xoNEWS: California Ensures Freedom To Yelp, Men Are Being Denied Emergency Contraception, And More

Some of the headlines you might have missed, neatly summarized.
Amanda Lauren
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Some of the headlines you might have missed, neatly summarized.


Happy Friday. I always comment on what I wrote about, but today I thought it might be interesting to tell you what I didn’t write about. One story I didn’t cover was about the trial of Gigi Jordan, a former pharmaceutical executive who poisoned her autistic son to death. Another idea I rejected was commemorating 9/11. As a native New Yorker, I feel like it's been covered everywhere already. What else did I skip? An act of generosity by Charlie Sheen (it was a headline, in all fairness) and a Real Housewives cast member on the lam. 

Should I have covered any of those stories? I nearly rejected the SheTaxi story earlier this week, but it turned out to be more newsworthy than I anticipated. Should I trust my instincts? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @AmandaLauren.

Now Californians Can Yelp Freely

Let’s face it, businesses don’t want bad Yelp reviews. In order to prevent this, many companies have their customers sign contracts with “non-disparagement” clauses to prevent them from posting negative reviews on sites like Yelp or Rip-Off Report. Often hidden in the fine print, customers agree to pay a fine if they post a negative review. This summer, it came to a head nationally when it was publicized that the Union Street Guest House, a hotel in upstate New York, was charging former guests $500 for every negative review posted by any member of their party. 

On Tuesday, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed a bill turning the tables on these companies. California is the first state to introduce such a bill. The bill says if a business tries to enforce a non-disparagement clause in a contract, they will face a civil penalty of $2,500 for their first offense, $5000 if they do it again and an additional $10,000 if they intentionally violate the statute. Assemblyman John A. Pérez, who introduced the bill commented,

No consumer should ever face penalties for voicing their opinions on the services or products they have purchased, and California law is now clear that no company has the ability to silence consumers.

Men Denied Emergency Contraception

Federal law permits men to purchase emergency contraception such as Plan B, but a recent study conducted by the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University showed some pharmacies are still not permitting these purchases. They sent male “secret shoppers” (in other news, maybe “secret shoppers” aren’t a scam), into 158 drugstores in New York City. Nearly 75% of the pharmacies created barriers to access and the men had a one in five chance of being denied the pills. Of the 30 pharmacies that refused the sale, nearly 75% of them said the woman or her ID card needed to be present at the time of purchase. The other 27% of the stores claimed to be out of stock.

Dr. David Bell, who conducted the study clarified the findings:

One possible explanation, the pharmacist may have thought that to comply with the age restriction the female needed to be present. Of note this research was conducted prior to the lifting of the age restriction. A second potential explanation is that pharmacists conscientiously objected to EC overall or its purchase by males. Anecdotally, speaking with a few pharmacists about the results, the request may have been a covert way to determine the presence or lack of coercion in a relationship. 

While it was a small study, it is a reflection of a larger problem throughout the country. In recent years, men have been denied emergency contraception in Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Oklahoma, according to the ACLU.

Murder Charges Against Oscar Pistorius Dropped

On Thursday, South African Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa dropped murder charges against Oscar Pistorius. However, she has yet to rule on the lesser charge of culpable homicide, which is similar to manslaughter in the US. 

Oscar Pistorius is the athlete known as the “Blade Runner.” He had two legs amputated below the knee as a child, and has run in both Olympic and Paralympic competitions. On Valentine’s Day, 2013, Pistorius fatally shot his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, and was charged with her murder. His defense was that he mistook her for an intruder. During the trial, neighbors testified that they heard loud arguing coming from Pistorius’ apartment around the time of the shooting. There was also evidence presented demonstrating a history of problems in their relationship.

The trial lasted for five months. It was interrupted several times so mental health experts could evaluate Pistorius. He was ultimately diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Experts also said that because of his disability, Pistorius was a "distrusting and guarded" person, who was hyper-vigilant about security. So what does all of this mean? In a fight or flight situation, it would be only natural for Pistorius to fight. He was also not wearing his prostatic legs when he fired the shots, so if there were a home invasion, he would have had difficulty fleeing. His fate will be decided on September 12th by a judge, as South Africa does not have jury trials.

ISIS Update

ISIS is on everyone’s mind and on Wednesday, President Obama finally made a speech regarding his strategy to defeat the terrorist organization. In the beginning of his speech, he clearly explained what ISIS, aka ISIL, is and what it isn’t:

Now let's make two things clear: ISIL is not "Islamic." No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al-Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria's civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.

In the 13-minute speech, Obama outlined a four-part plan and asked Congress for their support. The president said that in August, the US had 150 “successful” airstrikes against Iraq, so airstrikes are clearly the way to go. He also threatened strikes against militants in Syria, saying, “…if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven." Obama also plans to send 475 service members to Iraq, but not for combat. Their roles would be intelligence gathering and training Kurdish and Iraqi forces.

In short, if you skipped through everything in this story, so far, this is all you really need to know -- In his speech Wednesday night, Obama said: 

Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.


  • Good news for fans of "Married With Children": Twenty years after the show went off the air, producers are pitching a spin-off starring David Faustino, about his character, Bud Bundy.  

  • A recent study shows that lesbians have better sex than straight women. In a study of 2850 men and women, it was concluded that straight women have orgasms 61.6% of the time they have sex and that lesbians have orgasms 74.7% of the time. The explanation for this? Two words: clitoral stimulation.

  • Next week, all Scottish citizens over the age of 16 will vote on whether or not to be independent from the United Kingdom. In 1999, Scotland was granted Independent Parliament from the UK and it has looked like the government has been heading in the direction of independence ever since.