Since the murder of a middle school principal in the suburbs of DC last month, the Washington Post has grappled with the complexities of how much to disclose about a victim's personal life.
Brian Betts, an innovative educator at the forefront of the district's efforts to turn around its beleaguered public school system, was found shot to death in his home April 17th. Days after the murder, Montgomery County's Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said, "It's still possible this was a random killing, but right now we don't think so." But readers of the Washington Post were kept in the dark about one important aspect of the case that could hold clues as the investigation unfolds. This past Sunday, the Post's ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, took this editorial position to task:
If you've been following the murder of D.C. middle school principal Brian Betts through various local media, you know that he was gay. But if you've been tracking the case only in the news pages of The Post, you're reading that fact for the first time right now.
The post had withheld that information from its readers, despite the fact that Betts's sexuality played a role in how he is alleged to have been targeted by his attackers: three teenagers have been arrested in connection with the murder, at least one of whom Betts spoke with through a phone-sex chat service earlier on the day of his death.
"Historically," Alexander writes, "The Post has been reticent to reveal sexual orientation unless it's relevant." And with good reason. Invasive reporting often does more harm than good, and the public only has a right to know details of victims' personal lives when it could further public understanding and the cause of justice. In this case, the accused allegedly used the phone-sex line to target Betts in a robbery that went wrong. The national organization Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence even issued an advisory warning members of the LGBT community to exercise special caution using social networks and chat lines, a warning readers of the Post would not have known about. DC has a history of similar crimes based on sexuality, and the Washington Blade reported in the 1980s and 90s that "more than 20 murders of gay men in the D.C. metropolitan area believed to be pick-up murders remained unsolved." What's more, "police confirmed that in each of the cases, investigators found no signs of a forced entry into the victims’ homes, where their bodies were found," the scenario in the Betts case. All of which points to a wider pattern of murder and assault against the LGBT community that the Post failed to fill its readers in on. As Alexander correctly points out, "The line between privacy and disclosure is not always clear." But when withholding information not only paints an incomplete picture of a crime but also prevents that crime from being connected to a more widespread phenomenon, that discretion can do a disservice to the larger community.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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