" in our knowledge of COVID-19.

    The tests were developed by New York State's Wadsworth Center lab, which asserts that it's 93-100% effective at differentiating the current coronavirus from previous infections. However, the lab has not publicly rated its efficiency, or sensitivity, at delivering accurate positives.

    On top of that, it's always a good idea to resist drawing conclusions too quickly from any single study, and especially from one whose findings are so preliminary. Speaking with NBC News, Harvard epidemiologist William Hanage cautions, "There's a risk of really serious misinterpretation here." Nonetheless, "the most basic conclusion — that quite a large number of people may have been infected and are not turning up in the official case counts — that's extremely plausible and something we have been suspecting all along."

    Image source: State of New York

    Blood tests were administered to 3,000 people across the state — in 40 locations and 19 counties — as they shopped at grocery and big-box stores. There's therefore a certain degree of pre-selection in the sample so far. For example, people too ill or otherwise infirm to be out and about are not included in its results. This is one of the report's limitations and a reason to wait before jumping to too many conclusions regarding its data.

    "These are people who were out and about shopping," noted Cuomo. "They were not people who were in their homes. They were not people who were isolated. They were not people who were quarantined."

    The results so far also reflect the disproportionate impact of coronavirus of people of color. Statewide, 22.8% of multiracial individuals tested positive for the antibody, as well as 22% of both African-Americans and Latinos.

    New York Public Library's 10 most checked-out books of all time

    The most popular books of the past 125 years, and where to get them.

    • New York Public library is celebrating its 125th birthday in 2020. With over 90 locations across New York City's boroughs, it is the nation's largest public library system.
    • Based on circulation data, popularity, trends, and other criteria dating back to 1895, these books are considered the library's most checked-out titles of all time.
    • "The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats was checked out 485,583 times and takes the top spot, but one librarian's hatred of another book may have robbed it of the crown.
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    The secret to Mark Twain's friendship with Nikola Tesla

    Twain and Tesla had similar passions and an amusing friendship.

    • Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and Nikola Tesla shared a friendship starting in 1890s.
    • Tesla read a lot of early Twain when recovering from a serious illness.
    • The two shared an interest in electricity.
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    New theories reveal the ferocious T-Rex as… adorable?

    The American Museum of Natural History presents the new, more accurate T. rex.

    • Hatchling, four-year-old, and adult models show us new sides of the famous predator.
    • They're part of the T. rex: The Ultimate Predator exhibit running from March 2019 to August 2020.
    • Attention time travelers: You may want to pet the feathered hatchling. Don't.
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