Amendments to the U.S. Constitution
Do you know your rights? Hit refresh on your constitutional knowledge!
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.
In The Second Sex (1949), Simone de Beauvoir argued that women were at a disadvantage in a society where they grew up under 'a multiplicity of incompatible myths' about women.
Instead of being encouraged to dream their own dreams and pursue meaningful projects for their lives, Beauvoir argued that the 'myths' proposed to women, whether in literature or history, science or psychoanalysis, encouraged them to believe that to be a woman was to be for others – and especially for men. Throughout childhood, girls were fed a steady diet of stories that led them to believe that to succeed as a woman was to succeed at love – and that to succeed at other things would make them less lovable.
Although some of Beauvoir's claims have dated, her method in The Second Sex was groundbreaking, two-fold and still worthy of attention: in the first volume, she explored some 'facts and myths' that had been written about women by men. In the second, she sought to describe what it is like for women to become women in the world where men defined them in these ways – and how it led many to feel divided and dissatisfied.
Whereas boys were brought up to believe that they could value their own independence and creativity and have flourishing personal relationships, on Beauvoir's analysis, a woman's education too often led her to feel 'torn' between choosing freedom and choosing love. 'Woman', she wrote, is 'doomed' to feelings of failure and guilt, because if she succeeded at conforming to mythical ideals of femininity she would be a mirage, not a person. She was expected to embody 'an inhuman entity: the strong woman, the admirable mother, the virtuous woman, and so on'. Because femininity is so closely associated with prioritising the needs of others, with being likeable and giving, when a woman 'thinks, dreams, sleeps, desires, and aspires' for herself, she becomes less feminine – which, in the social currency of 1949 at least, meant she became a worse woman.
In the French edition of The Second Sex, one of these myths of femininity – la femme forte ('the strong woman') – appears more times than she does in English translation. In addition to the passage just cited, 'the strong woman' figures prominently in Beauvoir's discussion of representations of women in religious texts and traditions. The Hebrew and Christian bibles sing the strong woman's praises. In Christianity (as Beauvoir read it), the virgin is respected for the 'chaste and docile' way she reserves herself for her husband: in the face of her bodily desires, she stands strong. In the polytheisms of Hinduism and Ancient Rome, Beauvoir found goddesses who personified a similar feminine power of restraint.
But it is the strong woman of Proverbs 31 – a beautiful acrostic poem in the Hebrew Bible – who gets sustained comment and direct citation, because this 'strong woman' is more than chaste. She is also relentlessly and uncomplainingly hardworking. Beauvoir quotes:
She selects wool and flax […]
She gets up while it is still night […]
[…] her lamp does not go out at night.
[…] she does not eat the bread of idleness.
In view of what the whole poem says, Beauvoir's choice of these lines is intriguing (if not a rhetorical sleight of hand that ignores the possibility of more charitable readings), because the woman in this celebrated ancient text seems so anachronistically independent. She is not shown exclusively in erotic or familial roles, and Beauvoir was a champion of 'the independent woman' who combined love with other projects in life. The 'strong woman' of Proverbs 31 performs economically productive labour and manages her own money, buying fields, sowing crops and trading so successfully that she has profits to invest in vineyards, surplus enough to clothe her family in purple (a luxury dye rarely afforded at the time), and her works bring her praise at the city gates.
So what, in short, is not to like? On Beauvoir's reading, it is that this paragon of strong womanhood is 'confined in housework', a kind of work that is disproportionately presented to girls and women as part of their feminine 'destiny', as a daily way of showing their love for others. The 'strong woman' in Proverbs is praised by her husband, her children and her city for her industry and success, but Beauvoir thought this kind of praise was often bait that kept women sacrificing themselves without reciprocity – working to make their homes sanctuaries of peace and rest for everyone but themselves. It was part of a bait-and-switch so old it was hard to see why it was still successful: the bait was love, and the switch was how much – and how disproportionately – women were expected to work for it. The myth of the strong woman shaped women to think that if they loved someone, of course they would select the wool and flax, keep the light burning late and rise early, and resist the temptation of 'the bread of idleness'. Of course it was an expression of love to support her family's flourishing – and rarely to ask herself: what about mine?
A century earlier, Honoré de Balzac advised men that the secret to having wives who were satisfied to be slaves was to persuade them that they were queens, that domestic service was part of the glory of their reign. But if to love was to serve, and to serve was the glory of reigning, Beauvoir asked: why didn't men want to share in it?
As she put it in an essay after The Second Sex:
With all the twaddle that has been written about the splendour of such generosity, why not give the man his chance to participate in such devotion, in the self-negation that is considered the enviable lot of women?
On my reading, Beauvoir's objection to the 'strong woman' of Proverbs 31 isn't that she's strong – nor even, necessarily, that she's self-sacrificial. It's that we never hear her side of the story, so it's impossible to know whether her industriousness flows freely from her values and vision for her life, or from conformity to the ideal of industriousness, to the idea that her raison d'être is the comfort and convenience she gives others.
In the 70 years since the publication of The Second Sex, more women have entered work, and feminists have coined new terminology to name the kinds of weight today's 'strong women' are expected to carry – the mental load, the double burden, the third shift. But on this subject, Beauvoir's voice is still worth hearing. Her point was not that the work that is needed to maintain life doesn't matter, nor that economically productive or creative labour is inherently more valuable than care. On her view, fiscal work is no guarantee of women's freedom, caring for and being cared for by others is a central part of what makes us human, and without care and caring human beings struggle to thrive.
The independent woman understands that in many respects what the 'strong woman' does should be honoured – but she doesn't think that 'love' means doing it all alone.
Ever since Homo erectus carved a piece of stone into a tool, the welfare of humanity has been on the increase.
This technological breakthrough led first to the hand axe, and eventually to the iPhone. We have found it convenient to organize the most dramatic period of change between these two inventions – beginning roughly in the year 1760 – into four industrial revolutions.
As each revolution unfolded, dire predictions of massive job losses ensued, increasing each time. The first three are over, and these concerns were clearly misplaced. The number of jobs increased each time, as did living standards and every other social indicator.
McKinsey predicts that 800 million workers could be displaced in 42 countries, or a third of the workforce, because of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). When reminded of the experience with the previous revolutions, the comeback is often that this one is different. Although this has been said at the onset of each revolution, could there be something more to it this time?
Disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain and 3D printing are indeed transforming social, economic and political systems, often in unpredictable ways. The technology itself is difficult to map because its growth rate could be exponential, factorial or higher. It is this unpredictability that is making impact assessments difficult. Difficult – but not impossible.
To begin with, we know that a lot of low-skilled, repetitive jobs are being automated, starting in high-wage countries but quickly spreading to the developing world. And not all high-skilled jobs are immune either.
But are there limits? To answer this question, we need first to understand how work has been transformed, especially with global value chains. Jobs now consist of a bundle of tasks, and this is true for all skill levels. As long as one of the multitude of tasks that a worker performs cannot be technically and economically automated, then that job is probably safe. And there are a lot of jobs like that, although it may not appear so on the surface.
For example, although most tasks performed by waiters can be automated, human interaction is still required. Human hands are also highly complex and scientists have yet to replicate the tactile sensors of animal skin. The robot may deliver your soup, but struggle to place it on your table without spilling it. Apart from what vending machines can dispense, some of the tasks associated with waiting tables will still require humans.
The debate also tends to wrongly focus on gross rather than net jobs, usually unintentionally. But it is the net figure that matters in this debate.
For instance, greater automation of production processes will require greater supervision and quality control. Humans will be required to carry out this function. The focus on gross ignores the higher skilled jobs created directly as a result of greater automation.
And as long as the cost of adding more supervisors does not outweigh the savings from automation, the reduction in the price of the final product will spur an increase in demand. If the increase in demand is large enough, it could even expand the number of jobs in factories that automate part, but not all, of their production process. In this case, the automation leads to a net increase in jobs.
A silver lining
There will also be inter-industry effects. Productivity gains from new technology in one industry can lower production costs in others through input–output linkages, contributing to increased demand and employment across industries. Higher demand and more production in one industry raises demand for other industries, and on it goes.
Why, then, the widespread pessimism about the 4IR and jobs?
It could be that it is easier to see how existing jobs may be lost to automation than it is to imagine how new ones may emerge sometime in the future. Simply put, seeing is believing. In a sense, this is like the gross versus net confusion, but separated by time and greater uncertainty.
It is also more sensational to highlight the job-displacing possibilities than the job-creating ones. We also hear more about it because, while the benefits are widely dispersed across the general public through lower prices, the costs are concentrated and can displace low-skilled workers, providing greater incentive to organize and lobby against or complain about the costs.
Furthermore, when there is enough uncertainty, it is generally safer to overstate rather than understate the potential cost to innocent victims of change. All of these factors could combine to explain the unwarranted pessimism over jobs.
But there could be a silver lining to all this negativity. If it leads to greater efforts to reskill and reshape the workforce to better adapt to change, then this is exactly what is required, and there is no overdoing it. Ironically, it could well be this pessimism that produces the preparedness that results in it being misplaced – if not to begin with, then in the end!
Jayant Menon is Lead Economist at the Asian Development Bank, and Adjunct Fellow of the Crawford School, The Australian National University.
- Physicists from the University of Tokyo plan to use lasers to discover axions.
- Axions are theoretical particles that may be components of dark matter.
- Dark matter is a mysterious substance that may compose up to 27% of the universe.
Japanese physicists propose modifications to existing equipment that could allow them to pinpoint axions, hypothetical particles that may be components of dark matter. Dark matter, a mysterious theoretical substance that is thought to make up about 27% of all matter in the universe, is yet to be directly observed.
The scientists hope to track down the elusive axions using experiments with lasers.
The difficulty in finding dark matter is that it is made of, as many physicists think, weakly interacting massive particles or WIMPs, produced in the early Universe. While we haven't figured out how to spot these particles directly, interacting with regular matter, but we've been able to predict their existence by the gravitational effects they have throughout the universe.
The celebrated Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland has been used to search for WIMPs, and now a new approach from Japan hopes to use the KAGRA Observatory to discover dark matter by tracking down axions.
KAGRA stands for the Kamioka Gravitational Wave Detector. This first major gravitational wave observatory in Asia is located deep under a mountain of the Kamioka mine in Japan's Gifu Prefecture.
The Assistant Professor Yuta Michimura from the Department of Physics at the University of Tokyo, which runs the KAGRA project, explained that because axions are light and don't interact with normal matter, they are good candidates for dark matter.
Interestingly, he also quantified how much dark matter is there, saying the amount of it inside our planet would weigh as much as a squirrel —
"We don't know the mass of axions, but we usually think it has a mass less than that of electrons, " said Michimura. "Our universe is filled with dark matter and it's estimated there are 500 grams of dark matter within the Earth, about the mass of a squirrel."
Credit: 2019 Nagano et al | University of Tokyo Institute for Cosmic Ray Research
The proposed instrument that would hunt for axion dark matter.
As you can imagine, spotting such particles is no easy task. Physicists have to figure out ways that can make the particles reveal themselves through their signatures.
Koji Nagano, a graduate student at the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research at the University of Tokyo, says that their models show that axions affect light polarization, which describes the geometrical orientation of oscillating electromagnetic waves.
Their method of finding axions relies on this finding.
"This polarization modulation can be enhanced if the light is reflected back and forth many times in an optical cavity composed of two parallel mirrors apart from each other, " further expounds their approach Nagano.
The best examples of such cavities, says the researcher, are the long tunnels of gravitational-wave observatories.
"There is overwhelming astrophysical and cosmological evidence that dark matter exists, but the question "What is dark matter?" is one of the biggest outstanding problems in modern physics," said Nagano. "If we can detect axions and say for sure they are dark matter, it would be a truly exciting event indeed. It's what physicists like us dream for."
The team proposes plans to inexpensively modify existing observatories like KAGRA or the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the U.S. to search for the axions. The plan, according to Michimura, would be to add "polarization optics in front of photodiode sensors in gravitational-wave detectors."
The idea's additional benefit is that it doesn't require building entirely new facilities. Upgrading gravitational wave labs would not hamper their original missions — looking for gravitational waves. But the new functionality would open a new chapter in the search for dark matter.
The study involved Koji Nagano, Tomohiro Fujita, Yuta Michimura, and Ippei Obata.
Check out the their paper "Axion Dark Matter Search with Interferometric Gravitational Wave Detectors" in the journal Physical Review Letters.
- Scientists reveal preliminary findings from NASA's Insight Lander on Mars.
- The lander has been on Mars since November 2018.
- The data includes detection of magnetic pulses, happening at local midnight.
NASA's Insight Lander, a robot designed to study the deep insides of Mars, taking its vital signs, has sent back a wealth of information. Within the preliminary findings is evidence of a strange magnetic pulse some times emanating from the planet precisely at midnight.
The seemingly timed nature of the phenomenon raised the attention of the scientists poring over the data. The cause of the pulsation is currently unknown. The researchers are trying to pinpoint whether the signal is from deep underground or closer to the surface.
What's unusual about this occasional magnetic pulsation or wobbling is that it happens at a time when such events would be unlikely on Earth, where they are often related to northern or southern lights, explains National Geographic. While we don't know yet why the ones on Mars take place, the scientists conjecture that it may have to do with how the location of the lander on Mars aligns with the tail of the magnetic bubble around Mars. This tail may be interacting with the magnetic field on its way by, causing the pulsing. NASA scientists are planning further research, including flying the MAVEN orbiter above the lander to confirm this suspicion.
The information was presented at the joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the American Astronomical Society, taking place in Geneva, Switzerland between from 15th to 20th of September, 2019.
The Insight Lander has been on the red planet since November 2018. Among the information it's collected is the temperature of the upper crust, sounds of earthquakes recorded inside Mars, and measurements of the magnetic field.
Data from the lander shows that the crust of the planet is much more magnetic than predicted, ten times more so than Earth's. Mars's magnetosphere extends 60 to 250 miles above, also found out the lander. This suggests to the scientists that Mars once had a large magnetic field that was possibly able to support life. Once that was gone, radiation was sure to make the planet what it is now.
Sounds of Mars: NASA’s InSight Senses Martian WindListen to Martian wind blow across NASA’s InSight lander. The spacecraft’s seismometer and air pressure sensor picked up vibrations from 10-15 mph (16-24 kph...
One other very interesting discovery pertains to the 2.5-mile-thick electrically conductive layer, located underground. It's possible this indicates a large amount of water under the surface.
Check out the paper on preliminary findings from the Insight Lander here.
Like too many of us, I hated history classes throughout my school career, and only realized as an adult that there are few things more interesting to ponder than the ways people lived and thought in different times and places than my own.
After all, we're all stuck in our own time, limited by our culture, consciousness, and whatever knowledge we may possess of what came before.
Maybe that explains part of the appeal of historical fiction like the series Downton Abbey, set in a great Edwardian country house in the early 20th century. My guest today is stage and screen Director Michael Engler. He's the director of the new Downton Abbey feature film, and he directed episodes of Downton Abbey, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, 30 Rock and much more for TV.
Meticulously recreating one corner of Edwardian England and building original story worlds within it, Downton Abbey is part romantic comedy, part historical drama grappling with the tensions of class and society at the sunset of empire.
Surprise conversation starters in this episode: