Friday Edition



The largest hospital network in Alabama on Wednesday paused in vitro fertilization treatments after the state’s all-Republican Supreme Court ruled frozen embryos are the legal equivalent of children. (NYT)

A statement from the University of Alabama at Birmingham health system: We are saddened that this will impact our patients’ attempt to have a baby through I.V.F. but we must evaluate the potential that our patients and our physicians could be prosecuted criminally or face punitive damages for following the standard of care for I.V.F. treatments.”

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled last week that three couples can sue for wrongful death because their frozen embryos were accidentally destroyed at a storage place. In their decision, the justices referenced language in Alabama’s Constitution, which recognizes the “rights of the unborn child.”

Reproductive rights have become a hot-button issue in the Post-Roe era, with real impact on elections. Democratic strategists are looking to center the abortion issue to drive turnout in 2024, while Republicans see it as a major vulnerability. A KFF analysis found 47% of voters said the overturning of Roe v. Wade influenced who they voted for in the 2022 midterms.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responding to the Alabama ruling: “This is exactly the type of chaos that we expected when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and paved the way for politicians to dictate some of the most personal decisions families can make.”

IVF is becoming more common as Americans increasingly delay having children, and the treatments are uncontroversial with the vast majority of the public. In December, former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway reportedly presented Republicans with polling data showing 86% of voters support IVF access.


The tradeoff to having cool, new, smart technology refrigerators and other home devices with all the bells and whistles? They break down a lot easier and don’t last as long as less complex machines. (WSJ)

Source: Euromonitor International

U.S. households spent 43% more on home appliances in 2023 than in 2013. That’s despite home appliance prices dropping 12% over roughly the same period.

Industry experts say increased computerization and more parts have made appliances less reliable, even high-end ones. According to Yelp data, repair requests for appliances jumped 58% last month compared to January 2022.

Wall Street Journal reporter Rachel Wolfe: “When a complicated machine fails, technicians say they have a much harder time figuring out what went wrong. Even if the technician does diagnose the problem, consumers are often left with repairs that exceed half the cost of replacement, rendering the machine totaled.”

Groups on both the left and right are questioning modern society's focus on technology and consumerism and pushing for a return to simpler living. Environmentalists on the left have long advocated for sustainability. Now, a growing number of "trad" conservatives are worried our smartphone and gadget-obsessed culture is tearing us away from homespun values and principles.

Physical activity, particularly dancing, can be much more effective than SSRIs when it comes to treating depression, according to the world’s most comprehensive study on the topic. (The Australian)

A new meta-analysis conducted by Australian researchers found exercise doubles short-term mood improvement compared to antidepressants. Consistent with many other studies, the analysis found only a small clinical benefit from SSRIs. Exercise showed significant benefits for both mild and severe depression.

There have been growing concerns about the effectiveness of SSRIs, which are widely prescribed. Studies have shown as much as 80% of the drugs’ benefits can be attributed to the placebo effect. From 2015 to 2018, 1 in 8 Americans was on antidepressants. Antidepressant prescriptions jumped 21% during the pandemic, according to one estimate.

Health experts acknowledge SSRIs may not work for everyone, but they’re still considered a key part of treating depression, especially for people with more serious mood disorders. Studies have shown antidepressants improved symptoms in about an extra 20 out of 100 people with moderate or severe depression.

Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care researchers: “The more severe the depression, the greater the benefits will be. In other words, antidepressants are effective against chronic, moderate and severe depression. They don't help in mild depression.”


Some economists are floating the idea of doing away with 401(k) plans, employer-sponsored retirement accounts that offer tax benefits to encourage saving for the future. (Bloomberg)

Why would we want to get rid of 401(k)s? With deficits skyrocketing and the national debt hitting historic highs, 401(k)s might be on the chopping block down the road because they cost the government lots of money ($185 billion or nearly 1% of GDP in 2019) in lost tax revenue. At the same time, cutting 401(k)s out wouldn’t be as politically disastrous as eliminating direct benefits or entitlements, like Social Security.

There’s evidence 401(k)s don’t meaningfully boost how much money people set aside for their retirement. That’s because some studies have found people will just put their cash in other kinds of retirement accounts when tax-advantaged accounts aren’t available. Other studies have determined that most of the benefits of 401(k) plans go to the wealthy.

Manhattan Institute senior fellow Allison Schrager on one positive aspect of 401(k)s: “Retirement accounts also require the government to defer consumption, because it forgoes some tax revenue today in exchange for future revenue. Perhaps 1% of GDP is too much to pay for this one modicum of spending discipline imposed on the government — a discipline that, in a higher-rate environment, is more expensive and harder to justify. But it is pretty much the only way the government is saving.”


The U.S. coal industry is dying out faster than expected amid the country’s full-bore transition to clean energy. (Axios)

Coal’s share of U.S. power has steadily declined from more than 40% in the early 2000s to 15% today. In each of the past five years, U.S. coal plant shutdowns have surpassed government officials’ projections. Plant owners plan to shut down another 43 gigawatts of coal power by 2030, according to the Energy Information Administration.

A number of initiatives in the U.S. have taken aim at phasing out fossil fuels in the name of combatting climate change. For instance, President Obama’s Clean Power Plan established guidelines on power plant emissions. Coal is responsible for more than 50% of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions.

There are localized economic downsides to shutting down coal plants. A 2019 study found coal plant closures in Appalachian Ohio would lead to 1,131 lost jobs, over $82 million in lost labor income and a $700 million reduction in economic output.

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