Texas bathroom bill appears to be all but dead in special session

Protesters rally in favor of transgender rights at the Texas Capitol, on July 21, 2017.
Protesters rally in favor of transgender rights at the Texas Capitol, on July 21, 2017.

 Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

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Despite it serving, in part, as the reason lawmakers are back in Austin for legislative overtime, the Texas Legislature could very well gavel out next week without passing a “bathroom bill.”

With just days left in the 30-day special legislative session, controversial proposals to regulate bathroom use for transgender Texans appear to have no clear path to the governor’s desk. As was the case during the regular legislative session that concluded in May, efforts to pass any sort of bathroom bill — a divisive issue pitting Republicans against business leaders, LGBT advocates, law enforcement and even fellow Republicans — have stalled in the Texas House.

And it’s unlikely that will change in the coming days.

“I’d say the chances are definitely getting smaller,” Republican state Rep. Ron Simmons of Carrollton, who filed two bathroom bills during the special session, said earlier this week.

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The push to keep transgender Texans out of bathrooms that match their gender identity — a move opponents said was discriminatory and could endanger transgender individuals — largely dominated the regular legislative session between protests, lobbying days, two overnight hearings, legislative bickering among Republican leaders over proposed bathroom bills and, eventually, a forced special session.

Restricting bathroom use in public facilities was deemed a legislative priority by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. But House Speaker Joe Straus, with the increased backing of the business community, emerged as his most prominent foil on the issue.

Gov. Greg Abbott — who for months during the regular session was reticent to voice his support for a bathroom bill — eventually took the lieutenant governor’s side and added the issue to his 20-item agenda for a special session that Patrick forced him to call by holding hostage legislation needed to keep open the doors at a handful of state agencies.

But amid concerns for the safety of an already vulnerable population and statewide economic fallout, those efforts did little to sway the speaker.

When lawmakers returned to Austin in July, the Senate quickly passed its latest version of the bill to regulate bathroom use in public schools and local government buildings based on the gender listed on a birth certificate or Texas ID. It would also nix parts of local nondiscrimination ordinances meant to ensure transgender Texans can use public bathrooms that match their gender identity.

Just like during the regular session, Straus has refused to refer that bill to a House committee — the first step in the legislative process.


NYPD: Man tries to rape woman in Bronx Walgreens bathroom

Police are searching for the man responsible for a brazen and terrifying sex assault in the Bronx.

Authorities say the suspect attempted to rape a woman in a bathroom inside a Walgreens just before 4 p.m. Thursday.

The incident happened inside the business on White Plains Road in the Wakefield section.


Police say this man attacked a woman inside a bathroom in the Bronx

According to the NYPD, the 50-year-old victim was approached by the suspect as she was exiting a single-occupancy unisex bathroom.

The man allegedly shoved the victim back inside, pushed her to the ground, covered her mouth and attempted to remove her pants. A store employee heard the victim’s screams for help and pulled the suspect off the victim.

He fled the location on foot northbound on White Plains Road. The victim was treated at Jacobi Hospital.

The suspect is described as a black male in his early to mid 30s, approximately 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds. He was last seen wearing a gray sweatshirt, white T-shirt, blue jeans and black and white sneakers.


Dallas Stars 1st Pro Team to Publicly Oppose Texas’ ‘Bathroom Bill’

NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 30:  President, CEO and Alternate Governor Jim Lites of the Dallas Stars speaks on the draft floor during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center on June 30, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Dallas Stars publicly opposed the Texas “bathroom bill” Wednesday that would require transgender people in Texas to only use bathrooms in schools or government buildings based on their birth-certificate gender.

“The Dallas Stars stands strongly opposed to any legislation perceived as discriminatory, including proposed bathroom legislation,” team president Jim Lites said, per Lauren McGaughy of the Dallas Morning News. “Dallas welcomes all, and we welcome all.”

His statement made the Stars the first team to publicly denounce this particular legislation about bathroom use for transgender people. All of the city’s major sports teams appear to be against the legislation, however, per McGaughy:

“While Houston Texans owner Bob McNair has criticized the bill, Lites is the first club president to reject legislation on behalf of an entire team. Sources have told The Dallas Morning News the Dallas Cowboys have been quietly lobbying against the bills, but the team has not yet publicly rejected it.”

“Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has also spoken out on the bill, saying he doesn’t believe the legislation has hurt Texas business prospects yet, but, ‘We can only use the excuse of having crazy, entertaining state politicians who are merely a sideshow for so long.'”

A similar law in North Carolina was met with stiff resistance and outcry from the sporting world. The NBA pulled its All-Star Game from the state, while the NCAA pulled basketball tournament games from the state as well before the law was repealed.

Both the NBA and NFL have warned the state of Texas, meanwhile, that passing what is seen by many as a discriminatory law against transgender people could cost the state major events in the future.

“If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law (in Texas), that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Ileana Najarro of the Houston Chronicle in February.

“We consider a wide range of factors when making decisions about host locations for league-wide events like the All-Star Game—foremost among them is ensuring the environment where those who participate and attend are treated fairly and equally,” NBA spokesman Bass added that same month, per Najarro.


Modern Fertility raises $1 million to educate women about their hormones

Above: Modern Fertility cofounders Afton Vechery and Carly Leahy

Image Credit: Modern Fertility

Modern Fertility is trying to spark a conversation about fertility. The young San Francisco-based startup wants to educate women about their bodies and hormonal levels, and today announced funding of $1 million, led by First Round Capital, with participation from Box Group, Y Combinator, and angel investors.

“The main problem that we are trying to solve is that women don’t have good information about their fertility,” said Modern Fertility cofounder and CEO Afton Vechery, in an interview with VentureBeat. “It’s something women think about and often stress about, but there’s no good way to ‘check in’ and understand your ability to have kids in the future.”

Vechery and her cofounder, Carly Leahy, created a personalized fertility test women can take at home. Customers prick their finger, put four drops of blood on the included card, and ship it to CLIA-accredited labs. Results are available online after five to seven days through Modern Fertility’s personalized dashboard. These results are reviewed by a medical practitioner who provides a layer of interpretation to help women understand what their hormone levels mean.

The startup measures up to 10 fertility hormones, including the anti-mullerian hormone (AMH), which is generally a good indicator of a woman’s ovarian reserve (how many eggs she has), and prolactin, which can impact the embryo’s ability to implant. If a woman is taking a contraceptive, Modern Fertility will vary the hormone panel accordingly.

Above: The hormones included in Modern Fertility tests

Image Credit: Modern Fertility

Women can preorder the test starting today for $149 — it is expected to ship by the end of this year, according to the cofounders. In the meantime, if customers want to take the test now, they can do so in approved labs. “These are the same tests that are used in clinics today as part of an initial consult,” said Vechery.

There are many other fertility startups out there, which shows how important femtech, or female technology, is becoming. Whether it’s fertility tracking apps like Clue, Glow, or Natural Cycles, or at-home fertility monitoring devices like Ava, the market is there.

But Modern Fertility claims to be addressing a different segment. Rather than focusing on women who are actively trying to conceive by tracking their ovulation peaks, the startup comes in much earlier, before these women start trying to have children.

“We spend our lives talking about prevention rather than preparing for pregnancy,” said Leahy. “The concept should be introduced early on, like your pap smear.”

But what about women who don’t want to have kids? “Some women still really want to know more about their bodies and how these hormones affect them,” said Vechery. “Some of the hormones we test are specific to fertility but also women’s health more broadly.”

After all, we track our fitness and our food, so why not track our fertility and hormones?

Founded in 2017, Modern Fertility is part of Y Combinator’s current batch and will be pitching its concept in less than two weeks at YC’s demo days. This initial round of funding will be used to build up the team in San Francisco.

“There is a huge movement towards personalized medicine and patient empowerment in health care,” wrote First Round Capital partner Phin Barnes, in an email to VentureBeat. “And yet, state of the art advice around one of the most important decisions a woman can make is, ‘just have them before you are 35…’ Modern Fertility will provide the information women need to map out their lives in their own, modern way.”

While direct-to-consumer health care does empower patients, it can also be a very slippery slope. After several FDA smackdowns, highly publicized startups like 23andMe and Theranos have become cautionary tales for those in the health tech world.

Modern Fertility isn’t concerned about those kinds of pitfalls, as it only carries out FDA-approved clinical tests that are reviewed by a medical practitioner. But the conversation about what a patient should do with the results is still missing. Finding out you might be infertile can be devastating, no matter how clear and explicit the results are on your computer screen. So encouraging women to discuss their results with a doctor or gynecologist will hopefully be a top priority for Modern Fertility and others in the field.


Modern Fertility is offering a comprehensive fertility test for women who hope to be moms someday

There are a number of ways to find out more about your fertility these days — including from several at-home fertility test startups that have started to pop up in the last few years. Modern Fertility hopes to soon operate in much the same way, but with a more affordable option for testing 10 key hormones affecting women’s fertility.

Though Modern Fertility’s at-home test won’t be available till later this year, you can pre-order it on their website for $149 — though the price will go up after the pre-order at a yet-to-be determined date. Should you want to get started now, the startup also offers the comprehensive screening through a lab near you, though it’s not clear what the price is for that.

The kit includes checking your hormone levels for:

  • Anti-mullerian hormone (AMH)

  • Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)

  • Estradiol (E2)

  • Luteinizing hormone (LH)

  • Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)

  • Free thyroxine (FT4)

  • Progesterone (P4)

  • Prolactin (PRL)

  • Free Testosterone (Free T)

  • Total Testosterone (T)

Modern Fertility competitor Future Family, a startup offering financing options for egg freezing and IVF procedures, also sells two separate fertility tests you can take at home. The first test kit goes for $300 and includes the three most key hormone tests: AMH, FSH and E2. Future Family’s second test, Fertility Age Test Plus, includes testing for the first three hormones and three tests for thyroid dysfunctions TSH, TPO (thyroperoxidase) and T3/T4. (triiodothironine and thyroxine levels) for a similar price.

Everlywell, a startup offering myriad home health tests, includes a similarly comprehensive fertility kit as Modern Fertility for $400, but with 11 hormone tests — and not all of them are the same ones.

Half the price for more hormone testing seems like a deal. However, there’s a hot debate among these startups over just how many of these hormone tests, and which ones, are necessary. Everlywell, for instance, doesn’t include AMH because they consider that only necessary if you are about to undergo IVF. Future Family told TechCrunch only the three key tests are necessary unless you need thyroid testing, because the other hormone tests “are widely accepted by doctors as not being true indicators of fertility.”



15 Modern Bathroom Essentials to Upgrade Your Space

Modern means a lot of things: simple, geometric, high tech—the list goes on.

What it doesn’t mean is eclectic and cluttered. If you ask us, the streamlined, muted color palette is the exact look you want for a serene bathroom space. And you don’t need much to get the vibes you’re after: Just a few key details that speak for themselves. It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with a cookie cutter apartment bathroom, or a custom designed one straight of the set of your favorite HGTV show.

We promise: These 15 neutral-but-provocative essentials will give your space that mod flair you’re after.

Branded: Modern Bathroom Accessories

InterDesign Rectangular Bathroom Vanity Canister With Dividers, $100

Branded: Modern Bathroom Accessories

AllModern Marble Accent Tray, $48

Branded: Modern Bathroom Accessories

Fine Fixtures Glenwood Surface Mount Medicine Cabinet, $147

Branded: Modern Bathroom Accessories

When to Get the Best Deals on TVs and Kitchen Appliances

You don’t need to be a data scientist to know that holiday sales are great opportunities for bargain shoppers—but to understand precisely when you can snag the best deals, a little bit of big data goes a long way.

That’s why Consumer Reports teamed up with Gap Intelligence, a market research company that specializes in pricing information, to study a year’s worth of product prices from key retailers. We examined four big-ticket product categories—ranges, dishwashers, refrigerators, and televisions—to help you navigate the sales between Labor Day and the end of the holiday season.

The steep discounts that occur around Black Friday demonstrate the magnitude of price fluctuation that exists during the course of a year. By November, the average price of a refrigerator, for instance, dropped almost $250 off the peak pricing we found in May. For the average price of a range, we found a $178 differential—or a 14 percent discount—between the high point in February and the low point in November.

Sometimes the big-picture data can hide some counterintuitive buying advice. Average TV prices peak as new products launch starting at the end of February, but that’s also one of the best times to get a great deal on the previous year’s hot sets.


Things got particularly interesting when we zoomed in on several high-performing models from our ratings. We found significant price fluctuation on certain models; others—especially at extreme low and high prices—barely budged.

So how can past pricing inform your purchasing decisions this fall? If you’re in the market for one of these products now (as in, your fridge is on the fritz), the data show that keeping an eye on a model’s price over a matter of weeks could save you hundreds of dollars.

In terms of 2017 sales events, Gap expects to see similar trends, especially when it comes to Black Friday. “That promotional period continues to get longer and longer,” says Christine Edwards, Gap’s senior market analyst for home appliances. On Black Friday, entry-level appliances might see a dramatic dip as retailers advertise these offers to entice people through the door.

But if you’re shopping for a midlevel or premium appliance, there’s no need to wait until the day after Thanksgiving. “The retail industry is now referring to November as ‘Black November,’ ” explains Debra Mednick, CR’s director of market trends and analysis. As 2016’s data confirm, if you’re after a new kitchen suite or television—and you can hold off—it pays to wait out Labor Day sales and shop come November.

To calculate the average price in the product categories below and track the price of specific models, we teamed up with Gap Intelligence, a market-data company that tracks pricing and promotional activity for in-store and online products selling in key national, regional, and online-exclusive retailers on a weekly basis. (For each category, we excluded extreme outliers, eliminating TVs costing more than $8,000 and ranges and refrigerators more than $10,000.)

A man walking out of an electronics store after getting the best deal on a TV


“Most TV models are replaced or refreshed every year, and their pricing tends to follow a fairly consistent 12-month curve,” says Deirdre Kennedy, senior analyst for TVs at Gap Intelligence.

Our examination of the average price of a TV, as well as our study of four recommended 2016 models, shows that after new television models were introduced from early March to late May, prices began an immediate and steady decline. When Black Friday promotions began in November, prices dove across the board. We found many sets selling for as little as 50 percent of their original retail price.

Our analysis found another window for snaring a great deal starting a few weeks before the Super Bowl and running through March. During that time, average TV prices rose as new models entered the market, but prices on the preceding year’s TVs hit their low point as retailers worked to clear out old inventory and create shelf space for new arrivals.

Below, we compared the average price of a TV over the course of 2016 to four select models from our television ratings:

• Samsung UN65KS8500 TV
• LG 60UH8500 TV
• Samsung UN55KS8000 TV
• LG 49UH6100 TV

A chart that shows the average price of high-rated TVs for 2016


PICTURE BOASTCARDS Brit holidaymakers have ditched traditional postcards to brag about trips on social media

Millions of British holidaymakers are replacing postcards with ‘boastcards’, according to research.

Seven in 10 people admitted they no longer send or receive the traditional paper postcards, preferring to share holiday memories online instead.


34 per cent will upload a ‘boastcard’ or two on a Sunday evening when they know most people will be dreading the working week

And 90 per cent of adults said the only reason they post on social media while on holiday is to boast to friends and family.

A third of those polled try to post glorious holiday snaps online at 9am on a Monday morning – in a deliberate attempt to make work colleagues jealous.

A further 34 per cent will upload a ‘boastcard’ or two on a Sunday evening when they know most people will be dreading the working week ahead.

While 31 per cent attempt to post holiday pictures when they know colleagues will be suffering from the post-lunch slump.

The Royal Caribbean International survey of 2,000 adults, conducted via OnePoll.com, shows more than half feel absolutely brilliant or it makes their day when their online holiday snaps receive lots of ‘likes’ from people back at home.

four in 10 holidaymakers will take their first photograph within two hours of stepping off the plane

four in 10 holidaymakers will take their first photograph within two hours of stepping off the plane

One in 10 went as far to say sharing holiday photos was more important to them than a holiday romance, and 12 per cent reckoned it is more important than enjoying amazing holiday weather.

Incredibly, four in 10 holidaymakers will take their first photograph within two hours of stepping off the plane.

Following that, they’ll post on social media up to three times a day to share what a good time they are having.

However, despite this love of online bragging, 50 per cent of Brits admit they lack the confidence when it comes to capturing the perfect holiday shot.


Rachel Griffiths throws support behind bid to end modern slavery

Child slavery victim Sophea Touch with actor Rachel Griffiths.

As a nation, we need to be better educated about the illegal trade happening in our own backyard, award-winning actor Rachel Griffiths says.

The star of iconic Australian film Muriel’s Wedding, as well as hit TV series Six Feet Under and Brothers & Sisters, has thrown her support behind a push to bring in new laws stopping slavery.

Actor’s advocacy past:

  • In 1997 Griffiths flashed her breasts at the opening of Crown casino, reportedly saying the venue was “raping our state of dignity”
  • Griffiths joins women and children’s rights group Hagar Australia as its patron in 2012
  • She was credited with being an early supporter in a move to cancel passports of convicted sex offenders
  • In 2015, Griffiths spoke out about the history of abuse at a Melbourne church which was destroyed by fire

She appeared in Melbourne on Wednesday as part of an inquiry looking at whether UK laws to stop modern slavery could be put in place in Australia.

The laws would include requirements for businesses to report on how they have stamped out modern slavery from their global supply chains.

Griffiths, who appeared as a patron of child protection organisation Hagar Australia, said an estimated 45 million people were trapped in slavery around the world.

“Human beings should never be treated as commodities,” she said.

“It’s astounding that so many still believe that slavery is a horror of the past, that it’s been nobly all but eradicated by an enlightened and globalised world.

“The truth is that there are more people in slavery today than any other time in history.

“It’s the second biggest illicit trade behind drugs on our planet. It’s happening mostly in our region. It’s happening via international criminal networks, it permeates labour from sex work to fishing to construction to domestic services.”

Child exploitation fears drive push to outlaw ‘orphanage tourism’

It could become a crime to organise trips for Australians to visit orphanages in countries like Cambodia.

Griffiths, who has spoken out in the past against child sex abuse and gambling, said change needed come from all quarters.

“We as a nation need to fully understand who these players are, how they operate and what mechanisms we have to thwart their operations,” she said.

“I feel very positively that we can make, as Australians and individual consumers, a considerable impact.

“It’s closer to home than many of us ever believed. It’s a shocking truth that slavery-like practices are being employed by suspect operators here in Australia.

“Not every business can see the edge transparency gives them in an ethically competitive market.

“We do believe in order to make such practices the norm, government, business civil society and media must join forces to enact and support a modern slavery act.”

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

VIDEO: Modern slavery in Australia “hidden in plain sight” (7.30)

Orphanage tourism must stop, Griffiths says

Sophea Touch, a victim of child slavery from Cambodia, told the hearing she was forced into work after she was removed from her family at the age of four.

Ms Touch broke down as she recounted how she was forced to sell cakes as a child at villages and was beaten or starved if she did not sell enough.

“I wanted to be like other children that they could go to school, have friends, [be] loved,” she said.

“Every day I lived with fear because I had to sell all the cakes.”

She said she moved from family to family and continually faced violence.

Ms Touch said she tried to end her own life twice before she found Hagar. She said her life turned around when she was placed with a new family and given a support counsellor.

“I felt so hopeless because I thought there was not any other better ways for me,” she said.

“[Now] I have mum and I have dad.

“They loved and cared for me. That, I have never received before.”

Griffiths said Australian organisations needed to understand how orphanage tourism impacts countries like Cambodia.

“Australian organisations such as schools, universities, communities, sport and faith-based groups need to become better educated about the orphanage economy, the negative outcomes for children that our engagement is causing,” she said.

“Vulnerable children should not be visited by Australians who lack protection, training and skills to engage appropriately with children who have experienced trauma.

“Parents living in poverty should not be incentivised to break


Punters put cheap appliances to the test

The viral story of the K-Mart vacuum cleaner that can outperform a Dyson has prompted more face-offs between brand name appliances and some low cost alternatives.

Working mums Heidi and Lauren put a number of appliances to the test for A Current Affair, including kettles, irons, slow cookers and blenders.

They found that for the most part, the cheaper appliances came close to or matched the performance of its more distinguished counterpart – for significantly less of a cost.

Choice Magazine spokesperson Kate Browne said the same results were reflected in her publication’s findings.

Slow cookers feed the whole family.Slow cookers feed the whole family.The battle of the vacuum cleaners has gone viral.