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Melinda Gates wants family planning back on the global agenda

Melinda GatesMelinda Gates has big plans. (Photo by World Economic Forum)

Can Melinda Gates do for family planning what Al Gore did for climate change? Gates has decided to make birth control her signature issue. “My goal is to get this back on the global agenda,” she tells Newsweek. As co-chair of the richest foundation in the world, she might actually be able to do it.

The contraceptive cause could certainly use a high-profile advocate: 215 million women [PDF] around the world want to avoid pregnancy but aren't currently using modern birth control. As Gates explained last month during a TEDxChange presentation on family planning, "This is a life-and-death crisis. Every year, 100,000 women who don’t want to be pregnant die in childbirth. About 600,000 women who don’t want to be pregnant give birth to a baby who dies in her first month of life. I know everybody wants to save these mothers and babies."

Read more: Living, Population, Sex

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Why aren’t women’s issues on the agenda at Rio+20?

Women need to be on the Rio docket. (Photo by Cintia Barenho.)

In just two months, world leaders will gather in Rio to hammer out a new set of agreements on what sustainable development means, and more importantly, how both rich and developing nations can get there before it’s too late. Day by day, the buzz is building around this historic Earth Summit. But there’s a problem: The big plans being hatched for the occasion -- nicknamed Rio+20 -- leave women out.

Read more: Politics, Population

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Colbert mocks group that blames immigrants for climate change

"Immigrants cause global warming!" says Stephen Colbert. "It's always an immigrant who's cutting my grass with an exhaust-spewing lawnmower. ... And their spicy food always increases my emissions."

In a smart segment this week, Colbert rips apart noxious ads that criticize immigrants for increasing their carbon footprints. The ads, being run on MSNBC, come from anti-immigration group Californians for Population Stabilization. Watch:

Read more: Media, Population

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New research shows Big Tobacco targets black kids

Photo by Fried Dough.

Big Tobacco agreed way back in 1998 to stop marketing [PDF] cigarettes to kids. Turns out cigarette companies are still up to their old tricks -- they’re just being slightly more stealth about it.

Researchers from California’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program recently examined the advertising of menthol and Newport-brand cigarettes in the state. They found a much greater prevalence of cigarette advertising in areas near high schools with significant populations of African American students.

“There is a systematic targeting (of disadvantaged communities) by the tobacco industry, which is an extraordinary public health problem,” said Lisa Henriksen of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who presented the research at a legislative briefing in Sacramento last week. “The addition of menthol to cigarettes makes it easier to smoke and more difficult to quit.”

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Easy, reversible, 100 percent effective birth control is for men only

One of the best things we can do for the planet is stop putting new humans on it, which means promoting safe and effective birth control for people who want to keep their offspring levels between zero and "get that, would you, Deirdre." But hormonal birth control comes with side effects like weight gain, mood swings, blood clots, and Rush Limbaugh. Luckily, there's a birth control option that's safe, quick, easy, reversible, and 100 percent effective for 10 years. But back off, ladies: For once in our lives, this birth control's just for dudes.

Read more: Childfree, Population, Sex

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Women’s groups and enviros are ideal allies on contraception

As our fearless leaders duke it out over contraception, blustering on as though women’s needs were mere political ping-pong, the time is ripe for environmentalists to embrace new alliances centered on empowering women. To begin, consider four little-discussed facts:

1. Without contraception, the average woman would become pregnant roughly 12 to 15 times in her life.

2. Contraception has proven to save lives and improve health on such a scale that it ranks alongside seat belts and antibiotics as one of the greatest public-health achievements of the 20th century.

3. An estimated 215 million women around the world wish to avoid pregnancy but are not using modern contraception.

4. More than 7 billion humans live on earth, and the largest generation ever is now coming of age.

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One weird old trick for population control: Aspirin

You may have heard that Rick Santorum financial backer Foster Friess proposed one weird old trick for birth control: an aspirin between the knees. (If you don't get it, try holding an aspirin between your knees, and then imagine that you only knew one sex position and it was missionary.) We found some file photos of Friess explaining his theory, which he put forth on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports.

Read more: Politics, Population, Sex

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Why climate hawks should care about birth-control access

Cross-posted from ThinkProgress Green.

Any morally acceptable pathway to prevent catastrophic global warming includes broad access to affordable birth control for the world's women. The conservative war on birth control is a war on women’s rights, and thus on the rights of us all. Human-made global warming is one of the most troubling symptoms of economic and social injustice around the planet, and the "countries in the developing world least responsible for the growing emissions are likely to experience the heaviest impact of climate change, with women bearing the greatest toll." Researchers have found that empowering women to reduce unplanned pregnancies is one of the most cost-effective ways to combat greenhouse pollution, as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson discussed at the Durban climate conference last December:

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Water cyclists: An epic ride to raise awareness of a scarce resource

Joost Notenboom and Michiel Roodenburg.On July 4, 2010, Joost Notenboom and Michiel Roodenburg set off from Deadhorse, Alaska, on a more-than-18,000-mile journey to the southern tip of Argentina. Their chosen mode of transport: bamboo bicycles. Their mission: to raise awareness of the global water crisis that leaves more than 1 billion people without access to safe drinking water. Eighteen months, 14,000 miles, and 62 flat tires later, we caught up with them just long enough to ask a few questions about their trip so far -- and their plans for when they finish, which, if all goes as planned, will happen …

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Rick Santorum wants women to have lots of babies, whether they like it or not

Rick SantorumPut that condom down right now!Photo: Gage SkidmoreRick Santorum isn't just a climate denier -- he's a contraception denier. He believes contraception exists, but he apparently wishes it didn't, and he's eying ways to deny you access to it.

No, we're not talking about abortion here, though of course he wants to deny you access to that too. We're talking basic contraception -- the Pill, condoms, all the stuff that more than 99 percent of American women (and some smart men) use to prevent pregnancy and STDs.

Get a load of this, from an interview Santorum gave in October 2011: