Friday, January 28, 2022

How antisemitic conspiracy theories contributed to the recent hostage-taking at the Texas synagogue

  The man who took a rabbi and three congregants hostage in Colleyville, Texas on Jan. 15, 2022 believed that Jews control the United States of America. He told his hostages, as one revealed in a media interview, that Jews “control the world” and that they could use their perceived power to free Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani convicted in 2010 for trying to kill American soldiers and plotting to blow up the Statue of Liberty. The hostage-taker also demanded to speak to New York’s Central Synagogue rabbi, Angela Buchdahl, so that she would use her “influence” to help get Siddiqui released.

  By invoking Jewish “power,” the gunman, later identified as Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British national, seemed to echo Siddiqui’s antisemitic views that Jews were responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks and had infiltrated American political and nongovernmental organizations. During her 2010 trial in New York, Siddiqui demanded Jews be excluded from serving on her jury.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

What is bioengineered food? An agriculture expert explains

  The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines bioengineered food as food that “contains detectable genetic material that has been modified through certain lab techniques that cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature.”

  If that definition sounds familiar, it is because it is essentially how genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are defined – common vocabulary many people use and understand.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Why getting Congress to fund help for US children in poverty is so hard to do

  The Build Back Better bill, the centerpiece of the Biden administration’s domestic policy, cleared the House of Representatives by a slender margin largely along party lines in November 2021.

  Legislative progress came to a sudden stop a month later when Sen. Joe Manchin announced, in a Fox News interview, that he would not support it. Without the West Virginian’s vote, Senate Democrats lacked the majority they needed to pass the bill.

  Manchin raised concerns about inflation and objected to several of the measure’s energy provisions. He also had qualms about a program that had been temporarily helping, according to one estimate, over 90% of the children in his state: the expansion of the child tax credit.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Fact-checking may be important, but it won’t help Americans learn to disagree better

  Entering the new year, Americans are increasingly divided. They clash not only over differing opinions on COVID-19 risk or abortion but basic facts like election counts and whether vaccines work. Surveying rising political antagonism, journalist George Packer recently wondered in The Atlantic, “Are we doomed?”

  It is common to blame people who are intentionally distributing false information for these divisions. Nobel Prize-winning journalist Maria Ressa says Facebook’s “[bias] against facts” threatens democracy. Others lament losing the “shared sense of reality” and “common baseline of fact” thought to be a prerequisite for democracy.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Yes, it’s easier to get birth control than it was in the 1970s – but women still need abortion care

  A historic ruling on abortion is likely to emerge from the U.S. Supreme Court this year as justices consider whether Mississippi can, in fact, impose a ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

  The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, challenges the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that protects women’s right to abortion. Meanwhile, Texas enacted its own restrictive abortion law in September – and other states are working to follow suit.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Will what’s happening “over there” hit home again?

  Americans have a lot to worry about. Soaring inflation. A pandemic that refuses to go away. Locked-down schools that keep the kids at home while you have to work.

  With so much to focus on at home, who has time or energy to pay attention to what’s happening on the other side of the world?

  But there’s great danger in becoming indifferent to world affairs. All too often, they wind up crashing into our lives, turning our homes and nation upside down.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

The metaverse is money and crypto is king – why you’ll be on a blockchain when you’re virtual-world hopping

  You may think the metaverse will be a bunch of interconnected virtual spaces – the world wide web but accessed through virtual reality. This is largely correct, but there is also a fundamental but slightly more cryptic side to the metaverse that will set it apart from today’s internet: the blockchain.

  In the beginning, Web 1.0 was the information superhighway of connected computers and servers that you could search, explore and inhabit, usually through a centralized company’s platform – for example, AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Google. Around the turn of the millennium, Web 2.0 came to be characterized by social networking sites, blogging, and the monetization of user data for advertising by the centralized gatekeepers to “free” social media platforms, including Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter, and TikTok.

Friday, January 21, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired new health habits for these 4 scholars – here’s what they put into practice and why

  For some people, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about change – some welcome and some not so welcome – to their routines or to what they prioritize. We asked four scholars to reflect on a health habit that they have adopted during the tumultuous months and years since COVID-19 turned people’s lives upside down.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Radicalization pipelines: How targeted advertising on social media drives people to extremes

  Have you had the experience of looking at some product online and then seeing ads for it all over your social media feed? Far from coincidence, these instances of eerily accurate advertising provide glimpses into the behind-the-scenes mechanisms that feed an item you search for on Google, “like” on social media, or come across while browsing into custom advertising on social media.

  Those mechanisms are increasingly being used for more nefarious purposes than aggressive advertising. The threat is in how this targeted advertising interacts with today’s extremely divisive political landscape. As a social media researcher, I see how people seeking to radicalize others use targeted advertising to readily move people to extreme views.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

‘Southern hospitality’ doesn’t always apply to Black people, as revealed in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery

  The idea of community and who belongs and who does not was a common theme in the Jan. 7, 2022 sentencing hearing of three white men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery.

  “They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community,” said Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, during the hearing. “When they couldn’t sufficiently scare him or intimidate him, they killed him.”

  Arbery was the 25-year-old unarmed Black man who was shot to death on Feb. 23, 2020 while jogging through a predominantly white, middle-class neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia. Race went largely unspoken throughout the trial, but the idea of belonging was clearly drawn in black and white.