The impact of the accusations against R. Kelly go beyond the world of hip-hop––they spread throughout the entertainment industry. If you have no idea what’s going on with the R. Kelly situation, you should start with this incredible, short, and hyperlinked history provided by NPR:
Aug. 31, 1994: R. Kelly, then 27 years old, marries Aaliyah, then 15
Dec. 21, 2000:Chicago Sun-Times prints the first allegations of sex with minors
Feb. 8, 2002: Chicago police reveal investigation into alleged child pornography
June 5, 2002: Kelly indicted on 21 counts of child pornography
May 9, 2008: Trial begins in Kelly’s case in Chicago
June 13, 2008: Kelly is acquitted on all counts
July 17, 2017: BuzzFeed publishes stories of women in Kelly’s alleged “sex cult”
July 23, 2018: Kelly releases 19-minute song, “I Admit”
Oct. 4, 2018: Kelly’s ex-wife accuses him of physical abuse
Just glancing at the stories gives you a pretty good sense of what’s going on here: a famous man is openly and unapologetically a pedophile––after all, he married a 15-year-old girl when he was 27. That begs the question, why did people ignore this? New York Times explains that he was able to get away with it for so long for a variety of reasons: the public doesn’t believe young black girls when they make accusations of abuse; parts of the black community and music industry rallied around Kelly to shield him, and the music industry has a long history of allowing such abuse.
Following the release of a documentary called “Surviving R. Kelly,” however, Chicago authorities have opened an investigation. So far, they have found no evidence of sexual enslavement and abuse in R. Kelly’s Trump Tower apartment.
R. Kelly’s daughter has spoken out, saying, amongst other things: “I am well aware of who and what he is. I grew up in that house.”
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The government shutdown is, as of this writing, nearly the longest in U.S. history. As of tomorrow, January 12, 2019, it will be the longest shutdown in U.S. history. The effects of the shut down are beginning to stack up.
The TSA, for example, has stopped receiving pay. According to the New York Times, TSA agents aren’t staying home in droves, but airports are suffering:
At least one airport, Miami International Airport, will start closing one terminal early each day, starting on Saturday, because of a shortage of screeners employed by the Transportation Security Administration, said Greg Chin, an airport spokesman.
While some, like the TSA agents, are being financially wrecked, others are oblivious to the problems others are facing. Fortunately, although pay is stopping for some workers, it seems as though healthcare will continue.
Previously, Trump threatened to declare a state of emergency to build the wall. Reuters reports, however, that Trump has said he would not do so. That might mean that the shutdown will continue to do so. The financial effects of a prolonged shutdown could be devastating:
According to an estimate by S&P Global Ratings, it will only take another two weeks to cost the economy more than $6 billion, exceeding the $5.7 billion that President Donald Trump demanded to fund his proposed border wall. The U.S. economy will have lost $3.6 billion by Friday, according to S&P.
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Some Tarrant County Republicans recently attempted to remove Dr. Shahid Shafi from his position as the party’s vice chair. Precinct Chairman Dorrie O’Brien organized the attempt, saying
We don’t think he’s suitable as a practicing Muslim to be vice chair because he’d be the representative for ALL Republicans in Tarrant County, and not ALL Republicans in Tarrant County think Islam is safe or acceptable in the U.S., in Tarrant County, and in the TCGOP, and there are big questions surrounding exactly where Dr. Shafi’s loyalties lie, vis a vis Democrat and Republican policies.
The story almost immediately gained national attention––and it was very bad PR for the GOP:
“This (Shafi) story has gained national attention and has put the party in a bad light, all thanks to the actions of a few,” said William Busby, a former precinct chairman and leader for the Tarrant County Republican Party. “Corporate donors, the big donors, don’t want to be associated with a party that’s going in the direction of excluding people based upon their religious beliefs.”
Both Ted Cruz and George P. Bush (Jeb Bush’s son) decried the attempt to remove Dr. Shafi, pointing out that it’s both un-American and unconstitutional.
In an open letter, Dr. Shafi wrote something important:
A nation divided by hate and fear makes us weaker, and our enemies stronger. It is through inclusion, and not exclusion, that we will be able to build strong communities, where neighbors trust and protect each other, and our enemies cannot find refuge.
Recent research reveals that oceans are heating 40% faster than a U.N. panel estimated five years ago. The research also points out that ocean temperatures have set records for the past several years.
According to the New York Times:
surging water temperatures are already killing off marine ecosystems, raising sea levels and making hurricanes more destructive.
As the oceans continue to heat up, those effects will become more catastrophic, scientists say. Rainier, more powerful storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Hurricane Florence in 2018 will become more common, and coastlines around the world will flood more frequently. Coral reefs, whose fish populations are sources of food for hundreds of millions of people, will come under increasing stress; a fifth of all corals have already died in the past three years.
Scientists say that 2018 will be the warmest year on record. By the end of the century, seas are projected to raise 30cm. But we shouldn’t think we have another 80 years until we start to see damage. According to the Miami Herald:
By 2040, 64 percent of county septic tanks (more than 67,000) could have issues every year, affecting not only the people who rely on them for sewage treatment, but the region’s water supply and the health of anyone who wades through floodwaters.
The problem is already bad––and it’s because of climate change.
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Universities bestowed nearly 30% more degrees in 2015-2016 than they did in 2005-2006. Despite the overall increase, not all majors or fields saw a rise. Rather, the degrees in the humanities plummeted, while STEM field degrees shot up by about 60%:
Education suffered the most dramatic loss, a decrease of 20,021 graduates (19%); not since 1986 have there been so few education graduates.
English saw a decline of 22% or 12,301 graduates.
Philosophy and religious studies declined 15%.
Transportation graduates also dropped 15%.
Architecture and related fields were down 7%.
Foreign language graduates were off 5%.
Liberal arts and general studies had a dip of 3%.
Identity studies (encompassing ethnic, area, cultural, gender and group studies) realized a negligible decrease of 39 graduates, less than .5%.
Social sciences and history slipped .2%.
All other majors had increases in baccalaureate degrees, with ten fields growing by 50% or more:
Health professions more than doubled, from 91,973 to 228,896 graduates. This was the largest absolute increase of any major and was almost tenfold more the number of health profession graduates in 1970.
Parks, recreation and fitness studies doubled its graduates from 25,490 to 50,918.
Homeland security and law enforcement graduates increased 73%.
Communications technologies increased graduates by 62%.
Agriculture and natural resources grew 61%.
Biological and biomedical sciences added 43,142 graduates, an increase of 61%.
Engineering saw a 60% increase in its graduates.
Multi and interdisciplinary studies were also up 60%.
Public administration and social services majors increased 57%.
Mathematics and statistics saw an increase of 54%.
Colleges are struggling to keep students interested in the humanities, but for now with little avail:
Unless colleges in the United States want to follow the European model, where prospective students apply to specific degree programs instead of a given university, the choices of American students will likely always shift with the winds of employment. Some studies suggest that many of the tasks done by humans in stem fields will be automated in the future; robots may well end up writing most programming and intelligent algorithms. So if elite colleges just wait long enough, perhaps the humanities will make a comeback as humans look for the kind of knowledge that helps them complement rather than compete with technology.
Ivy League schools have not seen as precipitous a decline in humanities majors, though––specifically history. The Daily Beast opines that this is bad for the future of America:
An epidemic of historical amnesia already plagues this country, which has often paid a terrible price and done grave harm to other foreign people and lands due to its ignorance of the past. Orwell could have written that those who study the past control the future. The rich and privileged already own vast swathes of America and can look to a comfortable future. Can we afford their taking control of the past too?
I’m not sure the doom-and-gloom tone is necessary. As a university humanities instructor, I deal with lots of STEM students who take my courses for prerequisites. They’re not the best writers or readers (because they haven’t been trained to be), but they’re bright and my courses help them improve. Instead of lamenting lack of majors, we should bolster humanities prerequisites and ensure that all instructors are excellent teachers.
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We throw around the terms “race” and “racism” so much that we don’t know what they mean anymore. So let’s start with some quick definitions:
Race: A race is a phenotypically similar group that shares non-biological characteristics such as behavior, disposition, work-ethic, and criminality. In other words, people who look alike tend to act alike.
Racism: The belief that non-biological characteristics are shared by phenotypically similar people. Furthermore, those traits are transmitted through procreation. In other words, people who look alike have the same characteristics, and they pass those characteristics on to whomever they mate with.
Of course, race doesn’t exist. Criminality is not biologically inheritable––instead, it is complexly related to both nature and nurture. Nor are any of the other traits mentioned solely linked to biology. Although race doesn’t exist, the belief in race is still a potent force in America.
Black families are still being targeted for harassment.Vandals spray paint “get out” on their walls and threaten arson:
More than 300 entries were reports of harassment or menacing at people’s homes, targeting people of a variety of races and religions. The most frequent victims were African Americans. Indeed, African Americans are the most frequently victimized group nationally for hate crimes, according to data from the FBI.
This is a very real problem that needs to be addressed. Before doing so, however, it’s important to clarify the national discussion on race. Take this NBC News article, for example, which describes liberal parents who worry about raising their kids in a racially sensitive manner:
People who identified as more politically liberal were much more willing to acknowledge the existence of racism, and to talk to their children about it. Many of these parents identified as specifically anti-racist, and were determined to teach their kids to work against bigotry and inequality. Parents encouraged their kids to do charitable work, for example, both in their own communities and on (expensive) overseas trips.
Yet, as [sociologist] Hagerman told me, “all of these families in their own ways were participating in the reproduction of racial inequality.” Children were sent to private school, or when they went to public school benefited from private tutors or enrichment classes. Even community service can reproduce racist ideas. It’s hard to see people as equals when you always have power over them, or when your primary experience with them involves giving them charity.
The spectacle of well-intentioned people working, half unconsciously, to solidify and perpetuate their own power is not an encouraging one. “I feel like my findings are pretty dismal,” Hagerman admits. “When you have people who have a lot of wealth alongside this racial privilege, they’re ultimately making decision that benefit their own kids, and I don’t know how you really interrupt that.”
This assessment is deeply problematic because it conflates “race” with another of other issues, most importantly class. Without any explanation or evidence, the author and the cited sociologist link sending kids to private school with institutional races. There are certainly cases in which parents sent kids to private school in order to avoid racial integration. In the cases studied, however, who’s to say whether that has anything to do with the issue at hand? Even nation-wide, when the public education system is in crisis, it’s hard to blame parents for wanting a better option for their kids. Is that institutional racism, or just people of higher classes taking advantages of the opportunity wealth affords them?
Race should still be part of the discussion, but it cannot be the only part of the discussion––or even the most important part, in some cases.
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Since 1868, felons in Florida could not vote. A law was passed barring them from the civic process not for legitimate punitive reasons. Rather, it was a Jim Crow tactic meant to exclude the recently-freed slaves from the democratic process.
Technically felons could apply to vote, but due to extreme difficulties in the bureaucratic process, few felons even bothered to apply, knowing they wouldn’t get approved or would make a mistake in the multiyear process that disqualified them.
Felony disenfranchisement was a critical part of the 2000 election. Al Gore lost the state of Florida because of felony disenfranchisement (in addition to other dubious electoral practices). After that election, felony disenfranchisement became more common.
After January 8, 2019 though, things are different: 1.4 millions Florida felons have had their right to vote restored:
The amendment was written to be “self-executing” so its mandatory provisions could take effect on January 8, Pearson said. After DeSantis called for implementing language for the law in December, the ACLU and others sent a letter to the secretary of state asking it for guidance on how to conduct voter registration for the newly enfranchised population.
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On Tuesday night, Trump delivered the first Oval Office address of his presidency. This post will briefly summarize the reactions.
NPR culled seven takeaways from the speech:
The shutdown is nowhere near over.
Trump is continuing to fear-monger.
The president was really trying to reach wavering Republicans.
He believes federal workers want this.
The optics were good.
Democrats want to end the shutdown, Trump wants the wall.
A national emergency might be the only way out.
The New York Times fact-checked the speech. Most of his statements require context, according to The Times, or were a little misleading. There was only one outright falsehood:
“The wall will also be paid for, indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.”
First, the revised North American Free Trade Agreement, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, has yet to pass in Congress. Any economic benefits from the agreement, if it passes, will most likely come in the form of lower tariffs for American companies or higher wages for American workers.
This is different from Mr. Trump’s campaign promise that Mexico would finance the wall.
The Washington Post was more critical, calling his speech misleading “from beginning to end.”
A Washington Post opinion piece argues that Trump’s speech was more successful than the Democrat’s response. Time, among others, noted that social media found the Democrat response humorous, since Pelosi and Schumer look like angry parents.
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Major news networks will air Trump’s primetime appeal for border wall funding, tonight. The move has drawn criticism from a variety of sources.
A USA Today opinion piece argues that news networks should only air Trump’s appeal with live fact-checking:
It is a disservice to the American people to broadcast, without context or real-time fact-checking, someone who is using the airwaves for the sole purpose of lying to the American people about an overtly racist agenda.
Seth Meyers argued that networks shouldn’t give Trump the airtime to express his lies:
Although Trump originally wanted to give the address at the border, he instead opted for the gravitas of the Oval Office. NPR notes that the Oval Office has been the scene of many monumental announcements, and Trump may be trying to invoke the authority of office.
TV networks feel bullies into allowing the address:
This despite the fact that many did not a similar address from Obama in 2014. Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer released a statement: “Now that the television networks have decided to air the President’s address, which if his past statements are any indication will be full of malice and misinformation, Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime.”
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Over two weeks into the government shutdown there seems little hope of a consensus. The New York Times underscores the gap between the two groups with this anecdote:
Vice President Mike Pence insisted on beginning the first meeting with a prayer, so the chief of staff to the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, asked God to “to bring us together” when negotiators met Saturday in Mr. Pence’s ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
The next day, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff members, who were representing the Democratic side, began with their own prayer, which noted that Jesus and Mary were both refugees.
The two disparate prayers underscored the stalemate that lawmakers find themselves in as the shutdown drags into its third week: The two sides could not even agree on a pro forma invocation.
Some lawmakers, the Washington Post notes, are declining or donating their pay in solidarity with those who affected by the shutdown, but that does nothing to bring the two sides closer together.
Trump, meanwhile, is ramping up his efforts to get the public on his side. He plans to make a prime time address at the border to further sway people. He even, allegedly, lied about former presidents’ support for the wall. He has also threatened to eschew negotiations altogether and use emergency powers to build the wall, which NPR notes would be wide open to legal challenges.
Despite the fallout from the shutdown––including a little sh*tshow in the national parks––and despite the public initially blaming Trump for it, the negative opinion towards Trump might be being shifted to Congress.
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In 2014, ISIS seemed poised to take over the Middle East. Now, five years later, the group faces extinction. They’re not going quietly. According to CNN, an ISIS missile injured UK special forces members in Syria, the final hotbed of fighting:
Two members of the British special forces have been wounded in an attack by ISIS fighters in Syria, according to the Kurdish news agency Rudaw…The soldiers were hit by an ISIS missile attack on a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) base in the east Syrian town of Shafa, Deir ez-Zor, Rudaw said. A Kurdish fighter was killed in the attack.
The UK did not confirm, but did not deny, the incident.
Although President Trump has ordered US troops out of Syria:
In a statement to NPR, a coalition spokesperson said the U.S. mission in Syria has not changed. “We will continue to fight to achieve an enduring defeat of ISIS,” the statement said. Separately, the military has said it tries to avoid civilian deaths and has called ISIS a “ruthless enemy” that hides among civilians.
NPR further reports the dire circumstances for civilians and US coalition fighters in Syria.
Finally, the New York Times reports that two Americans that joined ISIS are on the front lines in Syria:
A 34-year-old man from Houston who sent a résumé and cover letter seeking a job inside the Islamic State was captured alive on the battlefield alongside another American fighting for the terrorist group, according to the Syrian Democratic Forces, who announced the arrest on Sunday.
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There’s a reason that China has dominated the news cycle for the past month or two: we’re witnessing the rise of the new world superpower. It’s ruthless, it’s authoritarian, and the entire world should be nervous.
In the past months, we’ve relayed the following stories about China:
The genocide perpetrated against the Uighurs. It began by calling the Uighurs, a predominately Muslim ethnic minority, subversive. Then China began forcing the Uighurs into forced labor camps. Now, China is targeting Uighur intellectuals, in much the same way Nazis targeted Jewish intellectuals: “The mass detention of some of China’s most accomplished Uighurs has become an alarming symbol of the Communist Party’s most intense social-engineering drive in decades, according to scholars, human rights advocates and exiled Uighurs.”
China’s authoritarian population control methods. social creditThe Chinese have instituted a Black Mirror-esque scoring system. The worse your “social credit,” the harder your life becomes––think worse jobs, worse schools, worse pay, and fewer opportunities.
China’s Cold War against the United States. waging a Cold WarAccording to a top CIA expert, China has been against the U.S.. China’s recent bellicosity (re: invading Taiwan and sinking U.S. aircraft carriers) supports that view.
Landing on the dark side of the moon. Landing on the dark side of the moon is more than just a cool scientific and technological feat. It’s a symbolic act that shows dominance in those fields. It’s also, potentially, evidence of China’s long-term strategy. The dark side of the moon may contain mineral resources that China will be in a better position to exploit.
All of this indicates that China is positioning itself for international dominance in the next fifty years. As the U.S. and Russia continue to bicker, China will silently gain ascension.
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