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Supportive sister unsure of proper miscarriage etiquette

Dear Annie: My sister had a miscarriage this week, and I'm at a bit of a loss. I want to support her, but fear that I am putting too much of a focus on it. I'm not sure whether I'm expecting a certain type of response unfairly from her -- sadness, anger or frustration -- but she seems to just want to move on.

With the rest of our family, there's a feeling of hopelessness all around, as we're not sure how to be there for her and her husband. I was going to send them flowers and a sympathy card, but my other sister thought it could be too much of a reminder.

I think a lot of the uncertainty of what to do stems from the topic of miscarriages being a bit taboo. However, I know they are more common than many think. I've known a few people who have experienced miscarriages, but it's not always talked about openly. I'm not sure why they are viewed as shameful or a secret or something to hide. Annie, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. -- Unsure in Ithaca

Dear Unsure: I am so sorry for your sister's loss. Tell her one time how very sorry you are for her loss and that you love her very much. Say it only once, and say it kindly and compassionately. Sending flowers would be a thoughtful gesture, and I would encourage you to do so if you are so inclined.

Sadly, you are correct that miscarriages are common, occurring in roughly 15 out of every 100 pregnancies, and that it's not something people talk about often. I think that silence is connected to a long-held (and erroneous) societal belief that a woman is somehow to blame for losing a pregnancy.

But miscarriages shouldn't be taboo at all. I, for one, would love to see a world where there is more support for women from women who have had miscarriages. We need to shore them up and recognize that their bodies were actually working perfectly.

Dear Annie: I have a boyfriend, whom I love dearly. But one thing he does makes me crazy. He's always commenting on other girls' beauty. We will be watching TV, and he'll say, "She is beautiful and has a nice voice," or "She is really pretty but can't act." He tells me I'm beautiful, too, but I wouldn't say the same things in his presence about men I see. I did that once so that he could see how it feels, but he keeps on doing it. I know guys talk this way to one another, and that's fine. But I don't know why he has to always say this to me. And sometimes it's with facial expressions and hand gestures to indicate how "hot" she is. -- A Secure Woman Feeling Uncomfortable

Dear Secure Woman Feeling Uncomfortable: You could ask him to stop sharing these thoughts, but it wouldn't stop him from having them. And I have a feeling that would start to nag at you, too, because you'd always wonder, "What's he thinking about her?"

The comments may annoy you less if you look at them as a sign of how open he feels with you. Not only does he think you're gorgeous (and he tells you so); he also feels close enough to talk to you as a friend. Embrace that and you'll feel even more secure.

Service dogs can be trained to assist with a variety of tasks

Dear Doctor: I've seen a lot of dogs recently in grocery stores and restaurants wearing those yellow service dog vests, but some of them can't obey even simple commands like "sit" and "stay." They seem to really be pets. What do trained service dogs do? Whom do they help?

Dear Reader: It's a shame when dog owners misrepresent their pets as service animals. No doubt some are legitimate "emotional support" animals, necessary companions for their owners to be able to spend time in public spaces. But federal law states that a service dog is one that has been specially trained to physically assist a person with a disability, including -- and we're quoting the law here -- "a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability."

It is on that basis that these devoted animals are granted access to venues and areas not open to other pets. With their rigorous training and specialized skills, service dogs open up the world for their handlers, and keep them safe within it.

Service dogs perform hundreds of tasks for more than a dozen types of disabilities. We're all familiar with guide dogs, which help people with impaired vision. They lead their handlers around obstacles like a park bench, a low-hanging awning or a hole in the ground. They warn them of changes in elevation, like a curb or the edge of a subway platform. They can follow a designated person, like a waiter in a restaurant, or find their handler an empty seat in a public space. And though their handlers are the decision-makers in the partnership, guide dogs have been taught "intelligent disobedience." When given a command to walk forward, if danger is present, like a sudden drop-off or oncoming traffic, they will refuse.

For people with impaired hearing, specially trained dogs become their ears. With a touch of their nose or a gentle paw, they can signal a ringing telephone, a crying baby, a smoke alarm, an alarm clock, a family member calling the handler's name, computer beeps, cellphone alerts and a person's arrival.

People with physical disabilities or missing limbs rely on their service dogs to help with mobility. These dogs can pull a lightweight wheelchair, offer assistance by bracing their handlers as they get up or down, and help their handlers rise if they should fall down. They can open doors, turn light switches on or off and pick up objects as small as a dime.

Seizure dogs, which are trained to recognize their handlers' physical symptoms, can summon help by calling 911 via a special life-alert system or provide physical stimulation. Like many service dogs, they are trained to retrieve medication. Diabetic alert dogs use their sense of smell to detect episodes of high or low blood sugar and warn their owners. Severe allergy alert dogs let their handlers know about life-threatening allergens nearby.

Service dogs are remarkable in their training and dedication. And though it's tempting to give them a pat or say hello, please don't. Service dogs out in public are at work. Correct etiquette is to ignore them, so they are not distracted from their job.

Senate rejects bipartisan push for new US war authorization

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday rejected a bipartisan push for a new war authorization against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, electing to let the White House rely on a 16-year-old law passed after the Sept. 11 attacks as the legal basis to send U.S. troops into combat.

Senators voted 61-36 scuttle an amendment to the annual defense policy bill by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that would have allowed war authorizations, created in the wake of al-Qaida's 9/11 strikes, to lapse after six months. Paul, a leader of the GOP's noninterventionist wing, said Congress would use the time to debate an updated war authority for operations in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere before the old ones expired.

Paul criticized his colleagues ahead of the vote, urging them to embrace their war-making responsibility instead of surrendering their power to the White House. He and senators who backed his amendment said former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump have used the war authorizations from 2001 and 2002 for military operations in countries that Congress never voted to support.

"We are supposed to be a voice that debates and says, 'Should we go to war?' It's part of doing our job," Paul said. "It's about grabbing power back and saying this is a Senate prerogative."

Opponents of Paul's amendment agreed on the need for a new authorization but warned that that his plan would backfire.

Voting to rescind existing war authorities without a replacement risks leaving U.S. troops and commanders without the necessary legal authority they need to carry out military operations. Opponents said they worried Congress would not approve a new law in the six-month window.

"You can't replace something with nothing. And we have nothing," said Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

White House legislative director Marc Short said Tuesday that the Trump administration has adequate legal authority to combat terrorist groups and did not support a new war authorization.

Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Relations Committee, said he agreed that the White House has proper authority, but said his committee intends to take up legislation for a new war authority soon. He opposed Paul's amendment.

"I agree that we need to take action," said Corker, R-Tenn.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Armed Services Committee chairman, voted against Paul's measure because he said it would leave U.S. troops in legal limbo. But McCain, who is working with other senators on a new authorization, said he expects that the vote on the amendment will give "momentum" to their efforts.

To fight IS, the Trump administration, as did the Obama administration, relies on an authorization for the use of military force that was signed into law by President George W. Bush on Sept. 18, 2001.

But the White House's use of an authorization from a decade and half ago is a legal stretch at best, according to critics who long have argued that Congress needs to pass a new one to account for how the dynamics of the battlefield have changed. For example, American troops are today battling an enemy — IS militants — that didn't exist 16 years ago, and are fighting in Syria, a country where the U.S. forces didn't expect to be.

In April, Trump ordered the firing of dozens of Tomahawk missiles at an air base in central Syria, marking the first time the U.S. has directly struck President Bashar Assad's forces during the country's six-year civil war. U.S. troops are supporting a Saudi-led coalition that has been carrying out airstrikes in Yemen since March 2015.

A separate authorization for the war in Iraq approved by Congress in 2002 also remains in force.

The War Powers Resolution, enacted in 1973, requires the president to tell Congress he is sending U.S. troops into combat and prohibits those forces from remaining for more than 90 days unless Congress has approved an authorization for military force.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told lawmakers last month that the 2001 authorization provides sufficient authority to wage war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But Tillerson and Mattis also said they were open to an updated authorization provided the measure did not impose tactically unwise restrictions or infringe on the president's constitutional powers as commander in chief.

But Short said the administration was not looking for changes and stood by the 2001 authorization.