Amendments to the U.S. Constitution

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The 2nd Amendment: How the gun control debate went crazy

The gun control debate has been at fever pitch for several years now, and as things fail to change the stats get grimmer. The New York Times reports that there have been 239 school shootings nationwide since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre, where 20 first graders and six adults were killed. Six years later, 438 more people have been shot in schools, and for 138 of them it was fatal. Here, journalist and author Kurt Andersen reads the Second Amendment, and explains its history from 1791 all the way to now. "What people need to know is that the Second Amendment only recently became such a salient amendment," says Andersen. It's only in the last 50 years that the gun debate has gone haywire, and it was the moment the NRA went from reasonable to absolutist. So what does the "right to bear arms" really mean? What was a firearm in the 1790s, and what is a firearm now? "Compared to [the] many, many, many rounds-per-second firearms that we have today, it's the same word but virtually a different machine." Kurt Andersen is the author of Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire.

The 5th Amendment: Do not break in case of emergency

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution is often talked about but rarely read in full. The reason? Counterterrorism expert Amaryllis Fox explains that it has, these days, simply become shorthand for not saying anything in court to incriminate yourself. But the full text states how important the due process of law is to every American. So perhaps learning the full text, not just the shorthand, is an important step to being an American citizen. You can find out more about Amaryllis Fox here.

The 13th Amendment: The unjust prison to profit pipeline

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery—but it still remains legal under one condition. The amendment reads: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Today in America, big corporations profit of cheap prison labor in both privatized and state-run prisons. Shaka Senghor knows this second wave of slavery well—he spent 19 years in jail, working for a starting wage of 17 cents per hour, in a prison where a 15-minute phone call costs between $3-$15. In this video, he shares the exploitation that goes on in American prisons, and how the 13th Amendment allows slavery to continue. He also questions the profit incentive to incarcerate in this country: why does America represent less than 5% of the world's population, but almost 25% of the world's prisoners? Shaka Senghor's latest venture is Mind Blown Media.

The 14th Amendment: History's most radical idea?

In 1868, three years after slavery was abolished, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted, granting equal protection under the law to every born and naturalized U.S. citizen. For CNN news commentator Van Jones this amendment is, in his words, the "whole enchilada." It's not the most popular amendment—it doesn't get name-dropped in TV courtroom dramas, or fiercely debated before elections—but to Jones it is a weighty principle that was far ahead of its time. "It doesn't say equal protection under the law unless you're a lesbian. That's not what it says. It doesn't say equal protection under the law unless you're African American. That's not what it says. It says if you're in the jurisdiction you get equal protection under the law. That's radical. In 10,000 years of human history, that's radical." Van Jones is the author of Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together.

The 26th Amendment: The act of voting should empower people

Is a 55.7% voter turnout really enough? Bryan Cranston was disappointed with the 2016 presidential election, not for the outcome but for the process. According to Census Bureau figures it was a bumper year for voter engagement with 137.5 million total ballots cast—but is just over half of the eligible voters really that impressive? The Pew Research Center shows that the U.S. still trails behind most developed nations in voter registration and turnout. "I think we've devalued the honor and privilege of voting and we've become complacent, and maybe a bit cynical about our place and rights as citizens and our duties and responsibilities," says Cranston. The good news? Millennials and Gen Xers are on an upward trend in civic engagement, casting more votes than Boomers and older generations in the 2016 election. Cranston reminds us of how empowering the 26th Amendment is in granting voting rights to Americans over the age of 18. "We can't take that lightly," says Cranston. It's a timely reminder too, as 40 million people are expected to drop off that 55.7% figure for the midterm elections, mostly from the millennial, unmarried women and people of color demographics. Bryan Cranston's new book is the spectacular memoir A Life in Parts.

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  • A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
  • Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
  • Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.

Walmart recently announced plans to battle Amazon in the massive online shopping market. At $98/year, Walmart+ offers many of the same perks, including same-day grocery delivery, as well as discounts at Walmart gas stations, one of the few things Amazon cannot offer (yet). Of course, it lacks the entertainment perks of Amazon Prime, such as the automatic subscription to numerous TV shows and movies.

Another important distinction: Walmart is offering discounts on fossil fuels while Amazon has promised to create a fleet of 100,000 electric delivery vans in order to become completely carbon neutral by 2040. That said, Walmart does have plans for reducing its carbon footprint as well. Unfortunately, these ambitious plans likely won't impact harmful consumer habits, which are rooted in the conveniences that online retailers offer.

Earlier this year, a study from researchers in the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, confirmed what many expected: online shopping is worse for the environment than going to the store yourself. This contradicts previous research championing online shopping.

While Amazon boasts of its greening efforts, the corporation's current protocols are horrendous. Many packages are glorified Matryoshka dolls. I recently ordered a three-inch cable that arrived wrapped in two boxes, padded by three layers of brown wrapping paper and plastic.

There seems to be no uniform shipping policies. Some books arrive in white padded envelopes, others in thin brown envelopes, some in boxes. While supply chain management is tricky, a company cannot both claim to be environmentally friendly and notoriously unreliable. Online retailers bank on convenience, not being stewards of nature.

The researchers investigated production distribution disparities in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs), such as personal care and home care products, between physical stores, "bricks and clicks" (fulfillment via physical store deliveries), and non-store-based e-commerce sites, known as "pure players." They conclude that the latter considerably increases greenhouse gas (GHG) footprints.

piles of cardboard inside recycling warehouse

A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, speed + convenience, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.

Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands.

Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, says the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."

The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.

"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."

Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need.

While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.

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Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter, Facebook and Substack. His next book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."

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In this Big Think Live session, multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light ( Transparent, Ugly Betty) and host, writer, and actor Winsome Brown will discuss the art of acting, the challenge of choosing the right roles, and why any career is made better by asking "How can I be of service?" instead of "How do I get more...?" From her work fighting for equality and dignity at the height of the AIDS epidemic (and long after) to advancing acceptance of the LGBTQ community through screen and stage, Light will share insight from her incredible career that can help you fine-tune your own goals toward a greater good.

Ask your questions for Judith Light during the live Q&A!

Join the stream 2 pm ET on Monday, July 13.

STREAMING LINKS:

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  • We spend 40 percent of our childhoods asleep, a time for cognitive growth and development.
  • A recent study found an association between irregular sleep patterns in childhood and either psychotic experiences or borderline personality disorder during teenage years.
  • The researchers hope their findings can help identify at-risk youth to improve early intervention.

    • Sleep is a critical activity in our mental and physical health. Sufficient sleep is necessary for learning, productivity, and emotional regulation. It boosts our energy, improves our performance, and helps us prevent injury, making it an athletic necessity on par with hydration and nutrient intake. Sleep deprivation, meanwhile, has been linked to an increased risk of stroke, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and onset dementia. And without it, your glymphatic system doesn't have the time to properly scrub your brain of the toxic protein beta-amyloid—meaning your head fills up, literally, with unfiltered daytime gunk.

      For children, sleep is even more cruci

      al. A meta-analysis of ten studies on infant sleep and cognition found a "positive association between sleep, memory, language, executive function, and overall cognitive development." In other words, all the ingredients for a healthy mind and social aptitude. It's so necessary for cognitive development that by age two a child will spend more time asleep than awake. In total, 40 percent of our childhoods are spent mapping our personal dreamlands.

      But a recent study in JAMA Psychiatry suggests the obverse is also true. Poor sleep routines, chronically disrupted sleep, and other parasomnias may have an adverse effect on children's mental health later in life.

      A time for sleep

      Previous studies had already suggested a link between persistent nightmares in childhood and psychosis and borderline personality disorder (BPD) by adolescence, but researchers at the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology wanted to see if a similar connection existed between these mental disorders and other childhood behavioral sleep problems.

      To do this, they scoured data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a longitudinal cohort study that followed approximately 14,000 children born in Avon, England, in the early 1990s. The study followed the children for more than 13 years. During that time, mothers filled out questionnaires asking about the children's lives. Factors looked at included housing, parenting, nutrition, physical health, mental wellbeing, environmental exposures, and so on.

      The cohort study inquired about sleep routines, sleep duration, and awakening frequency when the children were 6, 18, and 30 months old, and then again at 3.5, 4.8, and 5.8 years. It also assessed mental health in adolescence using semi-structured interviews, such as the Psychosis-Like Symptom Interview.

      "We know that adolescence is a key developmental period to study the onset of many mental disorders, including psychosis or BPD. This is because of particular brain and hormonal changes which occur at this stage," Steven Marwaha, professor of psychiatry at Birmingham and senior author on the study, said in a release. "Sleep may be one of the most important underlying factors—and it's one that we can influence with effective, early interventions, so it's important that we understand these links."

      After compiling the data, the researchers discovered an association between children with irregular sleeping patterns and teenagers with psychotic experiences—that is, episodes when the person perceives reality differently than those around them. Even when depression at 10 years old was considered as a mediating factor, their findings still suggested "a specific pathway between these childhood sleep problems and adolescent psychotic experiences."

      Toddlers with shorter nighttime sleep duration and late bedtimes were likewise associated with a borderline personality disorder—a disorder marked by a pattern of varying moods, self-images, and behaviors—in their teenage years. Depression at age 10 did not mediate this particular association, suggesting a separate and more specific pathway.

      A more restful tomorrow

      While the sample size was large and mental health was assessed with a validated interview, there nevertheless remain limitations to this data. For starters, sleep habits were based on mothers' reports. Because they came from memory, versus a more direct observation method such as actigraphy, these data may be prone to imperfect recollection and reporting error. There are also many confounders that could be secretly nudging the results, such as family conditions, prenatal medicines, and a host of environmental factors. Finally, the relationship between sleep problems and mental disorders is both complex and two-way.

      As such, the study shows an association between poor childhood sleep later mental disorders but does not prove a causal link. Parents need not worry that a string of nightmares or the eternal struggle settle into bed will be the first ingredients in a witches' brew of debilitating mental disorders. The goal of the study, the researchers point out, is not to create undue worry but improve our ability to recognize the signs of at-risk children and deliver necessary interventions earlier.

      "The results of this study could have important implications for helping practitioners identify children who might be at higher risk for psychotic experiences or BPD symptoms in adolescence, and potentially lead to the design of more effectively targeted sleep or psychological interventions to prevent the onset or attenuate these mental disorders," Isabel Morales-Muñoz, the study's lead researcher, told Healio Psychiatry.

      If a parent reading this is worried that their child's sleep patterns are deleterious, the take away should not be despair over an unyielding fate. It should be to seek professional help as soon as possible to begin improving sleep duration and quality. Even if you aren't worried, it's worth remembering that childhood experiences lay the foundation for a lifetime of salubrious sleeping habits. It's so much more than beauty rest.

      • From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
      • "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
      • Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.

      • The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
      • The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
      • Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.

      As the coronavirus pandemic enters its fifth month, many questions remain unanswered over how the virus damages the body. Now, a group of researchers are planning a large-scale study that aims to shed light on how COVID-19 affects the brain.

      The COVID-19 Brain Study plans to monitor the long-term health of 50,000 participants who have tested positive for COVID-19. The research could help answer questions like: Does COVID-19 cause cognitive impairment? And, if so, how do age, race, and sex factor into the equation?

      Considering recent studies that suggest COVID-19 may cause neurological damage, the researchers say it's important to start tracking patients' health as early as possible.

      "The problem is a bit like when governments were deciding to enter lockdown – timing is everything," Adrian Owen, a Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging professor at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, told Western University of Health Sciences News. "We need to start collecting this data now. We can't start looking at this issue in a year's time because if there are cognitive impairments, and we know there will be, it's going to be too late."

      COVID-19 effects on the brain.

      Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.

      Paterson et al.

      The researchers also want to find out whether there are significant differences between patients who recovered from the disease in intensive care units and those who got better at home. After all, studies have revealed that some patients may suffer a constellation of long-lasting physical, emotional, and mental problems after staying in an ICU, a condition dubbed post-intensive care syndrome.

      "A year from now, we will have more than eight million people worldwide recovering from COVID-19," Owen said. "So, we may also have eight million people with short- and long-term cognitive problems."

      COVID-19 and the brain

      A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a study in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.

      Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.

      medical staff standing around patient in bedSan Diego-Area Hospitals Treat Coronavirus Patients During COVID-19 Pandemic

      Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

      A separate study published in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.

      A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.

      "Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a press release. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."

      If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study.