The Daily Valet. - 3/20/24, Wednesday

Wednesday, March 20th Edition
Cory Ohlendorf  
By Cory Ohlendorf, Valet. Editor
Are you on team bidet yet?

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Today’s Big Story

Abortions Rose Last Year


Despite bans in some states, more than a million abortions were provided in 2023


In somewhat surprising news, just-released data indicates that abortions in the U.S. surged past 1 million last year in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. That's a major finding from a report published Tuesday by the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports access to abortion.

To be precise, researchers estimate there were 1,026,700 abortions in 2023. “That’s the highest number in over a decade, [and] the first time there have been over a million abortions provided in the U.S. formal health care system since 2012,” Isaac Maddow-Zimet, a data scientist with Guttmacher, told NPR. Almost every state without a total abortion ban saw an average increase of 25% in the number of procedures from 2020, the study found. States bordering those with bans saw the largest increase—37%—from 2020 to 2023.

The report also found that medication accounted for about two out of three abortions performed in the U.S. They rose to more than 63% of all abortions in 2023, up from 53% in 2020. The research was conducted by surveying all in-person and virtual abortion providers in the country and adding up their abortion counts. Guttmacher has been doing this research since 1974.

According to Axios, the Supreme Court is slated to hear oral arguments next week on access to the abortion pill, mifepristone. The case could further limit reproductive rights in the wake of the court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade nearly two years ago.

Mifepristone is typically used as part of a two-pill regimen for medication abortion. It has been banned in 14 states. Walgreens and CVS announced plans earlier this month to start selling abortion pills in states where the procedure is legal.

Dig Deeper:
The BBC looks deeper into how Ruth Bader Ginsburg foresaw the threat to abortion access.

A Controversial Immigration Law’s Back and Forth


The law went temporarily into effect, but it was then blocked hours later

The State of Texas late Tuesday was once again prevented from enforcing a strict new immigration law that gives local police agencies the power to arrest migrants who cross the border without authorization. According to the New York Times, the order—issued by a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel before midnight—capped a day of legal whiplash and came just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the law to temporarily go into effect.

The ruling created confusion along the border—immediately raising concerns among immigration advocates of increased racial profiling as well as detentions and attempted deportations by state authorities in Texas, where Latinos represent 40% of the population. It also led to a show of defiance by the Mexican government. So what now?

The Department of Homeland Security said the federal government would also continue the court challenge to the law that will “further complicate” the job of its “already strained” workforce. The agency won’t assist in any efforts to enforce the law known as Senate Bill 4. The Associated Press reports that the Supreme Court's majority did not write a detailed opinion in the case, as is typical in emergency appeals. But the decision to let the law go into effect drew dissents from liberal justices Ketanji Brown Jackson, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the law “harmful and unconstitutional” and called on congressional Republicans to settle the issue with a federal border security bill.


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AI Watermarks Miss the Mark


Big Tech says AI watermarks could curb misinformation, but they're easy to sidestep

Is this going to be a problem before it even really starts? Watermarking has been floated by Big Tech as one of the most promising methods to combat the escalating AI misinformation problem online. But so far, the results don’t seem promising, according to experts and a review of misinformation conducted by NBC News.

Adobe’s general counsel and trust officer Dana Rao wrote in a February blog post that Adobe’s C2PA watermarking standard, which Meta and other Big Tech companies have signed onto, would be instrumental in educating the public about misleading AI. The technologies are only in their infancy and in a limited state of deployment but, already, watermarking has proven to be easy to bypass. And some are warning that they could make disinformation even worse.

So far most have proven easy to remove, and it’s likely that future schemes will have similar problems. A new Facebook study is reportedly being flooded with bizarre AI-generated images of Jesus, flight attendants, muddy sharks, and more without any AI watermarks, despite the company’s requirement that users label AI-generated images. The viral AI images have raised concerns about the application’s AI safeguards against scammers and spammers behind the images.

Dig Deeper:
The Brookings Institute looked into how watermarks could get smarter and easier to detect.

The U.S. Finally Catches Up to the Bidet


Four years after the toilet paper shortage of 2020, bidet converts say they’re never going back

This is something I’ve known since my first trip to Tokyo a few years ago. Once you use a bidet regularly for about a week, you realize you have been living in the dark ages and you’re now enlightened. There’s no going back. And if there was one good thing to come out of the pandemic, it’s that Americans have finally come to realize that we’ve been pooping wrong for way too long.

Bidets—which clean you up with a stream of water, reducing the need for toilet paper—certainly weren’t the only items that people waited months for during that strange time. But while many have regretted buying their Pelotons or even their homes, the Washington Post reports that those who installed the bathroom fixture at the height of the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 are far from remorseful. Instead, they’ve become true believers, evangelizing to family and friends.

Despite the wave of new converts, America still lags far behind many other countries when it comes to bidet ownership. You’ll find them throughout Europe, Asia and South America. More than eight in 10 Japanese households, for example, have toilet-bidet combos, according to a recent government survey. In 1975, Italy passed a law requiring every residence to have a bidet. Americans, meanwhile, lead the world in per capita toilet paper usage. But a bidet has been found to cut household consumption of TP by about 80%. So really, that fancy bidet eventually pays for itself.

Who makes the best bidet on the market? Wirecutter put the most popular models to the test.


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What We’re Buying


A best-selling tee


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Morning Motto

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