Dutch activists provide link between Indian entrepreneur providing cost-price tablets and desperate people in places where terminations are illegal
Delicious smells permeate a small office in Nagpur as an elderly woman cooks lunch for the 40-odd staff: roti, steamed rice, moong bean dal, spicy potato hash and mutter paneer curry.
Its all a long way, geographically and culturally, from the streets of Belfast nearly 5,000 away. But the two cities are joined by a hidden thread, a pharma pipeline that is helping many hundreds of women in Northern Ireland to get around the provinces stringent anti-abortion law.
From the Orange City, as Nagpur is known, a company called Kale Impex sources abortion pills that are freely available across India, and sends them to women in places where terminating a pregnancy is illegal. Places such as Northern Ireland.
The man at the centre of the operation is Mohan Kale, a 45-year-old bespectacled entrepreneur with an easygoing nature.
Once this was a business for Kale, but influenced by his wife, Maitreyi, a social worker involved in sex education, he began supplying the tablets at cost (around 72 rupees 72p per set of nine pills compared with the retail price of around 900 rupees) to countries where it is illegal. Kales other companies make money by exporting treatments for chronic conditions such as diabetes.
To me it is very clear that the choice of whether a pregnancy is desired or undesired and whether she wants it or not has to rest with a woman because it is her body, he says, and she has to have access to resources required to make an effective choice, no matter what the law of the land says.
In India, Kale Impexs operation is entirely legal. The company has five full-time employees who process the prescriptions for abortion pills, sourced from across India. For each script, nine pills are packaged up, sent to the state capital, Mumbai, for clearance by the additional drugs commissioner and customs, and dispatched.
In some countries, even a small delay can be the difference between life and death for pregnant woman, says Kale.
Many times, in the absence of proper means, desperate women consume toxic chemicals like caustic soda to pull off an abortion, he says. As a supplier, I am always running against time, and have to use every trick in the bag to [get] the drug where it is needed and when.
Like most modern-day, sophisticated global supply chains, this one needs intermediaries, in this case a handful of charities that link the desperate with Kale Impex.
Rebecca Gomperts is the founder of charity called Women on Web, which works with the company in India. It is to Gomperts, working from a bare white office in Amsterdam, that many women and their partners in Northern Ireland turn when they want an abortion.
Gomperts scrolls through some of the online messages from Northern Irish women her operation has helped. None of their real names will be used, because they would face life in prison if identified.
Being in an abusive relationship, I believed there was no one whod help me, read one message from Aishling. He would kill me, literally kill me, if he found out I tried to get an abortion.
Each year more than 2,000 women travel from Northern Ireland to England to have pregnancies terminated, but Aishling was too frightened of being discovered by her boyfriend. She Googled medical abortion and found Women on Web.
You cant just say because its in another country it doesnt affect you, says Gomperts. Human rights affect all of us.
The single item decorating the Amsterdam office is a map by the Center for Reproductive Rights colour-coding countries by the legal status of abortion. Northern Ireland is orange, category II: one of 59 countries where abortion is only allowed to protect a womans life or health. Others in this group include New Zealand and Zimbabwe.
Each week Women on Web gets more than 2,000 inquiries from around the world. In the first seven days of December, 49 of those were from Ireland. They include women who live in the Republic of Ireland where the pills are confiscated by customs, forcing people to use addresses in the north.
Each woman answers 25 questions: how many weeks pregnant are they; do they have diabetes, epilepsy, or other listed diseases; is somebody forcing them to have an abortion against their will; do they live within an hour of medical help in case of complications?
Two answers determine whether Women on Web can help. Women must live in a country where safe abortion is not available and medicines can get through the post. And they must be at most nine weeks pregnant to allow time to get the pills before they are 11-12 weeks. After that, the World Health Organisation recommends women who take abortion pills must be in a healthcare facility.
Women on Web employs 17 women on a helpdesk to answer inquiries, reply to messages and provide more detailed information about what an abortion with pills will involve. Some occasionally work in the Amsterdam office but most work from home, spread across seven countries in Europe, north Africa, Asia, and north and south America.
Each week the team get together on Skype to discuss any problems. The biggest stress for staff is when the charity cannot help women, who can become deeply distressed, says Gomperts. This can really, really affect people who work on the helpdesk. We want to make sure everybody has a place they can talk about it.
After the initial consultation, about one in 10 women pull out. The remainder have their details checked by doctors, web-based volunteers whose locations are also protected and who write prescriptions for the pills.
Women are then asked to donate 80-90 (£58-£65) to help cover the charitys administration costs. Those who cant afford so much can contribute less, as part of a chain of solidarity with other women in need.
Four out of five women donate the full amount, with the remainder paying less or sometimes nothing. One of these was Celia. Im all alone, away from my family and cant tell anyone about it, she wrote. I dont know what to do: I cant get an abortion on the NHS and I cant afford to pay for anything.
The prescription is then sent to India, and in cites, towns and villages across Northern Ireland the waiting begins.
Gomperts reads out messages from Celia: she was 55 days pregnant when she contacted Women on Web, close to the nine-week cut-off.
Im just wondering if the pills been posted or do I need to make a donation to get the pills, she wrote while doctors were assessing her case. After they were posted (free of charge) she wrote again: I still cant get on your tracking site to know when the package will arrive. Im getting a bit worried now.
That problem solved, she was still in the grip of anxiety: Im just getting worried I will be too far on, that it wont work, and Im just really depressed.
The parcel arrived two weeks after she put in the request. Inside the package were nine pills: a single mifepristone and eight misoprostol. First women take the mifepristone to block the effects of the progesterone hormone, which keeps the pregnancy viable.
In countries where abortion is illegal, the moment women swallow that small round pill is usually the instant they commit the criminal act.
At least 24 hours later they take two misoprostol, which brings on contractions to expel the pregnancy. These can be taken vaginally, but Women on Web recommend under the tongue: that way doctors cannot trace the drug if they get help for complications, the abortion in every other sense being a miscarriage. Four hours later they take another dose. If the pills do not work, there are two more doses in the package.
Most women have cramps, some vomit and get a fever, typically they bleed for a week or so. A few will have complications and need to go to hospital for the remaining placenta to be removed, and in very rare cases for a blood transfusion or antibiotics for infection.
More typical is Sarahs undramatic experience. The package arrived Friday and I took the first tablet, the next one on Saturday, she wrote to Women on Web. [It] felt like early labour for three and a half hours before bleeding started a few minutes later I pushed out the pregnancy, and the cramps subsided.
A few weeks later women are asked to go for a scan: only one in 100 will still be pregnant.
Later they are asked to fill out an evaluation. One question asks how they feel about the experience. One percent or so say, in retrospect, a medical abortion was not for them, though it is not clear if these women regret the abortion or just the method. The remainder report mostly mixed emotions.
Grateful and relieved almost always feature. Many also feel guilty or low, or report feelings of loss.
Aishlings feedback told a little more of her story. Guilty, empowered, relieved, confident, satisfied, she wrote of her reaction, then hinting she might now end her abusive relationship.
Im now on the way to getting out and making a fresh start, she added. Thank you doesnt express my gratitude enough.
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(CNN)It would be a getaway driver’s worst nightmare: A car that doesn’t start with a simple turn of the key. This one needs a bit of patience and — I daresay — an awful lot of practice.
We all take for granted how easy cars are to drive in the 21st century, but in the years following World War I, you pretty much had to be an engineer just to get moving on the road.
I’m sitting in the passenger seat of a 1920 Stutz Bearcat, an icon of the roaring ’20s. It’s an open-top beast of an automobile and my chauffeur is priming us for departure. He’s using a lever to manually pump air into the engine, carefully monitoring a gauge so that when the pressure hits one pound he flicks a switch and we’re good to go.
He’s not just any old driver by the way, he’s Jay Leno. He’s one of the most famous comedians and television talk show hosts in the US, but he’s arguably more comfortable with an oily rag and a bunch of engine parts scattered across a workshop floor.
Since he began fooling around with a 1934 Ford pickup truck at the age of 14, Leno has enjoyed a lifelong love affair with cars. He’s collected and restored hundreds from every era in the industry’s history and is a walking encyclopedia on all of them.
Showbiz made him wealthy, but it’s the cars that truly enrich his life.
I’m mildly concerned to discover that there is a dearth of seat belts to restrain us in the event of any mishap, but Leno is unperturbed.
Firstly, he’s not legally obliged to have any because the car rolled off the production line decades before the advent of road safety laws in the US, but perhaps more likely because it never bothered anyone at the time the car was made.
“Back in the day,” he chuckled, gesticulating a high, angled trajectory, “they preferred to be thrown clear.”
As we pulled out of his vast collector’s garage and onto a distinctly 21st-century California road, I fancied that my chances of a successful launch from the passenger’s side were infinitely better than his, since he was wedged in behind an enormous steering wheel. It wouldn’t have looked out of place on the Titanic.
We gathered speed quickly, or at least the feel of speed. With the wind whistling through our hair, 30 miles per hour seemed like 60. It seemed a good time to inquire about the state of the brakes.
As Leno tooted and waved to the pedestrians on the sidewalk, he informed me that the best way to drive the car is to pretend it doesn’t have any brakes at all: “I prefer to employ accident avoidance technology.”
My curiosity was piqued — behind us at the garage was a collection worth an absolute fortune.
Leno says he doesn’t have a favorite — if he did then he wouldn’t have “all these cars” — but he will concede that his McLaren F1 is the first he’d save in a fire.
He bought it for $800,000; it’s now worth $12 million.
The topic of insurance inevitably came up. “They’re not as expensive to insure as you’d think,” he explained.
“Most accidents are caused by distractions. When you see one of these coming down the road, there’s no way that you’re not paying attention.”
Observing the respectable distance afforded us at every junction, I concurred. “Secondly, owners of cars like these are very careful,” Leno continued. “When I take my wife out to dinner, if we can’t park right outside then we’re not eating there. Case closed!”
One factor certainly resonated: “Most people wouldn’t even know how to start these cars, so if you can get it going then you can take it.”
Each car, a story
Many of his cars have intriguing ownership histories and Leno is often tempted to make an investment based simply on the lives that have been associated with them.
He once bought a 1967 Chrysler Imperial from an old Hollywood producer and his eccentric actress wife. He wasn’t too bothered about buying it until they opened another garage with “extra bumpers, replacement windshield, everything you’d need in case of an accident. So now I have to buy the car, it’s a great story.”
Then there was the 1951 Hudson Hornet. “I already had one, but this 94-year-old lady called me and said it was the only family car they’d ever owned. They drove it across country from New Jersey to California to start a new life, but since her husband had died it had been sitting in the driveway for 20 years.”
Leno bought it for $5,000 and spent two years restoring it. He was pleasantly surprised to learn that she was still alive and so he took her for a spin.
“The two kids came along, who by now were 70 and 72, and before long they were mock fighting in the back. She was turning around and pretending to slap the crap out of them, saying ‘I told you to settle down!’ They were having so much fun, they got to recreate a piece of their childhood.”
Nobody gets to own just one family car for decades without taking good care of it, but I doubt that any of the previous owners have been anywhere near as careful as Leno.
The restored Bearcat, for example, has never even got wet. He doesn’t take it out in the rain and so it doesn’t ever need washing. “I just wipe it down with a cloth,” he explained “and in this dry California climate, it’ll never rust.”
‘Better than the stock market’
As we return to the garage with a triumphant toot of the klaxon, it’s clear that Leno is in his element.
He doesn’t consider himself to be a collector, simply a car enthusiast who never sells any of his possessions.
“What would be the point of selling them?” he asked rhetorically. “I’d then have a big bag of green but what would I do with that?”
Overall, the collection is worth tens of millions, but he certainly isn’t in it for the money — many of his projects make a loss.
“The way this works,” he chuckled, ” is that you buy the car for $5,000, spend $60,000 doing it up and then it’s worth $12,500. At least it’s better than the stock market!”
I expected to be wowed by the cars, and I was. I expected to be entertained by one of the most iconic personalities in American television history, and I certainly was. However I wasn’t necessarily expecting my Hollywood host to be so humble.
Leno has spent much of his professional life in a world of air kisses and false platitudes. His love of cars is what keeps him grounded.
“When you work with your hands, you appreciate how easy it is to make money in show business. I’m in a business which is really subjective — some people think you’re funny because you’re a comedian, others think you’re terrible.
“They’re both right because it’s a matter of taste. But when something’s broken and you fix it, nobody can say it’s not running.”
I'm NOT Going to Stop Selling You Things on Facebook and Here's Why Money Magazine Editor's Note: Earlier this month, MONEY published a first-person essay about moms using Facebook to sell products. The story sparked a debate and inspired one seller â Cheurice … Uber? Blogging? I turned to something I love: makeup. When I realized …
A recent survey, paid for by Uber, showed that the vast majority of its drivers are happy working for the company, though some contractors said that the survey might not quite be as sunny as Uber portrays. Some drivers even talked about a culture of fear when responding to Uber’s questions on the survey.
But if Uber drivers are not pleased with their working conditionsand seriously, read this story, because there might be quite a few reasonsthose who live in Seattle have the beginnings of a solution.
That’s because, as the Associated Press reports, the city of Seattle has given drivers for Uber, Lyft, and cab drivers the right to unionize, becoming the first city in the country that allows drivers to collectively bargain. Now those for-hire vehicle drivers can team up with others to negotiate their salaries and working conditions, even though, as Gizmodo points out, the drivers will continue to be considered independent contractors and not employees.
Its clear the nature of work has shifted in part because of technology and in part because there are corporations that dont like labor protections, Mike O’Brien, the Seattle City Council member who introduced the legislation, told the New York Times. What is that reality going to look like? I believe there should be some solutions.
Not surprisingly, neither Lyft nor Uber seemed thrilled with the City Council’s unanimous decision.
“Lyft provides consumers with convenient and affordable transportation, and drivers with the ability to make money in their free time,” Lyft told Gizmodo via email. “Lyft drivers are entirely in control of where or when they work, and this flexibility is exactly why the service is so popular with people looking to make extra income. Unfortunately, the ordinance passed today threatens the privacy of drivers, imposes substantial costs on passengers and the City, and conflicts with longstanding federal law. We urge the Mayor and full Council to reconsider this legislation and listen to the voices of their constituents who choose to drive with Lyft because of the flexible economic opportunity it offers.”
Said Uber in a statement: Uber is creating new opportunities for many people to earn a better living on their own time and their own terms.”
This is only the latest in a series of potential uprisings by Uber drivers. In September, three drivers who said they should be considered full-time employees were granted class-action lawsuit status, and in June, one Uber driver actually was considered by the state of California to be an employee. (Uber has since appealed the decision.)
This bill was only introduced out of necessity after witnessing how little power drivers themselves had in working for a living wage, O’Brien said, via the Seattle Times. I am proud Seattle is continuing to lead the nation in advancing labor standards for our workers.
The idea of being “addicted” to stealing automatically makes you want to call bullshit. “Hey, I like free stuff too, but I still pay for it. You know, because I’m not an asshole.” But there are lots of people out there who compulsively steal stuff they can’t even use, and even they don’t know why. Like our source today, “Zack,” who spent years stealing everything around him that wasn’t nailed down (and then probably stole a claw hammer so he could pry up the rest of it). He says …
The Urge Can Come Out Of Nowhere
Zack’s first fall to temptation came many years ago and involved a church, Boy Scout uniforms, and an unsupervised kid. “My Boy Scouts troop was at some fundraiser festival, held in the parking lot of a church,” says Zack, providing some desperately needed context. “I was left to attend the cash and stole one single dollar bill. A crisp George Washington. It was downhill ever since.”
Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images He never did get that Honesty merit badge.
After his grand theft dollar, Zack would mainly steal on a whim rather than out of necessity. “I stole everything: computers, cameras, digital projectors, even cars (two cars specifically; it was hard and not worth my time). This was in high school, mind you. I wasn’t drinking or smoking (pot or otherwise); I wasn’t even dating. … A lot of what I stole ended up in the woods near the high school, off the path, because I sure as fuck wasn’t taking my loot home, and I was a kid who didn’t know how to pawn anything off. Yes, I was stealing just for the shit of it.”
In conclusion, there’s probably a very rich bear living it up somewhere in Zack’s hometown.
AlanJeffery/iStock/Getty Images “Do I shit in the woods? No, not since he stole that porta-potty.”
Once Zack graduated from college, though, everything changed. Oh, he was still going through life like it was an abandoned mall during a zombie apocalypse, but by then he was ready to take his criminal activities to a whole new level.
Like With Any Addiction, You Have To Keep Upping The Dose
After graduation, Zack got a job at a clothing store run by, hands down, the worst judge of character in history. We’re saying that not because they hired one career criminal but because they hired two. The other one was Zack’s supervisor, who pretty much drafted him into the Major Leagues of theft.
“He was a confessed bank robber who spent some years in prison. We traded stories and that was it. … Occasionally, we’d steal a shirt or a suit or help our friends out by giving away the merchandise. Our site had a pretty bad theft issue, so a missing Calvin Klein or two was expected. But our math was off; by the time we realized it, we were missing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise.”
kostsov/iStock/Getty Images “Darn it, I think I misplaced the jeans department again.” -World’s Most Clueless Manager
This was the first time that Zack’s crimes actually threatened to put him away in prison, so he and his supervisor did the only logical thing. They staged a burglary, making it look like someone broke into the store and stole a few hundred grand in pants and the like. The police bought it. To celebrate, Zack went right back to crime, because it’s important to get a sense of normalcy after a scary experience like that.
“One day I scanned in a gift card for $100 when the power went out and came back on. The register had no record of the gift card’s activation, so I went to scan it again. The register said it was already activated with a $100 balance.” Basically, Zack discovered that by disconnecting the cash register at the right time, he could activate gift cards without any record that it ever happened. He found a way to literally make money appear out of thin air.
TuTheLens/iStock/Getty Images The gift (card) that keeps on giving.
“I giddily told my supervisor about the issue [and] we did this dozens of times per week. We sold the gift cards at first. Then we realized we could take cash from customers in exchange for our goods, put the gift cards through the register to collect the sales and pocket the cash! By my count, we amassed over $100,000 cash in a matter of eight months.”
Just so we are clear: Even though Zack wasn’t exactly sprinkling caviar and saffron on his cornflakes, he wasn’t strapped for cash either. So why did he steal all that money? Well …
When You Try To Stop, You Go Through A Weird Kind Of Withdrawal
If anyone ever asks you for a spot-on yet depressing snapshot of addiction, feel free to send them the following quote:
“When I don’t steal, which I promise I’m doing my best not to,” Zack explains, “it’s a lingering thought. If I pass up an opportunity, I’ll think about it for days. I’ll write about it on my Facebook, but I make sure that the privacy is set so only I can see it. Then, a year later, Facebook Memories will pop up reminding me of the loss, and I feel regret over not taking advantage of the situation.”
Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images Even sadder? He likes all his own posts.
Most people may regret things like loves lost or assholes un-punched, but Zack can relive the memory of not swiping loose grapes at the supermarket with roughly the same intensity. That doesn’t excuse his crimes, obviously. Addiction or not, Zack does realize that it was wrong to steal all that money from his employers. It’s just that his brain convinced him that not stealing it would have been … wrong. Like “not wiping up after taking a shit” level wrong.
“It’s hard to say what’s going through my mind when I have the urge to steal. It’s not as if I’m making cognitive decisions; these are knee-jerk, almost involuntary actions. This is something my therapist is trying to figure out with me. He asked if it felt like an out-of-body experience, if I’m watching myself do it, but I’m not. I’m doing it, these are my hands, my actions, and it’s as automatic as sneezing.”
Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images “Gesundheit. Can I have my wallet back now?”
When You Get In Too Deep, The Cops Can Be Your Friend
One day, in a moment of clarity and/or paranoia, Zack decided to stop the gift card scam. When he told his partner about his change of heart, the guy took Zack aside and calmly talked him out of it by calmly sticking a gun into his stomach and explaining to him that he’ll calmly murder him if he backed out. “He was my supervisor. That meant he had access to my employee records (address where I kept my family, my social security number, etc.). He explained the unfortunate events that would unfurl should I decline his offer. It was at that moment I knew I had to get the police involved.”
Ingram_Publishing/Ingram_Publishing/Getty_Images “911? I’d like to commit … sorry, force of habit. I would like to report a crime.”
Zack’s report to the cops was a sprawling masterpiece of bullshit. He painted himself as an innocent patsy at the mercy of a ruthless criminal mastermind and actually gained some respect for the police when they didn’t buy a word of it. Still, due to a lack of evidence, the cops had no choice but to work with Zack to bring down his supervisor.
“The police sent an undercover cop in to pay cash for some pants. My boss, being my boss, took the cash, rushed the customer out, and proceeded to check out the transaction with a gift card. … With some cash register data and my testimony, he was sent to jail for 18 months. I was sentenced to three years’ probation.” Yes, sometimes the system fails in just such a way as to be considered a partial win for justice! Hooray!
Now, did Zack regret having to turn in his ex-partner for a scheme that he came up with? Do you remember the part where the guy threatened to kill Zack? Well, there’s your answer. So Zack learned his lesson, right? Isn’t that how these cautionary tales always end?
WichitS/iStock/Getty Images There’s a reason “ONE. LAST. JOB.” is a movie cliche.
What do you feel when you see mugshots of petty thieves? Is it pity? Contempt? A sudden realization that bad facial hair and crime might be connected somehow?
In Zack’s case, he mainly feels, well, compassion. “You may call it survivor’s guilt? I tend to watch a lot of crime dramas, and I’m always rooting for the bad guys. … I obviously don’t relate to rapists and murderers, but when I see mugshots of people that hold up 7-Elevens, I think, ‘Those poor idiots. … If I had been there, we wouldn’t have our mugshots on TV.'”
hansenn/iStock/Getty Images Twenty bucks and a 99 cent hot dog is not worth five to 10.
See, deep down, Zack just has this strong desire to reach out to other criminals … and help them steal without getting caught. “When I was a hiring manager for my current employer, my sympathy for these criminals extended to job applicants. I hired no less than five convicted criminals to work at my store. … Each time it’s bitten me in the ass. Being a thief makes it incredibly easy to catch thieves, which in turn makes me look good for catching them while stealing.”
You probably noticed Zack referenced being a thief in the present tense there. Managing his theft urges is kind of like a recovering alcoholic trying to stay dry — it’s a continuing effort that involves things like keeping himself out of situations where temptation might occur. For example, he was recently promoted to a management position at his new job, far away from the cash. “Now I work on the corporate side of things. Truth be told, it’s an honest struggle not stealing.”
karammiri/iStock/Getty Images What would you even do with all those logo pens and cubicle walls?
You might think the higher salary would also make it unnecessary, but again, it was never about the money. It’s about whatever weird little dopamine high his brain gets from the act. These days, he just has to satisfy it in small, less risky ways. “I try really hard not to let this compulsion complicate other aspects of my life, but it’s there all the time. … I recently bought a lot of food for a barbecue and went through self-checkout. Obviously I’m doing my best not to steal, but when I have a choice between a really cheap produce item and the expensive ones that I purchased, I may select the button on the screen that gives me the better price (I absolutely do this).”
Zack is a recovering thief who loves his fiancee enough to try harder. Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist, interviewer, and editor. Contact him at email@example.com.
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Which Sci-Fi Trope Would You Bring To The Real World And Why?: Every summer we’re treated to the same buffet of three or four science-fiction movies with the same basic conceits. There’s man vs. aliens, man vs. robots; man vs. army of clones; and man vs. complicated time travel rules. With virtual reality and self-driving cars fast approaching, it’s time to consider what type of sci-fi movie we want to be living in for the rest of our lives. Co-hosts Jack O’Brien and Adam Tod Brown are joined by Cracked’s Tom Reimann and Josh Sargent and comedians David Huntsberger, Adam Newman and Caitlin Gill to figure out which sci-fi trope would be the best to make a reality. Get your tickets to this live podcast here!
The rise in popularity of tiny houses stems directly from people’s increased desire to own something of quality, not quantity.
Purchasing a home can be a stressful experience. Many builders and contractors alike have one goal in mind: get the house on the market as cheaply as possible.
Purchasing a handcrafted tiny house is a completely different experience. Builders of tiny homes know that the people buyingtheir products are looking to improve their lives with quality and simplicity. Tiny houses are a labor of love, not a quick way to make money.
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