Encinitas resident brings women’s only studio to city

This story was reported for Seaside Courier on Feb. 4, 2016.

The days of Billy Blanks and his wildly popular Tae Bo classes were what drew Liberty Harper into the fitness world. Harper, an Encinitas resident, was 17 years old at the time.

“I had already understood that fitness was important but once I started taking these cardio kickboxing classes, I knew it was my calling,” Harper said. “From there, I was asked to teach at a karate studio and I quickly went on to teach at different gyms throughout San Diego.”

As she was finishing her schooling at La Costa Canyon, she taught classes about 15 to 20 hours each week.

Read the full story at SeasideCourier.com.


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Collective Health Wants to Change Healthcare Coverage — and Lower Its Cost

This story was reported for NewCo on Jan. 22, 2016.

We’ve all heard stories of health insurance companies that deny claims, but few of us start a company in response. That’s what Ali Diab did: he founded Collective Health, a Silicon Valley-based startup determined to reform the way Americans pay for health insurance.

Diab and Rajaie Batniji, a doctor at Stanford Hospital, founded Collective Health in January 2014 after Diab underwent a life-saving surgery. Diab says his doctors and nurses provided great care, but not so much for his health insurance provider. His insurer denied his claim, deeming it experimental. “We live in the best country when it comes to quality of care, but it is absolutely not matched by the quality of the health insurance system,” Diab says.

Read the full story at stories.newco.co.


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Farm to prison project advancing

This story was reported for Seaside Courier on May 19, 2014.Farm_to_prison_project_advancing_-_Seaside_Courier_News_-_2014-07-02_08.57.54.png

An Encinitas resident is overseeing a new effort to have inmates at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in Otay Mesa grow their own food behind prison walls.

The Farm And Rehabilitation Meals (FARM) program being developed at the prison will enable up to 20 inmates to grow fruits and vegetables on three acres. The farm includes a large warehouse for a seed propagation area, classroom space, three large planter boxes and a raised planting bed for inmates using wheelchairs.

Read the full story by clicking on the photo to the right.


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Out of control: Men have few reliable options for birth control

This story was reported for the San Diego News Network on May 10, 2010.

See original copy of story.

Fifty years ago, the Food and Drug Administration approved the birth control pill for women — but why isn’t there one for men yet?

Today, more than 100 million women worldwide and 12 million U.S. women may be asking themselves that question.

Experts say there are different reasons why there isn’t a male version of the pill.

Even though it varies, experts can agree on one fact: Many women have the primary responsibility of regulating child bearing, and even if men had the “opportunity” to take their version of the pill, they might not want the responsibility.

“It takes two to tango but the only contraceptive men have is the condom,” said SDSU Women’s Studies professor Kimala Price. “We basically dumped the responsibility on women and when men are done, they’re gone.”

On May 9, 1960, the FDA approved a pill that would change the lives of millions of women. The Enovid 10 mg “freed up” the lives of American women – not only allowing women to have sexual encounters but making it “easier for women to go out into the workforce and not worry about pregnancy,” said Price.

Not only that, the pill allowed for advancements in women’s health research, said Planned Parenthood’s Jennifer Coburn.

“Very quickly, the availability of the pill in America resulted in huge advancements in women’s and infant health, and a decline in unintended pregnancies — particularly among married women,” she said.

Though like any good American issue, the birth control pill is political (court cases making it legal for married couples or single gals to use the pill), a new CBS poll shows, “Men (59 percent), women (54 percent), and women who have ever taken the pill (54 percent) say that women’s lives were improved as a result of the birth control pill.”

In the age of cute little pills and a bevy of other options for women, men have but four options to prevent themselves from being a baby’s daddy — abstinence, coitus interruptus, the condom or sterilization – according to a study titled “Gender Roles and Male Contraception” by University of Utah philosophy professors Christopher Peterson and Margaret Battin.

So if the pill is such a good deal, why isn’t there one for men?

While inequality does exist when considering which sex is forced to carry the responsibility of birth control, Peterson and Battin point out in their study, men are “faced with an inequality of opportunity.”

“It cannot be doubted that men gamble every day that the contraception currently available to them will be sufficient to protect their choices about when, how, and with whom to reproduce, and every day men end up wrong.”

Besides, it’s just not as easy to make a birth control pill for men, said experts.

The answer lies more in the physiology of male reproduction, said Population Council’s senior scientist Narender Kumar.

In women, the ovulation process is “easy to stop,” given the fact that only one egg is released each cycle. Whereas in men, “millions of sperm are produced and it is a continuous cycle,” Kumar said.

“So I would say it is not that less is being done/researched in (the) male contraception field but it is just the difficulties in arresting spermatogenesis in male that is responsible for not having a male pill,” Kumar said. “Even now, we do not have any solid leads for male pill.”

But there’s still hope.

Last Monday, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute announced that it received a $1.5 million grant to study a male contraceptive that “uses a combination of two hormonal gels applied to the skin of the arm and abdomen.”

Christina Wang and Ronald Swerdloff — who are leading the research of the contraceptive — are currently enrolling 60 men between the ages of 18 and 50 to take part in the study.

The researchers will test the two gels to find out if they can successfully suppress sperm production to “near zero levels.”

“If this combination lowers sperm counts to levels compatible with contraception, then it will be followed by a study to see if pregnancy protection is actually demonstrated,” Swerdloff said.

Swerdloff hopes that the contraceptive will not only prevent unwanted pregnancies but men will get “more involved in their personal health care.”

“Just as women gained greater control over their reproductive choices and their health with the advent of the birth control pill, a male contraceptive would get men more involved in their personal health care and would give them greater reproductive choices,” he said.

Though it’s been 50 years since the pill hit the market, Swerdloff said there has been progress with the creation of the male contraceptive.

“We have shown that the various testosterone preparations (that) protect against pregnancy are safe, and are reversible,” he said. “We are now trying to refine the process to give earlier onset, greater ease of administration and even greater effectiveness. Developing new approaches to family planning [is] done carefully to assure safety.”

But don’t hold your breath — the doc said it usually takes about seven years for “this class of drug to move through the approval process.”

Though the male version of the pill wouldn’t hit the market for another few years, the study by the University of Utah professors shows men may not even wish to use the contraceptive if given the choice.

Peterson and Battin also point out that because of the gender roles which have been established over the years, a mindset has been created that contraceptive responsibility must primarily be given to women. (But men still have legal responsibility; See gray box).

So, “whether men could share responsibility, even if they wanted to, the answer, quite simply, is no.”

“The lack of a reliable male contraceptive option sends a message to all society about the role of women,” stated the study. “This message tells each of us that women are primarily responsible for maintaining the conditions necessary to prevent the conception of children.”

So what’s the lesson from this article? Well, let’s look at the facts first. (1) Women are given the ultimate burden of preventing mama drama. (2) A male version of the pill won’t exist for another few years. (3) Men may not even want to use their version of the pill even it was available. (4) If we want to see change in the “mindset” of gender roles, it’s time we talk about it more.

Until we see that day, the lesson is simple: Make sure the thug, at least, buys you two drinks before you make love in the club.

Hoa Quach is the political editor for the San Diego News Network.


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Dueling health care rallies hit the streets of San Diego

This story was reported for the San Diego News Network on March 16, 2010.

See original copy of this story.

As Democrats made a final push for President Barack Obama’s health care reform package, local supporters and opponents of the president’s plan rallied Tuesday at competing demonstrations.

Conflict surrounding reform continues to escalate, despite the Dems promise to pass the package of bills this week. In San Diego, supporters of Obama’s plan rallied outside the Civic Center, while opponents demonstrated outside Rep. Susan Davis’ (D-San Diego) local office.

“I actually really respect the people coming out in support of health care,” said Charles Fettinger, an opponent of Obama’s health care reform proposal who rallied outside Davis’ office. “I’d like to talk to them because in the end, we all want things to be better for ourselves and this country.”

While Fettinger and opponents of Obama’s plan rallied Tuesday, more than a hundred reform supporters — including Gary Rotto, director of health policy and fund development of the Council of Community Clinics, and San Diego County Democratic Party chairman Jess Durfee — marched from Santa Fe Train Depot to the Civic Center Plaza downtown chanting “health care reform now.”

The rally, coordinated by Organizing for America, concluded at the Civic Center concourse.

Some criticized the bills’ opponents and prompted attendees to encourage friends and family to support Obama’s plan.

“We’ve been hearing from all these bags of hot tea,” said Durfee referring to opponents. “Who is tired of them? … Health care reform now.”

Supporters also argued that, if passed, the bills would help 50 million uninsured Americans and could prevent up to 45,000 deaths each year.

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One of the supporters included activist Jerry Malamud, a protestor who was arrested at a rally outside the local Blue Shield of California office in November.

Malamud, who said he’d be willing to risk arrest again in support of health care reform, has been frustrated by the stalled legislation.

“It’s been very aggravating and it’s [the package of bills] been watered down,” he said. “But it’s a step forward in the right direction.”

Supporters also heard from Davis’ health care specialist, Katherine Fortner, who read a statement from the congressmember.

“We may be very close to passing health care reform legislation,” Davis said from the statement. “It’s both emotional and personal and we’ve seen this passion played out in the political arena.”

Organized by the Southern California Tax Revolt Coalition (SCTRC), approximately 50 people demonstrated outside the City Heights office of Davis, who supports the plan.

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Dawn Wildman, a representative with SCTRC, said she hopes the rally will encourage a list of 12 congressional leaders, who are on the fence with Obama’s proposal, to vote against it.

“Davis won’t change her mind so there’s no point in talking to her about it,” she said. “But, I do applaud Davis for holding town hall meetings to talk about it… we’re hearing from people across the country that a lot of Congress leaders aren’t holding town hall meetings.”

Fettinger, who has attended every SCTRC rally since February 2009, handed out T-shirts to opponents of Obama’s health care reform plan Tuesday morning. He said he wanted to do what he could to spread the word against the proposal because he thinks it is “dangerous.”

“The health care bills are so invasive,” he said. “The government is taking control of the one thing we have control of — our bodies.”

Related Links: Politics | The State of Your Health Care

In Washington D.C., Democrats are contemplating a plan that wouldn’t require a direct vote, to push the bill through Congress over the weekend.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that no final decision had been made on the complex parliamentary strategy, which would allow House Democrats to pass the Senate’s health care legislation without voting on the bill itself. Instead, House members — who dislike the Senate bill — would vote on a rule for debate that would deem the bill passed once a smaller package of fixes also had passed.

Davis, who was in Washington D.C. Tuesday, released a statement to the San Diego News Network acknowledging the differing views, but said her support for the plan is a reflection of what the majority of her constituents want.

“Through public meetings, phone calls, e-mails, faxes and letters, I have been hearing from people on both sides of the health care debate,” the statement said. “Passions run deep on this issue because it is so personal. In my district, people who want to move forward on health care reform are outnumbering those who want to stop the train.”

Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this report. Hoa Quach is the political editor for the San Diego News Network.


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