Conservatives, namely Republicans, have long used Christian beliefs to inform their political ones. Supporters of the religious right wing have long tapped at the pages of The Bible to support their agendas related to women’s rights, social programs, and health care. That’s why, when Freshman Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez referenced the Good Book to push an economic bill she co-sponsored with Sen. Bernie Sanders this past Thursday, she raised quite a few brows.
AOC sarcastically suggested she ought to win popularity amongst religious right wing supporters this week.
In her tweet, the Bronx- born congresswoman of Puerto Rican descent, called on Christians to ‘uphold their principles’ when it came to usury and made references to Christians who recently pushed for restrictive abortion laws. She cracked the joke in a tweet about the “Loan Sharking Prevention Act” which works to put a cap on credit-card interest rates at 15 percent. It also works to end payday loans.
“Usury – aka high interest – happens to be explicitly denounced in the Bible (& in many other religions),” she wrote in a post to her Twitter account.
“Looking forward to having the religious right uphold their principles + sign onto my bill… Unless of course they’re only invoking religion to punish women + queer people,” she added.
The last line was a clear swipe at the recent anti-abortion bills that have been passed in conservative states such as Alabama and Georgia.
On Tuesday, Alabama representative Terri Collins introduced legislation that would make performing abortions at any point during a woman’s pregnancy a felony. The bill does not make exceptions for cases of rape and incest, but does if the pregnancy poses “a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother.”
Under the bill, should a doctor perform the procedure, they could be charged with a Class A felony, which carries a prison sentence of 10 to 99 years.
Ocasio-Cortez continued her lambasting on Thursday with another tweet claiming conservatives are attempting to target human sexuality.
“Abortion bans aren’t just about controlling women’s bodies,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “They’re about controlling women’s sexuality. Owning women. From limiting birth control to banning comprehensive sex ed, US religious fundamentalists are working hard to outlaw sex that falls outside their theology.”
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Like anatomy in general, birth control can be intimidating, confusing, and even a little scary. But it doesn’t have to be! While there are endless ideas about how birth control affects the body (it gives you acne, it makes you gain weight, it changes your moods, lo que sea), the truth is that everyone’s experience is different. For some, all of these claims might be true—and for others, none of them may be. Yet although each form of birth control impacts individuals in unique ways, there are definitely certain trends to watch out for. So if you’re curious about how birth control might affect your body, get ready for some seriously helpful—and possibly surprising!—information.
For years, many healthcare providers and users of birth control have believed that hormonal methods can lead to excessive weight gain. While bodies fluctuate and weight gain happens naturally for lots of different reasons, people often avoid this type of contraception—which includes the patch, the pill, monthly shots, and some IUDs—in order to avoid that alleged extra poundage.
However, many decades of research seem to dispel the myth that hormonal birth control leads to weight gain.
A 2014 review of 49 trials comparing 52 different birth control methods led to the conclusion that neither pill nor patch caused significant weight gain. Although “the evidence was not strong enough to be sure that these methods did not cause some weight change,” the reviewers found “no major effect on weight.”
Some studies focused on the combined pill (a version of the pill that contains many different—and often synthetic—hormones), while others investigated pills containing real progesterone, a hormone that our bodies naturally produce. The result was clear: no matter the contents, neither type of pill has a side effect of weight gain. Why, then, do we associate a higher number on the scale with the use of contraception?
According to Maria Gallo, an endocrinologist at Ohio State University who co-authored the review, the notion of weight gain as a symptom of birth control is rooted in a natural human bias.
Gallo suggests that when people are influenced by certain ideas or patterns (for example, if a small number of people report gaining weight after starting a new medication), those ideas seem to manifest in real life—even if the data doesn’t support those observations.
“It’s the same reason why there’s this idea that vaccines can cause health problems,” says Gallo. “If you give them to a population, you’re going to have some people who have health problems, whether they’re linked to the vaccine or not.”
In regard to the connection between weight and the pill, Gallo acknowledges that adults of both sexes gain roughly a pound each year, beginning in our early twenties. She points out that this is also the age when people start using contraception. Yet while Gallo asserts that the pill-weight connection is ultimately a myth—and that weight gain is likely attributed to different external factors—she confirms that the pill definitely does change the body in other ways.
Reviews indicate that birth control can change a body’s shape and composition, affecting muscle growth, fluid retention, and overall fat distribution.
A 2009 study showed that women taking a pill with a certain type of synthetic progesterone were unable to achieve their desired muscle gains. The fake progesterone, it turns out, was competing with a natural hormone called DHEA, which helps promote muscle growth. The impact of the synthetic progesterone kept women from meeting their desired fitness goals, because without a certain amount of DHEA, their bodies were incapable of supporting new muscle development.
On top of that, another study found that different hormones have different effects on fat cells. Estrogen and progesterone are responsible for feminine features, like wide hips, breasts, and booty. The fat that lives on these parts of the body is called subcutaneous fat, and it contains a large number of estrogen receptors. So, the study demonstrated that pills with higher estrogen levels often resulted in more subcutaneous fat and, therefore, a more “pear-shaped” silhouette.
And finally, the puffy feeling we all know too well—bloating—may also be a symptom of the pill. While we might feel bloated after un par de tacos or a big bucket of movie popcorn, that sensation is different than bloating caused by hormones. Estrogen impacts the way our bodies metabolize water, so high-estrogen birth control methods can make the body retain more fluid. Sometimes, this fluid seeps into fat cells, causing them to swell and create the illusion of weight gain. This means that while we may not actually be gaining weight, our clothes might fit differently, and we may feel sort of uncomfortable.
All in all, birth control can absolutely impact the way your body functions—it’s designed to do that! The trick is understanding your own body and finding a method that works for you and keeps you feeling healthy.
At some point in our lives, we’ve all wished for some magical way to boost our cash flow—and earlier this year, several people thought they’d found it. Perlita Afancio-Balles, a 29-year old woman living in Sacramento, claimed that she was “psychic” and promised her clients that if they paid her, she would “bless” them by doubling their money. In total, Afancio-Balles scammed people out of more than $100,000, amounting to a federal felony charge for grand theft and obtaining money by false pretenses.
The scam first came to media attention back in October, when Afancio-Balles fled Sacramento after receiving the initial payment from her victims. Police told Fox40 News that Afancio-Balles had instructed victims to leave their money with her for a few days.
She promised that when they returned for the money, double the original amount would be waiting for them. But when the victims did so, Afancio-Balles was nowhere to be found.
Credit: Sacramento Police Department
Now, after being on the run for almost three months, Afancio-Balles is at the top of the Sacramento Police Department’s “most wanted” list. The Sacramento Police are seeking information about her whereabouts in order to bring justice to the fraud victims.
“Ultimately, most of these victims, or all of these victims, believed the psychic and gave her money. And, eventually, the suspect fled with all the money that was given to her,” said Sacramento Police Officer Karl Chan. “She also targeted the Spanish-speaking community.”
Afancio-Balles, who went by the name “Eva Maria,” lived in the neighborhood of South Natomas, where most of her victims also reside. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 30% of South Natomas residents are Latino or Hispanic. Afancio-Balles, as well as most of the people she scammed, belong to this demographic.
While her case is certainly extreme, Afancio-Balles’ story is not unique. Psychic scammers have long been at large in different parts of the world, targeting people who are desperate for financial stability. For con artists, feigning supernatural powers can be an effective way of acquiring very large sums of money very quickly.
Over the past few years, several situations like that of Afancio-Balles came to light, and numerous false psychics ended up behind bars.
In May of 2018, a clairvoyant known as “Psychic Zoe” was arrested by the New York Police Department for defrauding clients out of more than $800,000. Taking advantage of vulnerable clients in a fragile emotional state, Psychic Zoe—whose real name is Ann Thompson—convinced one woman to buy her a 9.2 carat diamond ring, claiming that if she did not, she would never love again.
Later that same year, Gina Marks was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to committing felony theft against five of her clients. Overall, she stole more than $340,000 after telling her victims that she could cast love spells and “cure them of curses.” Like Afancio-Balles, Marks also went by a different name professionally: her clients knew her as Natalie Miller. And just as Afancio-Balles did, Marks tried to flee after customers started reporting her suspicious activity. Marks was caught by a private investigator at the Miami International Airport, where she was ultimately arrested. Afancio-Balles is currently still at large.
And in fall of this year, Sherry Unwanawich—known to clients as Jacquelin Miller—was sentenced to 40 months in prison for swindling a single victim into paying $1.6 million over the course of several years for protection from a “curse.” The victim was allegedly grieving the death of her mother and struggling with medical school when she was led to believe that her family would be in danger from fake curse if she failed to pay.
Private investigator Bob Nygaard played a significant role in the cases of both Marks and Unwanawich—in fact, Marks was the very first psychic scammer that Nygaard investigated, catapulting his new career in this niche field of detective work. Nygaard is a former New York City police officer who has aided authorities in dozens of con artist cases, specifically in instances of false supernatural claims. In 2015, he estimated that he had recovered over $3 million for 21 victims across those dozen cases. But he says the overall number of defrauded funds in cases like these amounts to much more.
“The amount of money that these people are defrauded of by these self-proclaimed psychics is astronomical,” he said. “We’re talking in the billions of dollars.”
Nygaard says that police departments and district attorney offices don’t often take psychic crime seriously, often dismissing it as a “civil problem.” But as cases like these continue to emerge, the legal landscape is starting to change. In the case of Afancio-Balles, the Sacramento Police Department is remaining vigilant, requesting information from the public that might help locate her.
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