MIT bureaucrats try dialogue with pro-Hamas students

A follow-up to Talking with a pro-Hamas college student

The righteous at MIT have been demanding that the university cut any and all research ties with universities inside the Zionist entity. The demand has been backed up with demonstrations, including an encampment. From May 6:

I’m not sure if these translations are accurate, but here’s what the students and friends were saying in Arabic:

(Fortunately, they threatened Zionists with death and did not burn any rainbow flags, a hateful act that would have resulted in a 16-year prison sentence. And why are they wearing masks if they chant “the masks are off”?)

Here’s an email sent today to all MITers from the president:

At my direction, very early this morning, the encampment on Kresge lawn was cleared. The individuals present in the encampment at the time were given four separate warnings, in person, that they should depart or face arrest. The 10 who remained did not resist arrest and were peacefully escorted from the encampment by MIT police officers and taken off campus for booking.

They warned them three times and didn’t follow up and were surprised that the 4th warning was also ignored? Paging the psych department!

The encampment began on Sunday, April 21, in violation of clear Institute guidelines well known to the student organizers. It slowly grew. Though it was peaceful [see AP video, above], its presence generated controversy, including persistent calls from some of you that we shut it down. While we asked the students repeatedly to leave the site, we chose for a time not to interfere, in part out of respect for the Institute’s foundational principles of free expression.

On Monday, May 6, judging that we could not sustain the extraordinary level of effort required to keep the encampment and the campus community safe, we directed the encamped students to leave the site voluntarily or face clear disciplinary consequences. Some left. Some stayed inside, while others chose to step just outside the camp and protest. Some chose to invite to the encampment large numbers of individuals from outside MIT, including dozens of minors, who arrived in response to social media posts.

Late that afternoon, aided by people from outside MIT, many of the encampment students breached and forcibly knocked down the safety fencing and demolished most of it, on their way to reestablishing the camp. In that moment, the peaceful nature of the encampment shifted. Disciplinary measures were not sufficient to end it nor to deter students from quickly reestablishing it.

Wednesday, May 8, was marked by a series of escalating provocations. In the morning, pro-Palestinian supporters physically blocked the entrance and exit to the Stata Center garage though they eventually dispersed. Later, after taking down Israeli and American flags that had been hung by counter protestors, some individuals defaced Israeli flags with red handprints, in the presence of Israeli students and faculty. Several pro-Israel supporters then entered the camp to confront and shout at the protestors. Throughout, the opposing groups grew in numbers. With so many opposing individuals in close quarters, tensions ran very high. The day ended with more suspensions – and a rally by the pro-Palestinian students.

Thursday, May 9, pro-Palestinian students again blocked the mouth of the Stata garage, preventing community members from entering and exiting to go about their business, and requiring that Vassar Street be shut down. This time, they refused directions from the police to leave and allow passage of cars. Their action therefore resulted in nine arrests.

Here’s my favorite part:

Sustained effort to reach a resolution through dialogue

We tried every path we could to find a way out through dialogue. In various combinations, senior administrative leaders and faculty officers met with the protesters many times over almost two weeks. This sustained team effort benefited from the involvement of at least a dozen faculty members and alumni who have been supporting and advising the protestors, and, in the final stages, a professional mediator who was meeting with the students.

These academic bureaucrats imagined that their credentials would be effective and that the anti-genocide righteous would change their minds and say “oh, actually genocide is okay.” I wish that we could have hooked up an MRI machine to their brains and received a download of their thought process! Given the facts according to the pro-Hamas folks (the Zionist entity is committing genocide against peaceful Palestinians for no reason) how would they be persuaded by words any more than Gazans themselves would be persuaded by mere words to give up on their goals of liberating Al-Quds, destroying the Zionist entity, and establishing a river-to-the-sea Palestinian state?

How about at University of Florida? A neighbor’s son is just home from his semester there. I asked what he thought about the pro-Palestinian protests on campus. “I haven’t seen any,” he responded. “I think those are at Columbia.”

Related:

  • “FSU police, sprinklers put damper on Pro-Palestinian student protest, occupy Landis plans” (Tallahassee Democrat): [Florida State University] police made the students — members of Tallahassee Students for a Democratic Society — take down a handful of tents that were set up for a mere five minutes on the grassy space predawn due to FSU regulation 2.007, which prohibits camping on university lands, according to a university spokesperson. … During the protest, student speakers also expressed how FSU has not acknowledged Arab-American Heritage Month this April or shared any statement to show support to Arab and Muslim students of the university.
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MIT Hallway Signage

My dream was to come back from a week in the Land of Science with pictures of all of the “Free Palestine” signs covering the Harvard and MIT campuses. Sadly, however, what I mostly got from the masked followers of Science was a horrible cough/flu. Below are a few photos from the MIT hallways. First, the anti-colonial one:

No plans to give Maskachusetts back to the rightful owners and pay rent, apparently.

Sam Bankman-Fried is indirectly celebrated in the Effective Altruism sign below.

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Doubling down on DEI at MIT

A statement from the president of MIT, who recently made the news for sharing Claudine Gay’s and the Penn president’s enthusiasm from suppressing all hate speech except against the Jews:

We will soon announce a new Vice President for Equity and Inclusion (VPEI). With this new role, we have an important opportunity to reflect on and comprehensively assess the structures and programs intended to support our community and create a welcoming environment.

While we address the pressing challenge of how best to combat antisemitism, Islamophobia and hatred based on national origin or ethnicity in our community, we need to talk candidly about practical ways to make our community a place where we all feel that we belong.

Note the obligatory pairing of “Islamophobia” with “antisemitism”, as though Islamophobia were now a Homeric epithet relating to Jews. As far as I am aware, there has never been an anti-Muslim demonstration at MIT, so it is unclear why Islamophobia is relevant to the recent strife.

We were supposed to have a guest speaker today in our FAA ground school class. He’s a superstar physician, long-time pilot, jet owner, immigrant (we are assured this is a superior class of humans), and nice guy who was great with the students last year. He refused to show up this year unless Sally Kornbluth resigns (where “resigns” means “get a paycheck until death as a professor, maybe on a $1 million/year salary”).

Another interesting section of the statement, which was emailed to everyone even slightly connected to MIT:

The Israel-Hamas war continues to cause deep pain for many around the world, including at MIT, and is an ongoing source of tension in our community. Here on campus, its repercussions have pressure-tested some long-standing systems and assumptions, presenting challenges to our community and to fulfilling our mission of research and education.

Characterizing the fighting as between the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”) and all of Israel fails to recognize the military contributions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Party of Allah (“Hezbollah”), and the Gaza “civilians” who went through the border fence on October 7, raped, killed, and kidnapped, and also the Gazans, including at least one UNRWA teacher, who held hostages in their homes. It also justifies, I think, the kidnappings of and attacks on civilians that Hamas perpetrated (since these brave fighters are battling with all Israelis) as well as the continued rocket launches by Hamas against civilians in Israel.

Here’s Mariam Barghouti, a CNN contributor based in Gaza, on October 7. She was “laughing her ass off”:

A hater replied within 45 minutes:

Ms. Barghouti enjoyed a consistent Internet connection and electric power since October 7, apparently, since she kept up a steady stream of tweets. Whatever she and her fellow Gazans have suffered, though, she still has plenty of fight left in her and isn’t “crying” (like the Palestinians polled in November, who overwhelmingly supported the Oct 7 attacks). Example from January 2, 2024:

A video of Gaza civilians celebrating:

A lot of the participants in the above video don’t wear uniforms or the face masks that one sees in official Hamas videos.

In addition to the fighting being between Israel and opponents beyond Hamas, I disagree with the characterization of the current battles being a distinct “war” from the one that the Arabs, including ancestors of today’s “Palestinians”, declared against Israel in 1948. I think it is more accurate to describe what’s happening now as a “battle” in a longer-term war.

Circling back to the DEI theme, upgrading what used to be an “officer” to a “vice president” would seem to indicate a renewed and increased commitment to the race-based programs that got Harvard in trouble at the Supreme Court. When the Supreme Court says you’re violating the Constitution, that’s the time to double down?

Related:

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Who loves aviation and Boston weather in January?

Our MIT ground school class happens January 9-11, 2024. Why not come to Boston and spend three days learning everything that the FAA wants Private pilot certificate holders to know, plus some of the engineering behind the facts?

For this year, although MIT is not Ivy League, I’m going to try to apply standard Ivy League polices. You can be expelled from the class if you misgender anyone, but there will be no problem if you call for the elimination of Israel and the killing of all Jews (unless “the speech turns into conduct” says the Penn president). Please keep in mind that my pronouns are Absolutely/Fabulous. Depending on your financial circumstances, the course may be available at a $330,920 discount from the normal $330,920 cost of attending MIT for four years. Simply send a financial disclosure statement listing all of your checking accounts, your Social Security Number, and your online banking usernames/passwords to my records department in Lagos, Nigeria.

The student who scores highest on the final exam will win a new Tesla Cybertruck with a custom wrap:

Depending on your skin color, you might be invited to a party hosted by the Mayor of Boston:

A Wu administration official, on behalf of the mayor, mistakenly sent all Boston city councilors an email Tuesday inviting them to a holiday party that was meant exclusively for “electeds of color,” prompting an apology and mixed reactions.

Denise DosSantos, the mayor’s director of City Council relations, told the body’s “honorable members” that, “on behalf of Mayor Michelle Wu,” she was cordially inviting each of them “and a guest to the Electeds of Color Holiday Party on Wednesday, Dec. 13 at 5:30 p.m. at the Parkman House, 33 Beacon St.”

Approximately 15 minutes later, however, DosSantos sent out a follow-up email to city councilors, apologizing for the prior email, which was apparently only meant for those who were invited. The body includes seven white councilors and six of color.

“I wanted to apologize for my previous email regarding a Holiday Party for tomorrow,” DosSantos, a Cape Verdean Black woman, wrote. “I did send that to everyone by accident, and I apologize if my email may have offended or came across as so. Sorry for any confusion this may have caused.”

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Fighting genocide by sitting in a corridor at MIT today

“take a stand” by “sitting” today (registration form):

The MIT Coalition for Palestine is planning a demonstration in the Infinite corridor (we’ll be sitting in the hallway) and a fast on Thursday, Nov 9 from 8am-8pm in solidarity with our siblings in Palestine facing genocide and a total blockade orchestrated by the US and Israel. Please fill out the form below if you are committed to taking a stand through this action; details will be sent out later this week.

Everyone, regardless of affiliation with MIT, are welcome (can enter from 77 Massachusetts Ave)! From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!

If you misgender a classmate, you can be expelled from MIT. If you think that college admissions should be on the basis of merit rather than skin color, you will be disinvited from speaking at MIT (New York Times story on Dorian Abbot, 2021). But nobody will complain if you accuse the Jews of Israel of committing a “genocide”.

See also, the MIT Coalition Against Apartheid:

Update from Lobby 7… “No Science for Genocide”; “MIT: We Charge YOU with Genocide”. Note the megaphone, perfect for bludgeoning elderly Jews (Los Angeles-style).

The sitting part of “take a stand” (source):

How does sitting with a fully powered laptop computer in a climate-controlled building compare to the sacrifice that ordinary Palestinians are willing to make? One of the world’s most successful humans, from a biological perspective, willing to give all of that success away:

The above video raises a question, however. She is willing to sacrifice her 17 children and 65 grandchildren to the Palestinian cause. Why doesn’t she say that she is willing to sacrifice herself? Maybe she is too old to be a good soldier in a conventional battle, but she could fight as a suicide bomber. The Jews likely wouldn’t suspect a grandmother until she was too close for them to escape the blast.

Related:

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A server that also works as a water heater

Readers may recall that I love reengineered systems, e.g., Build downdraft paint booths for K-12 schools?

In Florida, people are using heat pump water heaters that also serve to cool the garage. From miserable cold/damp England, a different idea: a computer server whose waste heat is used for domestic hot water.

This is covered in a recent MIT Technology Review magazine article:

“This is where I prototyped the thermal conductor that carries heat from computer processors to the cylinder filled with water,” he says, opening his workshop door to reveal a 90-liter electric boiler. “We ran the first tests, and we understood that it could work.” Jordan is cofounder and chief technology officer of Heata, an English startup that has created an innovative cloud network where computers are attached to the boilers in people’s homes.

Next to the boiler is a computer tagged with a sticker that reads: “This powerful computer server is transferring the heat from its processing into the water in your cylinder.” A green LED light indicates that the boiler is running, Jordan explains. “The machine receives the data and processes it. Thus we are able to transfer the equivalent of 4.8 kilowatt-hours of hot water, about the daily amount used by an average family.”

Can this save our beloved planet? Absolutely!

When you sign up with Heata, it places a server in your home, where it connects via your Wi-Fi network to similar servers in other homes—all of which process data from companies that pay it for cloud computing services. Each server prevents one ton of carbon dioxide equivalent per year from being emitted and saves homeowners an average of £250 on hot water annually, a considerable discount in a region where 13% of the inhabitants struggle to afford heat.

They hired the scientist from Back to the Future:

What else is in the September/October issue? There is a 5-page article on open-source software, whose 40th anniversary is apparently now. The canceled Richard M. Stallman is credited as having started the movement, but there is no photo of him. Nor of Linus Torvalds. Nor of Guido van Rossum, the Python nerd. The editors found room for just one photo and it is of a person is not credited as having written any software, open source or otherwise:

Note that the photo caption is factually incorrect. People were using the term “open source” prior to 1998. One example is Eric Raymond‘s The Cathedral and the Bazaar. I found a version that seems to date from 1996 (since 1991 was “five years ago”).

I was one of the first GNU contributors in the mid-1980s. I had released a good deal of open-source software onto the net, developing or co-developing several programs (nethack, Emacs’s VC and GUD modes, xlife, and others) that are still in wide use today.

Note that the Deplorable Second Amendment-loving Raymond does not explain what he means by this term, but simply uses it expecting readers to understand it. Thus, it seems doubtful that the term was new in 1996.

“Tiny faux organs could crack the mystery of menstruation” is also interesting.

part of human physiology: menstruation. Heavy, sometimes debilitating periods strike at least a third of people who menstruate at some point in their lives … people with heavy periods … Many people desperately need treatments to make their period more manageable… Why some people have much heavier periods than others remains an open question. … why humans menstruate … Some labs instead use tissue removed from people who have had hysterectomies … help explain why some people are prone to miscarriages.

How long before these brilliant Scientists realize that approximately half of “people” have very light periods indeed and that there is a fairly simple test to predict whether a person falls into this category?

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Why are women lumped in with the nonbinary?

Happy Women’s Equality Day.

Universities have substantial full-time credentialed bureaucracies to deal with gender issues and certainly MIT’s is second to none. Here’s an article from back in April 2023 about an MIT facility that was formerly exclusive to those who identified as “women”… “A home away from home”:

The Margaret Cheney Room remains indispensable after nearly 140 years.

The Cheney Room has been an oasis for MIT women ever since the original one opened on the Boston campus in 1884, when women at the Institute were scarce. Today’s enrollment numbers are much more balanced than in early days, with women making up 48% of the undergraduate and 39% of the graduate student body. But there’s still a need for dedicated spaces on campus where women and nonbinary students can gather, says Lauryn McNair, assistant dean of LBGTQ+ and Women and Gender Services at MIT.

“Women’s centers and spaces are still important, even in a changing landscape of gender,” says McNair, explaining that the space today is a haven for both women and nonbinary people. “At its foundation, a women’s space is built upon the core concepts of community through safety and support, access, affirmation and recognition, and intersectionality. I hope for students to feel at home in the Cheney Room and that this is a space for them that celebrates and affirms who they are so they can thrive at MIT.”

Updates include reconfiguring old rooms to create new, more useful spaces and adding new furniture, fresh paint, and contemporary art that was created by female and nonbinary artists. After getting input from students, McNair chose the artworks to reflect how they see themselves in the world today.

Why do the experts force “women” to share with 72 additional gender IDs recognized by Science? Instead of one room that excludes “men” but admits people identifying with every other gender, why not 73 rooms that exclude men, each of the 73 rooms devoted to a single gender ID? How are women “equal” on Women’s Equality Day if they are lumped together with 72 other gender IDs while “men” are considered a special class (admittedly for the purpose of exclusion)

Here’s Lauren McNair’s bio page:

Related:

  • Real World Divorce (sometimes “equality” before the law means winning 97-98 percent of family court lawsuits; see the Massachusetts and New Hampshire chapters, for example, and associated Census Bureau data on the gender IDs of those who’ve won custody of cash-yielding children)
  • Title IX, which “prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government” (but, apparently, federally-funded MIT can have facilities exclusively for some gender IDs without having any separate-but-equal facility for those who identify as “men”)
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Remembering Ed Fredkin

The New York Times published a thoughtful obituary for Ed Fredkin, an early MIT computer scientist.

I met Ed when I was an undergraduate at MIT (during the last Ice Age). He is quoted in the NYT as optimistic about artificial intelligence:

“It requires a combination of engineering and science, and we already have the engineering,” he Fredkin said in a 1977 interview with The New York Times. “In order to produce a machine that thinks better than man, we don’t have to understand everything about man. We still don’t understand feathers, but we can fly.”

When I talked to him, circa 1980, the VAX 11/780 with 8 MB of RAM was the realistic dream computer (about $500,000). I took the position that AI research was pointless because computers would need to be 1,000 times more powerful before they could do anything resembling human intelligence. Ed thought that a VAX might have sufficient power to serve as a full-blown AI if someone discovered the secret to AI. “Computers and AI research should be licensed,” he said, “because a kid in Brazil might discover a way to build an artificial intelligence and would be able to predict the stock market and quickly become the richest and most powerful person on the planet.”

[The VAX could process approximately 1 million instructions per second and, as noted above, held 8 MB of RAM. I asked ChatGPT to compare a modern NVIDIA GPU:

For example, a GPU from the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 series, like the RTX 3080 released in 2020, is capable of up to 30 teraflops of computing power in single-precision operations. That is 30 trillion floating-point operations per second.

So if you were to compare a VAX 11/780’s 1 MIPS (million instructions per second) to an RTX 3080’s 30 teraflops (trillion floating-point operations per second), the modern GPU is many orders of magnitude more powerful. It’s important to remember that the types of operations and workloads are quite different, and it’s not quite as simple as comparing these numbers directly. But it gives you an idea of the vast increase in computational power over the past few decades.

Also note that GPUs and CPUs have very different architectures and are optimized for different types of tasks. A GPU is designed for high-throughput parallel processing, which is used heavily in graphics rendering and scientific computing, among other things. A CPU (like the VAX 11/780) is optimized for a wide range of tasks and typically excels in tasks requiring complex logic and low latency.

Those final qualifiers remind me a little bit of ChatGPT’s efforts to avoid direct comparisons between soccer players identifying as “men” and soccer players identifying as “women”. If we accept that an NVIDIA card is the minimum for intelligence, it looks as though Fredkin and I were both wrong. The NVIDIA card has roughly 1000X the RAM, but perhaps 1 million times the computing performance. What about NVIDIA’s DGX H100, a purpose-built AI machine selling for about the same nominal price today as the VAX 11/780? That is spec’d at 32 petaFLOPs or about 32 billion times as many operations as the old VAX.]

I had dropped out of high school and he out of college, so Ed used to remind me that he was one degree ahead.

“White heterosexual man flying airplane” is apparently a dog-bites-man story, so the NYT fails to mention Fredkin’s aviation activities after the Air Force. He was a champion glider pilot and, at various times, he owned at least the following aircraft: Beechcraft Baron (twin piston), Piper Malibu, Cessna Citation Jet. “The faster the plane that you own, the more hours you’ll fly every year,” he pointed out. Readers may recall that the single-engine pressurized-to-FL250 Malibu plus a letter from God promising engine reliability is my dream family airplane. Fredkin purchased one of the first Lycoming-powered Malibus, a purported solution to the engine problems experienced by owners of the earlier Continental-powered models. Fredkin’s airplane caught fire on the ferry trip from the Piper factory to Boston.

One of the things that Ed did with his planes was fly back and forth to Pittsburgh where he was an executive at a company making an early personal computer, the Three Rivers PERQ (1979).

The obit fails to mention one of Fredkin’s greatest business coups: acquiring a $100 million (in pre-pre-Biden 1982 money) TV station in Boston for less than $10 million. The FCC was stripping RKO of some licenses because it failed “to disclose that its parent, the General Tire and Rubber Company, was under investigation for foreign bribery and for illegal domestic political contributions.” (NYT 1982) Via some deft maneuvering, including bringing in a Black partner who persuaded the FCC officials appointed by Jimmy Carter that the new station would offer specialized programming for inner-city Black viewers, Fredkin managed to get the license for Channel 7. RKO demanded a substantial payment for its physical infrastructure, however, including studios and transmitters. Ed cut a deal with WGBH, the local public TV station, in which WNEV-TV, a CBS affiliate, would share facilities in exchange for a fat annual rent. Ed used this deal as leverage to negotiate a ridiculously low price with RKO. To avoid embarrassment, however, RKO asked if they could leave about $15 million in the station’s checking account and then have the purchase price be announced as $22 million (71 million Bidies adjusted via CPI) for the physical assets. The deal went through and Channel 7 never had to crowd in with WGBH.

[The Carter-appointed FCC bureaucrats felt so good about the Black-oriented programming that they’d discussed with the WNEV-TV partner that they neglected to secure any contractual commitments for this programming to be developed. Channel 7 ended up delivering conventional CBS content.]

A 1970s portrait:

A 1981 report from Fredkin and Tommaso Toffoli:

Related:

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Who understands homomorphic encryption?

One of my favorite talks at an MIT computer science event last month was by Raluca Ada Popa, a proponent of keeping everything encrypted on servers even during computation. Then it doesn’t matter if the bad people (formerly “bad guys”) break in. How is that possible? Homomorphic encryption, developed about 15 years ago by Craig Gentry, plus hardware support from Intel.

According to Ada Popa, the performance hit from doing everything encrypted is only about 20 percent.

It is tough to know if this can truly protect garden-variety web services, in which the server holds most of the keys, e.g., the database password. I asked Professor ChatGPT:

Homomorphic encryption is a type of encryption that allows computations to be performed on encrypted data without decrypting it. This means that an HTTP server can process encrypted data without ever needing to know what the data actually is. However, there’s a bit of confusion in your question as you suggest the HTTP server has the decryption key.

The real power of homomorphic encryption lies in the fact that the server (like an HTTP server in your question) doesn’t need to have the decryption key at all. It’s the client who holds the key, encrypts the data, sends the encrypted data to the server, and the server performs the computations on the encrypted data. After performing operations, the server sends the encrypted result back to the client, who can then decrypt it using the decryption key.

This offers an unprecedented level of data security because even if the server was compromised, the data would remain safe since the attacker wouldn’t have access to the decryption key. It’s particularly useful in cloud computing, where sensitive data needs to be processed by third-party servers.

The decryption key should be kept safe and private, usually on the client side. If the HTTP server does hold the decryption key, it weakens the system’s security as it creates a single point of failure where both encrypted data and the decryption key can be potentially accessed by an attacker.


Could this prevent all of the credit card and mailing address breaches that we hear about? The credit card number is stored for one-click ordering, but can be decrypted only when the user is logged into an ecommerce site and is ready to enter his/her/zir/their password, which will serve as the key? Ditto for shipping address, but then that has to be transmitted to UPS or some other company, no?

Could it work for Google Drive? The big selling feature is that you can collaborate with 5 other authors if desired. How can that work if the document is encrypted with just one user’s key?

Who has thought about this and figured out whether homomorphic encryption is the silver bullet for defending practical applications?

Also from the event, the Followers of (Computer) Science stay safe in a crowded room for hours at a time by wearing masks:

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Breakthrough technology according to MIT: “Abortion pills via telemedicine”

The smartest people in the world have put together their list of the 10 most important “breakthrough technologies” of 2023. This appears in the Jan/Feb 2023 issue of Technology Review, published by MIT:

There’s been no change to how life-saving abortion care is delivered into a pregnant person’s body, but being able to get abortion care pills after a text message conversation is a “breakthrough technology.”

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