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Shopping Local: A Berry Beneficial Choice

You wake up on a lazy Saturday morning. The sun is shining, the grass is green and fresh produce is in season. It’s time to make your way over to your nearest farmers’ market to stock up on locally made and grown goods.

Farmers? markets are lively events during the warmer months. Shopping at farmers? markets is not only fun, it can also have a positive impact on the environment, your health and your community.

Environmental impact

Much of the food from a supermarket travels long distances before reaching the shelves (Photo by Gratisography, CC0)

Shopping for local produce can be a more environmentally friendly choice than heading to the supermarket.

The further food has to travel, the longer and more energy intensive the process becomes. From picking and sorting, to shipping and storing, these steps all require large amounts of energy in the form of electricity and oil. Products sold at farmers? markets are generally created or grown within a 160-kilometre radius of the places they?re sold, which can greatly help reduce the product?s total carbon footprint.

The use of fertilizers such as phosphorus are also commonplace on larger industrial farms. They are added to the soil to try and increase the quality and growing time of plants. Run-off from these products can accumulate in bodies of water, causing toxic algae blooms, a process called eutrophication. This unsustainable practice depletes the soil of its nutrients, rendering it unusable. Most small-scale farmers use these fertilizers more sparingly or don?t use them at all, which helps preserve the soil?s integrity for the next growing season.

Local products often tend to come with much less packaging. Products sold locally aren?t typically wrapped. This gives consumers a chance to bring their own reusable bags and reduce the amount of plastic and other garbage that ends up in landfills and waterways.

Healthy choices

Another bonus that comes from shopping locally is that the products purchased are generally better for your health. Products found on the shelves of grocery stores are usually picked days or weeks before, and they have sat ripening in fridges or on shelves before they hit the store. More traditional practices allow produce to ripen in the field, and they are picked right before being sold. When picked at its prime, produce tastes fresh and is packed with maximum nutrients.

Fresh strawberries at a farmers’ market (Photo by Alexandria Baldridge, Pexels)

Buying local also means buying what?s in season. In the summer months, you?ll see strawberries and raspberries starting to appear, while products like squash and pumpkins only appear in the fall. This is the way we traditionally ate before technology made it possible to store our food in fridges and ship food from warmer climates in the dead of winter.

The best part about farmers? markets is that if you have any questions about how products have been produced or made, you can just ask the farmer! It?s a rarity these days to be able to meet the people who grow our food and to have the answers to our questions right in front of us.

Community involvement

Finally, shopping for locally sourced products helps you become an active member in your community. Much of the food we eat is produced on large-scale single-crop farms. According to Statistics Canada, between 1931 and 2006, the total land being farmed increased, but the number of farms in operation decreased almost 70 per cent from over 700,000 farms to 229,373, as smaller farms were taken over or bought out by larger industrial farms. By purchasing local products, you are supporting farm families and keeping your money within your local economy.

Unique events such as farmers’ markets create vibrant communities where people come to meet up and connect with their friends, family and neighbors.

Have fun, eat fresh!

These are just some of the many benefits of shopping locally. Next time you?re looking for a relaxed weekend activity or a colorful vegetable to brighten your summer salad, be sure to look for a farmers? market near you. Feel good, have fun and make a difference!

This post was written by Jackie Bastianon and originally appeared on the Nature Conservancy of Canada?s blog, Land Lines.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Shopping Local: A Berry Beneficial Choice

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7 Ways to Reduce Your Gas Consumption

When it comes to eco-friendly living tips, few things are as important as reducing your gas consumption overall. We’re talking about gasoline here?not to be confused with natural gas, another resource that bears consideration.

When it comes to using less gas, some tips are straight-forward and common-sense, while others require a little more creativity to pull off. Here are my top seven tips for reducing your gas consumption.

Live Near Your Work

If you’re currently renting or if you’re considering moving, make it a priority to relocate your home near where you work. Commuting is one of those things that many of us see as a necessary evil, but the shorter you make your commute, the better. Not only will you waste less gas, you’ll enjoy a higher quality of life. If you work in a big city, take public transit to get to work each day. Your reduction in transportation costs will likely even out the higher rent you’ll be paying.

Clean Out Your Car

Extra weight in your car means that it takes more gas to haul you and your personal belongings around. If you have a lot of junk in your trunk, store it somewhere else.

Carpool … There’s An App for That!

Carpooling remains a fantastic way to reduce gas consumption. Think about it this way: If everyone in the US commuted with just ONE other person, we’d be reducing the fuel consumption burned during rush hour by half! Carpool with friends, coworkers and family whenever possible. Don’t know anyone going to the same part of town as you? Download Carpool by Waze, a handy app that lets you connect with fellow carpoolers.

Use Cruise Control

When you’re on the highway, use cruise control. This will help you avoid choppy breaking and accelerating as much as possible. Your car probably knows how to coast better than you do, and setting your car to cruise control will help you save gas in the process.

Learn to Coast

When cruise control doesn’t seem like a viable, safe or convenient option, learn how to coast. While driving, consciously make an effort to avoid breaking unless its absolutely necessary. Instead, if you see a red light up ahead or a car slowing down in front of you, let your foot off the gas right away, giving yourself plenty of time to slow down without the break. By avoiding unnecessary breaking, you will help reduce your need to accelerate later and you’ll be saving gas by doing so.

Don’t Idle for more than 1 Minute

If you pull up to wait for a friend or to drop something in a mailbox, turn your car off if you believe you’ll be stationary for more than one minute. Idling burns gas with little to no return on investment.

Use the A/C on Low

You might think that opening your windows is a more eco-friendly option than using air conditioning, but that’s not necessarily the case. According to Cars Direct, having your windows open while driving reduces fuel efficiency by making your car less aerodynamic. If it’s cool outside, windows up and no A/C is the way to go. But if it’s hot outside and you need to keep things cool, roll up your windows and use A/C on a low setting.

Related Articles:

5 Ways to Make Your Car More Eco-Friendly
5 Ways Drivers Can Safely Share the Road With Cyclists
Why You Shouldn’t Drive in the Left Lane

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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7 Ways to Reduce Your Gas Consumption

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California is turning farms into carbon-sucking factories

In a grand experiment, California switched on a fleet of high-tech greenhouse gas removal machines last month. Funded by the state’s cap-and-trade program, they’re designed to reverse climate change by sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. These wonderfully complex machines are more high-tech than anything humans have designed. They’re called plants.

Seriously, though: Plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. They break open the tough CO2 molecule and use the carbon to build their leaves and roots. In the process, they deposit carbon into the ground. For years people have excitedly discussed the possibility of stashing carbon in the soil while growing food. Now, for the first time, California is using cap-and-trade money to pay farmers to do it on a large scale. It’s called the California Healthy Soils Initiative.

In April, trucks full of fertilizer trundled into Doug Lo’s almond orchards near Gustine, California, and spread composted manure around his trees. He then planted clover to cover the ground between the trunks. In theory, these techniques will pull 1,088 tons of carbon out of the atmosphere every year. Lo’s is one of about fifty farms getting money from the state of California to pull greenhouse gas from the air. California is paying him $50,000 to try it out.

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“We’re trying to sequester some carbon,” Lo said. “It should also help with the water-holding capacity of the soil, and the flowers in the cover crop should feed bees after the almond bloom is over.”

This is the first major utilization of farms as state-sponsored carbon-sucking factories. (To be fair, Oklahoma, of all places, has been experimenting with soil carbon since 2001, albeit on a smaller scale.) Agriculture and climate nerds — we wonkiest of wonks — have been anticipating this for the last decade as the scientific evidence accumulated.

In 2014 we wrote about the people pushing this research in California. And Grist told the story last year of how scientist Jonathan Sanderman put together key pieces of this puzzle after finding jars of old dirt, long forgotten in storage. And just recently, the New York Times Magazine ran a story summarizing the state of the science. But for years it’s felt like a lot of talk and not much action. That’s changing with the Healthy Soils Initiative, which makes money available for farmers like Lo, and monitors the results.

So how do you turn a farm into a carbon-sucking machine? Lo figured the money from the state would allow him to experiment without risk. He made a deal with a compost company to truck manure from dairies across California’s central valley then spread precisely 5.3 tons per acre under his almond trees as required by the state guidelines. An inspector from the California Department of Food and Agriculture showed up on the day the trucks arrived in April to make sure Lo was actually doing the work and not just doing the paperwork. Next, Lo planted clover and other cover crops in the rows between the trees.

A lot is riding on this, but it’s not a foregone conclusion that it will work. In theory, compost and cover crops should get carbon out of the sky and into the ground. But will it work in practice on Lo’s farm? With the farm’s particular soil structure, irrigation pattern, as well as the dirt’s microbiome? We don’t know how fast carbon will accumulate in his soil, or how long it will stay there.

When I asked Lo how confident he was that he was going to get exactly 1,088 tons of carbon into the ground he responded: “Well, that’s just what the soil scientists said. We’re going to see I guess!”

As of last Thursday the soil samples on Lo’s farm haven’t shown an increase in carbon content, but it takes about three years for compost to break down, he said. Other farmers and state officials will be watching this rollout of carbon-sucking farms closely. And if it works, and these farms manage to capture enough carbon, program could scale up massively. California’s Healthy Soils Initiative could serve as a model for other states.

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California is turning farms into carbon-sucking factories

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The Future of Humanity – Michio Kaku

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The Future of Humanity
Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth
Michio Kaku

Genre: Physics

Price: $14.99

Expected Publish Date: February 20, 2018

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


The #1 bestselling author of The Future of the Mind traverses the frontiers of astrophysics, artificial intelligence, and technology to offer a stunning vision of man’s future in space, from settling Mars to traveling to distant galaxies. Formerly the domain of fiction, moving human civilization to the stars is increasingly becoming a scientific possibility–and a necessity. Whether in the near future due to climate change and the depletion of finite resources, or in the distant future due to catastrophic cosmological events, we must face the reality that humans will one day need to leave planet Earth to survive as a species. World-renowned physicist and futurist Michio Kaku explores in rich, intimate detail the process by which humanity may gradually move away from the planet and develop a sustainable civilization in outer space. He reveals how cutting-edge developments in robotics, nanotechnology, and biotechnology may allow us to terraform and build habitable cities on Mars. He then takes us beyond the solar system to nearby stars, which may soon be reached by nanoships traveling on laser beams at near the speed of light. Finally, he brings us beyond our galaxy, and even beyond our universe, to the possibility of immortality, showing us how humans may someday be able to leave our bodies entirely and laser port to new havens in space. With irrepressible enthusiasm and wonder, Dr. Kaku takes readers on a fascinating journey to a future in which humanity may finally fulfill its long-awaited destiny among the stars.

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The Future of Humanity – Michio Kaku

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EPA cutbacks are real, and they’re here.

In seemingly choreographed lockstep with President Trump’s revelation that the U.S. would exit the Paris Agreement, the Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday a buyout program to begin the process of cutting its staffing levels. 

According to an internal memo from Acting Deputy Administrator Mike Flynn (not that Mike Flynn), the EPA’s offer encourages “voluntary separations” that would cause “minimal disruption to the workforce.”

The workforce was plenty disrupted, however, by the budget proffered earlier this year by the Trump administration. It basically suggests taking a blowtorch to the agency — proposing a 31 percent budget cut and the elimination of 3,200 out of the EPA’s 15,000 jobs.

The proposed buyout will cost $12 million, and will first have to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget. The agency hopes to complete the cuts by September.

If approved, the buyouts may be popular. After Trump was elected, some EPA career staff cried, others set up rogue Twitter accounts, some quit, and others just waited anxiously for what would come next. Now we know: The newly arrived EPA honchos are sharpening their knives.

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EPA cutbacks are real, and they’re here.

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How to Pass a Thousand-Year Tax Cut

Mother Jones

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Republicans would like to pass a permanent tax cut. Sadly for them, Senate procedures prevent that. The only way to avoid a Democratic filibuster is to pass their tax plan via reconciliation, which requires only 51 votes in the Senate and can’t be filibustered. But thanks to the Byrd Rule, any reconciliation bill that increases the deficit beyond a 10-year window is once again subject to a filibuster, and that would doom any tax measure. This limits Republicans to tax plans that sunset in 2028.

But wait. Maybe there’s an alternative. The Wall Street Journal explains:

President Donald Trump has said he wants to cut taxes, big-league, and Republicans are having trouble squeezing his ambitions into congressional rules forbidding bigger deficits after a 10-year budget scoring window.

Some lawmakers are exploring a way around that problem: Make the window bigger. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) suggested last week a “longer horizon” to overcome obstacles posed by the process known as reconciliation….A 15-year, 20-year or 30-year budget window could let Republicans pass a temporary tax cut that is long enough to give companies confidence to invest but short enough so its fiscal effects peter out by the 2030s or 2040s.

Surprised? That’s because everyone always talks about the Byrd Rule forbidding deficit increases beyond a 10-year “budget window.” But that’s not what it says. Here’s the actual relevant language:

A provision shall be considered to be extraneous if it decreases revenues during a fiscal year after the fiscal years covered by such reconciliation bill or reconciliation resolution.

In this context, “extraneous” means it can be filibustered, and there’s nothing in there about ten years. That’s just custom. If Republicans felt like it, they could pass a bill that “covers” the next millennium and sunsets in 3018. Here is Daniel Hemel, an assistant professor of law at the University of Chicago:

“I don’t think there’s anything magical about the number 10, other than 10 has been the maximum number for long enough that 11 would seem like a break from Senate norms.”

But who cares about Senate norms? Not Republicans. So there must be something more to this or they’d just go ahead and do it. One possibility is that there are still a handful of old-school deficit hawks left in the party, and they won’t vote for a longer budget window. Or there might be some arcane technical issue involved. I would be fascinated to hear from a real budget expert on this.

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How to Pass a Thousand-Year Tax Cut

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Phil Klay’s Resistance Reading

Mother Jones

Courtesy of Phil Klay

We asked a range of authors, artists, and poets to name books that bring solace or understanding in this age of rancor. Two dozen or so responded. Here are picks from author Phil Klay, who served in Iraq prior to landing on the New York Times bestseller list for his riveting fictional stories of war and the experience of coming home.

Latest book: Redeployment
Reading recommendations: I’ve been reading A. Scott Berg’s anthology World War I and America, a fascinating collection of essays, articles, diary entries, and speeches from 1914 to 1921. Among the riches there are several articles by W.E.B. Du Bois and James Wheldon Johnson, showing first-rate minds grappling with which political course to advocate in a world gripped by a massive war abroad while black Americans routinely faced horrific acts of domestic terrorism.

I’ve also been thinking increasingly about Teddy Roosevelt’s 1883 speechThe Duties of American Citizenship.” Though some of his positions are dated—”the ideal citizen must be the father of many healthy children”—so much of it holds up as solid, practical advice in how to go about creating political change. Roosevelt continually stresses the hard work of building up organizations and institutions as the key component of American political life. “A great many of our men in business,” he says, “rather plume themselves upon being good citizens if they even vote; yet voting is the very least of their duties.” (Sadly, he has little to say on the possibility of tweeting your way to a greater democracy.)

Few things make me happier than reading Sandra Boynton’s Muu, Bee, Así Fue to my 14-month-old son. I don’t know if there’s any direct link between that book, which is mostly an excuse to make animal noises, and our current moment of political rancor, but I’d like to believe that the process of reading to my child is slowly teaching me to be a kinder person.
_______

So far in this series: Kwame Alexander, Margaret Atwood, W. Kamau Bell, Jeff Chang, T Cooper, Dave Eggers, Reza Farazmand, Piper Kerman, Phil Klay, Bill McKibben, Rabbi Jack Moline, Karen Russell, Tracy K. Smith, Gene Luen Yang. (New posts daily.)

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Phil Klay’s Resistance Reading

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Trump: Failure of Health Care Bill Is All Democrats’ Fault

Mother Jones

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It’s laughable watching President Trump whine endlessly this afternoon about how his health care bill didn’t get any Democratic votes. Not one! The Democrats just wouldn’t work with him to craft a bill! Boy, that sure makes things tough.

Needless to say, neither Trump nor Paul Ryan ever tried to bring Democrats into this bill. It was purely a Republican plan from the start, and neither of them wanted any Democratic input. That’s just the opposite of Obamacare, where Democrats tried mightily to get Republican buy-in, and still ended up getting no Republican votes in the end. Not one!

Anyway, Trump’s plan now is to wait for Obamacare to implode and then Democrats will have to do a deal. I guess it hasn’t occurred to him that he could do a deal with Democrats right now if he were really serious about fixing health care. But no. Trump says he intends to move on to tax reform, because that’s something he actually cares about.

In the meantime, it’s very unclear what will happen to Obamacare. With so much uncertainty surrounding it, it’s hard to say how insurance companies will respond. They might give up and pull out. Or they might stick it out and wait. It’s pretty close to a profitable business now, so there’s probably no urgency one way or the other for most of them. And anyway, somewhere there’s an equilibrium. Having only one insurer in a particular county might be bad for residents of that county, but it’s great for the insurer: they can raise their prices with no worries. There are no competitors to steal their business, and the federal subsidies mean that customers on the exchanges won’t see much of a change even if prices go up. In places where they have these mini-monopolies, Obamacare should be a nice money spinner.

April will be a key month, as insurers begin to announce their plans for 2018. We’ll see what happens.

POSTSCRIPT: It was also amusing to hear Trump say that he learned a lot during this process about “arcane” procedures in the House and Senate. Like what? Filibusters? Having to persuade people to vote for your bill? The fact that the opposition party isn’t going to give you any votes for a bill that destroys one of their signature achievements? Reconciliation and the Byrd rule? I believe him when he says this was all new to him, which means he never had the slightest clue what was in this bill or how it was going to pass.

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Trump: Failure of Health Care Bill Is All Democrats’ Fault

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Sanity Break: Society Exists Because of Beer

Mother Jones

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When hunter-gatherer tribes began to stay put and focus on growing crops, starting around 13,000 years ago, things didn’t begin promisingly. The fossil record suggests the switch to farming made us shorter and triggered widespread malnutrition and dental problems. And yet, the agricultural revolution ultimately brought forth cities, writing, and what we know as civilization. So what saved the day?

The answer might well be beer, which is really just what happens when you sprout a bunch of grain, thus releasing its sugars, and then grind it into a mush with water, exposing it to those ubiquitous single-cell microbes we call yeasts. Here’s a fascinating National Geographic piece on humanity’s long-standing need for a stiff drink:

Indirectly, we may have the nutritional benefits of beer to thank for the invention of writing, and some of the world’s earliest cities—for the dawn of history, in other words. Adelheid Otto, an archaeologist at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich who co-directs excavations at Tall Bazi an archeological site in northern Syria, thinks the nutrients that fermenting added to early grain made Mesopotamian civilization viable, providing basic vitamins missing from what was otherwise a depressingly bad diet. “They had bread and barley porridge, plus maybe some meat at feasts. Nutrition was very bad,” she says. “But as soon as you have beer, you have everything you need to develop really well. I’m convinced this is why the first high culture arose in the Near East.”

Fermentation—the process by which yeasts consume sugars—doesn’t just generate alcohol and carbon dioxide. It also delivers “all kinds of nutrients, including such B vitamins as folic acid, niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin,” the author, Andrew Curry, notes. Even the alcohol would have been useful to these early settlements, beyond the gift of a buzz—it’s toxic to many microbes, helping alcohol-tolerant yeasts colonize the resulting brew and pushing out pathogens that make use sick. And that effect “explains why beer, wine, and other fermented beverages were, at least until the rise of modern sanitation, often healthier to drink than water,” Curry writes.

That doesn’t mean you should replace your daily water intake with beer. Most—not all—Americans have access to clean water, and we have a better variety of nutritious foods available to us than those early agricultural societies seemed to. And of course, we now know that tippling excessively courts other problems, including liver disease. And besides, all of these B vitamins “would have been more present in ancient brews than in our modern filtered and pasteurized varieties.”

Still, as Curry notes, emerging research suggests that enjoying a bit of alcohol may be part of what makes us human—and it didn’t just help us through the agricultural revolution:

To our fruit-eating primate ancestors swinging through the trees, however, the ethanol in rotting fruit would have had three other appealing characteristics. First, it has a strong, distinctive smell that makes the fruit easy to locate. Second, it’s easier to digest, allowing animals to get more of a commodity that was precious back then: calories. Third, its antiseptic qualities repel microbes that might sicken a primate. Millions of years ago one of them developed a taste for fruit that had fallen from the tree. “Our ape ancestors started eating fermented fruits on the forest floor, and that made all the difference,” says Nathaniel Dominy, a biological anthropologist at Dartmouth College. “We’re preadapted for consuming alcohol.”

So wine (fermented fruit juice) got our evolutionary predecessors down from the trees, and beer (fermented grain mush) got our early farming ancestors through an extremely rough transition. Sounds like something to ponder over a beer—preferably, an unfiltered, unpasteurized one.

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Sanity Break: Society Exists Because of Beer

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Republicans Are Coming for Your Free Birth Control

Mother Jones

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The process of repealing Obamacare began yesterday in the Senate, and Republicans rejected the amendment that requires insurance companies to cover the full cost of contraceptives in the process.

In 2012, a women’s preventative health care provision within the Affordable Care Act went into effect making birth control free for women with insurance. When it was first rolled out, an estimated 26.9 million women benefited. If the mandate is struck down, it will leave 55 million women without no-copay birth control.

During the budget negotiations that took place Wednesday night, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) penned an amendment to preserve protections for women that were created under the ACA, but it was voted down. The measure aimed to ensure that women receive birth control and mammograms without charge, required insurance companies to cover maternity care, prevented insurance companies from charging women more for preexisting conditions, and sought to even out health care costs between men and women.

“If my colleagues destroy the Affordable Care Act, it will have real, direct, and painful consequences for millions of American women and their families,” Gillibrand said on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

The Senate also voted down the preexisting-conditions protection, which prevented insurance companies from considering pregnancy as a preexisting condition.

Last night’s vote is just one piece of what will be a very long process in the effort to repeal Obamacare. Next, the current measure goes to the House, which is expected to approve it on Friday. If that is approved, the House will then draft its own bill, approve it, and return it to the Senate for another vote before it would go to President Trump’s desk.

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Republicans Are Coming for Your Free Birth Control

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