Supreme Court asked to void Louisiana law that could leave state with one clinic

The law requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
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Rep. Matt Gaetz, top Trump ally, swears off PAC money
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Wendy tries to make Peter Pan realistic, with mixed results
Wendy is a new take on an old and oft-told story. | Eric Zachanowich/Fox Searchlight Pictures Beasts of No Nation director Benh Zeitlin returns with an intriguing but muddled take on the old legend. There’s a thin line between the mawkish and the merely sentimental, and Wendy, Benh Zeitlin’s riff on the Peter Pan myth, rides it with unnerving abandon. Whether that’s a strike against it or a tick mark in its favor is mostly in the eye of the beholder, since the Peter Pan narrative about children who yearn to never grow up is nostalgic by definition. It’s a story written by adults for children who don’t yet know what it’s really about. The story has been a much-revisited touchpoint for Hollywood almost since the start, beginning with the silent version released by Paramount Pictures in 1924. Since then, it’s been tackled comedically (1991’s Hook), fantastically (2015’s Pan), dramatically (2004’s Finding Neverland), vapidly (2003’s Peter Pan), sweetly (many animated Disney permutations, beginning in 1953), and even as gritty horror (1987’s Lost Boys). Wendy’s take is a mix of naturalism and expressionist fantasy, shot with a naturalism that almost suggests it’s a documentary about the “true” story behind the legend of Peter Pan (that also happens to include some magical elements). On a number of occasions, the film veers close to succeeding. At times it’s evocative and touching. But it’s also heaped high with ideas about the magic of stories and the importance of recapturing your sense of wonder, which don’t really add up to much in the end. Wendy reimagines the Peter Pan legend by focusing on a character who’s often secondary Zeitlin, who burst onto the Hollywood scene in 2012 with his feature debut Beasts of the Southern Wild, co-wrote the screenplay for Wendy with his sister, Eliza. That sibling relationship seems to influence the plot, which — rather than revolving around Peter — centers on Wendy Darling (Devin France), a spirited young girl who lives with her twin brothers Douglas and James (Gage and Gavin Naquin) in the apartment above a greasy spoon run by their hard-working and jovial mother (Shay Walker). The establishment sits just beside the train tracks, and its patrons are grizzled regulars who seem as though they’ve been there forever and always will be, drinking coffee and cracking jokes and watching the kids run around. Fox Searchlight Pictures Yashua Mack as Peter Pan in Wendy. It isn’t a bad life, but it is a bit of a trapped one, something the school-aged Wendy, Douglas, and James can sense. Their mother tells them she once had huge dreams (of joining the rodeo) but gave them up once she had kids, and that now she dreams of just making ends meet. She doesn’t seem sad about settling, but her kids find it unnerving. One day, they make a spur-of-the-moment decision to jump onto a passing train. It’s there they meet Peter (Yashua Mack), who takes them to his magical island. This is where things go from realist to fantasy, because on that island, children roam free, unhindered by rules and bedtimes and adult supervision. And somehow, they never grow up. Watched over by a giant underwater creature they call “the Mother,” they live a carefree life. But there is a darker side to the island too, the children discover — one where bitterness and scarcity has replaced bounty and freedom and joy. Wendy doesn’t quite work, but it harbors the nugget of possibility Zeitlin has clearly taken a lot of care with Wendy, working with his child actors (mostly non-professionals) in a seemingly improvisational manner and building their world through expressionistic means. You feel their wonder at their new home, which is both wild and comforting, thanks to whirling sunlit sequences and a lush, exciting score (composed by Zeitlin and Dan Romer). At best, it feels like the filmmaking choices are strokes of paint building a swirling story. Fox Searchlight Pictures The children on Peter Pan’s magical island. But there’s voiceover, too, which is often a choice that indicates a lack of trust in the audience’s ability to go with the story. And though it’s performed by an older Wendy dreamily recounting the experience from a distance of years, it feels both too explanatory and strangely obfuscating. I found myself thinking Wendy needed either a tad more plot or far less; instead it floats in an unhappy medium space. Which is a bit of a shame. The core concept of Wendy, in which Wendy isn’t Peter’s devoted follower so much as his headstrong, courageous challenger, is a good one; the movie doesn’t do much with it. Its endless valorization of child-like imagination comes off a bit soft and pointless. Disney movies have been beating that drum for a long time, and it’s now more clichéd than fresh. There’s a kernel of commentary about the exploitation of the world’s wonders buried in the tale — the repeated yearning for one’s “mother” works just as well as a metaphor for nature as it does for actual mothers — but it feels like while the idea was there, the filmmakers couldn’t quite pull off the analogy in the edit room. Instead, it all gets a little muddled. Yet on the strengths of its images and its child actors’ performances (particularly France’s), there’s something charming and yearning about Wendy. The film also proves there’s still some life left in the much-told Peter Pan tale. If the magic isn’t totally there in Wendy, it’s floating around the edges, ready to spark another generation’s imaginations. Wendy opens in theaters on February 28.
The Opioid Epidemic Might Be Much Worse Than We Thought
It can be hard to comprehend the true scope of something as disastrous as the opioid epidemic. Perhaps that’s why it’s been compared to falling 747s and crashing cars. But in fact, knowing exactly how many people have perished is crucial to stopping the deaths.That’s why Elaine Hill and Andrew Boslett, economists at the University of Rochester, were so concerned when they found that many potential opioid deaths aren’t counted as such. In the fall of 2018, Hill and Boslett were studying how deaths from overdoses of opioids, such as heroin or Oxycontin, were influenced by the decline of coal mining and the rise of shale gas fracking. But when they began looking at death records of Americans who had died of drug overdoses, they noticed that in about 20 percent of the cases, the record said the type of drug could not be specified, perhaps because an autopsy was not performed. In other words, the person died of a drug overdose, but the death record didn’t say which drug.Hill and Boslett realized that such a high rate of unknowns wouldn’t work for the phenomenon they were trying to study. “Our lab wants to make as strong of a claim as possible given evidence that maybe an economic shock … had an effect on drug overdose rates,” Boslett says. “We want to know that the estimates we’re using on local drug overdose rates are correct, or as correct as possible.”[Read: The true cause of the opioid epidemic]So the researchers set out to try to determine the real causes behind those unspecified drug overdoses. In the process, they uncovered something unsettling about the way deaths are tracked in the U.S.: The way a given county investigates deaths matters, and it could be dramatically shifting our nationwide estimates of the number of people who die of everything from opioids to childbirth to coronavirus.Hill worked with Boslett and a Ph.D. candidate, Alina Denham, to come up with a model to estimate how many of those unspecified drug overdoses were caused by opioids. To do it, they set aside some of the death records in which the type of drug was known and created a model that would predict that drug, given other things that were known about that person: the county they lived in, their sex, where they died, other health conditions that contributed to the person’s death, and so on. For opioid deaths, that meant factoring in whether the person had other characteristics typically associated with opioid overdose, like being addicted to opioids or having chronic pain. By applying the model to the “unspecified” overdose deaths, they were able to predict that 72 percent were actually from opioids.In fact, they estimate in a new study in the journal Addiction, there were over 99,000 more deaths from opioids between 1999 and 2016 than had been previously documented, raising the national death toll by about 28 percent, to 453,300. What’s more, the discrepancies varied widely by state. In Alabama, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Indiana, Hill and her team estimated that the number of deaths from opioid overdoses was actually double the previous estimates.Addiction“This paper is a very strong one,” said Atheendar Venkataramani, a health-policy professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the study. It suggests that “if you just follow the vital statistics alone, we’re probably underestimating the true number of opioid deaths,” he said.Hill and her team suspect that’s because of differences in how counties across the U.S. investigate deaths. In essence, whether a given county uses a coroner or a medical examiner to investigate deaths matters. Medical examiners are doctors specially trained in pathology and forensics, but coroners can be general practitioners or even lay people with no medical training. For coroners, “in many places, like the state of Pennsylvania, the only requirements are to be a legal adult with no felony convictions who has lived in the county for one year and to complete a basic training course,” Jordan Kisner wrote this week in The New York Times Magazine. Meanwhile, as Kisner pointed out, there’s a dire shortage of medical examiners in the United States.Because of this lower standard of training, Denham explained, “you would think [coroners] would not be able to identify opioid involvement in a death as well as a medical doctor trained in it would.” That inference seems to be held up by data: The states that had a lot of unclassified drug-overdose deaths, Hill and her colleagues found, tended to use coroners in their death investigations.[Read: The doctors whose patients are already dead]The undercounting of opioid deaths matters because “you need to know the scale of a problem to know how to intervene in the problem,” Venkataramani says. Dealing with a crisis like opioid addiction—or coronavirus, for that matter—requires lawmakers and public-health workers to make choices about where to direct precious funding and resources. If the severity of the opioid epidemic is underestimated, local public health departments could be short-changed, and even more lives could be lost. This is particularly important in the case of infectious diseases like coronavirus, where knowing the total number of deaths can help public-health officials estimate its lethality.Especially in the case of addiction, so much of illness happens outside the public eye that it’s sometimes only when someone dies that her neighbors or the government see exactly what she was going through. The tragedy of epidemics like opioid abuse is that nothing can be done to help the dead. But the dead can help others—if the things that killed them are accurately reported. Having a better grasp of just how many people are dying from various ailments is crucial for policymakers to help those who are still living.
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