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The Depressing Reason the Florida House Wouldn't Even Debate an Assault Rifle Ban

February 22, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

Teenagers who hope to change the world can start by voting in the midterms.


Surely, you’ve seen the pictures. A handful of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students watched in dismay as the Florida House blocked debate on a bill to ban assault rifles, less than a week after 17 people were gunned down at their school.

“I’m calling on every student/teacher/parent 2 exercise 1st Amendment Right & engage in sit-ins, protest, walkouts & legal demonstrations. NOW IS THE TIME,” state Democratic Rep. Kionne McGhee tweeted Wednesday, when his procedural move that would have allowed the Florida House to debate the bill was shut down.

While pollsters and political observers across the country are saying the political response to the nation’s latest mass shooting will be different because young people are speaking up, organizing and calling for gun controls in unprecedented manners—including mass demonstrations in Tallahassee Wednesday—there is a hard truth behind the Florida House’s cold-hearted, high-profile snub. 

“To the young people getting woke to the politics of gun control, here’s the reality: The old farts who are elected to office don’t give a damn because you don’t vote,” tweeted Michael McDonald, a University of Florida demographer and nationally known voter turnout expert. “Average midterm turnout rates for ages 18-29 is a pathetic 20 percent. If you want to change the world start by voting.”

And this generational apathy has only gotten worse, not better, over time.

“Further context: the Census Bureau reports ages 18-29 turnout rate was 30 percent in 1974, the first midterm election 18-20 yr olds could vote (except in 4 states) and followed the close of the Vietnam War,” McDonald tweeted. “Was the highest midterm turnout rate for ages 18-29 from 1974 to 2014.”

McDonald isn’t trying to be the grim reaper at a moment of great trauma for students who experienced a mass shooting. There’s a rising tide of support nationwide elevating the teenagers' call for reasonable gun controls, which is seen in celebrity donations for their marches and other protests.

But he raises a salient point. Florida may be a purple state demographically—evenly split …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The Right Wing Has Falsely Accused Activists of Being 'Paid Protesters' for 50 Years

February 22, 2018 in Blogs

By Liz Posner, AlterNet

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The despicable attacks against the Parkland shooting survivors are part of a long tradition of right-wing conspiracy theories.


Right-wing conspiracy theorists are raging against a bunch of teenagers. Even Donald Trump Jr. liked one such tweet on Twitter, and a since-fired aide of Florida State Rep. Shawn Harrison has claimed that the student activists decrying lax gun regulations that allowed a massacre to take place at their high school are actually “actors that travel to various crisis when they happen.” The impact of these outrageous accusations can’t be dismissed; one video claiming 17-year-old David Hogg is a paid actor was the number-one top trending link on YouTube Wednesday and was viewed hundreds of thousands of times before YouTube removed it. As right-winger conspiracy theorists continue to spread their lies, it’s worth noting that the right has used this tactic repeatedly at other divisive moments in history.

As historian Kevin Kruse pointed out on Twitter, in 1967 the NAACP actually had to respond to outrageous accusations that the Little Rock Nine were paid protesters funded by the civil rights advocacy group.

In a response, historian Heather Richardson said the trend goes back much further. “Actually, this trope goes all the way back to Reconstruction,” she wrote on Twitter. “African Americans demanding equal accommodations under the 1875 Civil Rights Act were… you guessed it… paid by agitators trying to cause trouble for law-abiding folks.”

In recent history, some on the right have resorted to this accusation time and time again. This line of attack popped up in …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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How the Black Power Protest at the 1968 Olympics Killed Careers

February 22, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Mexico City police beating a protester during a student march days before the military gunned down hundreds of students during a similiar peaceful march at Tlatelolco Plaza in Mexico City. (Credit: AP Photo)

It’s an iconic image: Two athletes raise their fists on the Olympic podium. The photograph, taken after the 200 meter race at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, turned African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos from track-and-field stars into the center of a roiling controversy over their raised-fist salute, a symbol of black power and the human rights movement at large.

But look in the photo and you’ll see another man as well: silver medalist Peter Norman, a white Australian runner. Norman didn’t raise his fist that day, but he stood with Smith and Carlos. Though his show of solidarity ended up destroying Norman’s career, the three athletes’ actions that day would be just one in a line of protests on the athletic stage.

Smith and Carlos, who had won gold and bronze, respectively, agreed to use their medal wins as an opportunity to highlight the social issues roiling the United States at the time. Racial tensions were at a height, and the Civil Rights movement had given way to the Black Power movement. African-Americans like Smith and Carlos were frustrated by what they saw as the passive nature of the Civil Rights movement. They sought out active forms of protests and advocated for racial pride, black nationalism and dramatic action rather than incremental change.

It was only months after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and protests against the Vietnam War were gaining steam as well. In the lead-up to the Olympics, Smith and Carlos helped organize the Olympic Project for Human Rights, a group that reflected their black pride and social consciousness. The group saw the Olympic Games as an opportunity to agitate for better treatment of black athletes and black people around the world. Its demands included hiring more black coaches and rescinding Olympic invitations to Rhodesia and South Africa, both of which practiced apartheid. Though the project initially proposed a boycott of the Olympics altogether, Smith and Carlos decided to compete in the hopes they could use their achievements as a platform for broader change.

Mexico City police beating a protester during a student march days before the military gunned down …read more

Source: HISTORY

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George Washington’s Hair Found in 18th-Century Almanac

February 22, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

A lock of what may well be President George Washington's hair, found inside an almanac in the library at Union College in Schenectady, New York  by librarian John Myers. (Credit: Nathaniel Brooks/The New York Times/Redux)

Gifting someone a lock of your hair might seem a bit odd today. But in the 18th and 19th centuries, hair was a perfectly normal keepsake to give to friends, romantic partners, and the relatives in charge of your family’s hair wreath.

Hair was also a souvenir you might want from someone you admired, like a president. Strands from George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln still survive around the country. Recently, another piece of Washington’s mane popped up in a 1793 almanac at a college library in Schenectady, New York.

Union College researchers discovered the hair while taking the library’s inventory. They say this particular clip from Washington—born on February 22, 1732—seems to have been passed down through the families of Alexander Hamilton and his wife, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton.

A lock of what may well be President George Washington’s hair, found inside an almanac in the library at Union College in Schenectady, New York by librarian John Myers. (Credit: Nathaniel Brooks/The New York Times/Redux)

According to the college’s press release, the almanac probably belonged to Eliza’s brother, Philip Jeremiah Schuyler (their father, Philip John Schuyler, was one of Union College’s founders). Between the pages, researchers found an envelope containing Washington’s hair. The notes written on this envelope implied that Eliza had given the hair to her son James, and that James given it to his granddaughters. However, it’s not clear how the envelope ended up inside the almanac, and how the almanac make it to the college’s library.

To assess the hair’s authenticity, Union College sent photos of the six-inch strands and the materials they were found with to John Reznikoff, a manuscripts and documents dealer who also has a huge collection of famous people’s hair. Reznikoff has locks from John F. Kennedy, Napoléon Bonaparte, and Ludwig van Beethoven. He even has a sample of Lincoln’s hair with dried pieces of brain matter stuck to it, since it was plucked after John Wilkes Booth shot him …read more

Source: HISTORY

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It Costs U.S. Taxpayers Just 1 Cent a Year to Protect America's Marine Mammals—but Trump's Budget Scraps It

February 22, 2018 in Blogs

By Elizabeth Hogan, AlterNet

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Trump's proposed budget would eliminate the Marine Mammal Commission.


In the 1970s, several species of marine mammals in U.S. waters were at risk of extinction or depletion due to human activities such as fishing bycatch, ship strikes and offshore drilling. Iconic animals like manatees, polar bears and seals faced myriad severe threats.

Out of nationwide concern for the survival and welfare of whales, dolphins, manatees, seals and sea lions came the Marine Mammal Protection Act, signed into law in 1972 by President Richard Nixon. The MMPA's passing was a milestone in marine animal protection. Indeed, the United States has been a global leader ever since in the protection of iconic ocean wildlife.

Because of the MMPA, the hunting and harassment of marine mammals, including whales and polar bears, has been almost entirely outlawed. And thanks to the MMPA, marine mammal species that were facing extinction—like the Steller sea lion—have grown to healthier population levels. Not one marine mammal species found in U.S. waters has gone extinct in the 45 years since the MMPA became law, even as human activities in the ocean have dramatically increased.

Fundamental to these successes is the Marine Mammal Commission (MMC), charged by Congress to oversee the MMPA's implementation.

And the cost to the American taxpayer? Just one cent per U.S. citizen per year.

But this progress may soon be under siege. Last week, the Trump administration released a budget proposal to Congress that eliminates the Marine Mammal Commission altogether.

World Animal Protection launched our global Sea Change program in 2014. Our objective is clear if not simple: to prevent the entanglement of ocean wildlife in lost and discarded fishing gear (known as ghost gear) and provide rescue to the animals whose entanglement we could …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Do Red and Yellow Food Dyes Disrupt Child Behavior?

February 22, 2018 in Blogs

By Annie B. Bond, AlterNet

If you weren’t a label reader before, now is a good time to start.


Birthday cakes with all the colors of the rainbow were the touchpoint that would change our friendly and gentle daughter into a belligerent crank puss for a few hours after eating her slice. We always braced for the aftermath of the birthday parties. Given that we didn’t serve meals with FD&C food dyes at home, it wasn't too hard to track down the cause of her dramatic behavior changes as they only happened under isolated circumstances.

Anecdotal evidence, yes. But I surely paid attention when I heard that in 2007 the EU required a label on foods containing synthetic food dyes that states the product “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” In 2011 in the U.S., however, the Food and Drug Administration held a Food Advisory Committee Meeting about certified color additives, and while they determined that more study is needed, labels alerting hyperactivity in children was unwarranted.

Where does the division of the EU and the U.S. recommendations leave parents? To make up our own minds, draw our own conclusions and make our own choices.

Chemical food dyes have a long, nefarious and toxic history. They were used to disguise rotting food and adulterate food's appearance in general. In the 1800s, people died or were sickened after being poisoned from dyes made of heavy metals such as lead and arsenic.

We have butter to thank for the practice of a more widespread use of food dyes. Until the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the color of butter naturally varied with the seasons. It was yellow in the spring and summer when cows ate foods rich in yellow carotenoids, and white in the fall and winter when they were fed corn that is low in such carotenoids. It was a breakthrough for dairies when they could make butter the same color year-round. These new and increasingly popular synthetic dyes were less costly and more stable than natural colors made from plants and minerals, but there …read more

Source: ALTERNET