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GENDER BENDER

A study set out once and for all to determine:

Are boys just born better at math than girls?

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THE RESEARCH

  • Carnegie Mellon University.
  • Examined 104 children between the ages of 3-10.
  • Group divided nearly equally between girls and boys.
  • Used brain imaging (MRI) to look at how a child’s brain works while watching math-related content.
  • Results: No difference between girls and boys, engaging or processing, math topics
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Science doesn’t align with folk beliefs. We see that children’s brains function similarly regardless of their gender so hopefully we can recalibrate expectations of what children can achieve in mathematics.”

Senior author, Jessica Cantlon, who led the first research team to use neuroimaging to discover math aptitude differences between boys & girls.
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Why This Matters

  • Researchers say their study raises the real possibility that nurture (not nature) may be the reason boys excel in math & men dominate math/science fields.
  • Theories as to why this happens: teachers tend to spend more time with boys during math lessons; parents may set subtle expectations (or lack thereof) for different school topics.
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Univ. of Missouri's Prof. David Geary (not involved in this study) says he believes the results may change if an older group is tested. He also believes men tend to pick math/science over other subjects because they perform worse than women in reading & writing.

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SIC ‘EM!

The dog who chased down one of the world’s most wanted men has something science still can’t replicate: a killer sense of smell.

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WHAT TO KNOW

  • A military working dog played a key role in the operation targeting the head of ISIS: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
  • The Belgian Malinois chased the ISIS leader through underground caves, ultimately cornering him before the terrorist detonated an explosive vest.
  • Injured, but still alive, the dog remains “in theater” (deployed).
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THE BREED

The military often works with a breed of dog called *Belgian Malinois* which look like a slightly smaller German Shepherd. Their size makes them easier to transport – even for skydiving.

Why: Strong, athletic, fierce and the more activity (like chasing down bad guys), the better. They are also extremely loyal and eager to please.

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DOG’S BEST WEAPON

  • Arguably their smell – used to find people, landmines or bombs.
  • No robot or computer has replicated a dog’s sense of smell. In fact, scientists have yet to discover exactly how their sense of smell works!
  • New studies reveal dogs can even “smell” prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
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“A lot of our science and technology for years has been trying to replicate the work these dogs do. Their olfactory glands are 10,000 times more sensitive than any piece of equipment we’ve been able to develop. So the detection work they do, a dog finding explosives or drugs, that’s never going to be replaced.”

Major Matthew Kowalski, 341st Training Squadron commander, who oversees the military working dog program.
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In the military, dogs outrank their handlers - as a way to show that they aren’t just a piece of equipment, but a teammate to be respected. Did you know you can adopt or foster a puppy in the military working dog program? Read more about how on our source page.

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Historic Farewell

After his death last week, Congressman Elijah Cummings receives an honor given to very few Americans – to “lie in state” at the U.S. Capitol.

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What It Means

  • Royal tradition adopted in the U.S.
  • Started with Sec. of State Henry Clay in 1852; his remains were displayed at the U.S. Capitol.
  • Today, the decision to bestow the honor is made by Congress.
  • 12 U.S Presidents have lain in state: G.H.W. Bush, Ford, Reagan, Johnson, Eisenhower, Hoover, Kennedy, Taft, Harding, McKinley, Garfield, & Lincoln.
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Pres. Lincoln’s “Support”

  • Catafalque: a frame that supports a coffin (cat-e-falk).
  • Pres. Lincoln’s catafalque from 1865 has held most of the coffins that have lain in state.
  • The catafalque has had minor restorations since 1865 (retrofitted to hold larger coffins, drapery replaced), but for the most part remains unchanged.
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“In State” vs. “In Honor”

  • Average citizens cannot “lie in state” as that honor is reserved for gov’t & military officials.
  • Private citizens “lie in honor.”
  • To date, only four Americans have “lain in honor” at the U.S. Capitol: Rev. Billy Graham, two police officers killed during an attack on the U.S. Capitol & Rosa Parks (only woman to lie in state or honor).
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Most Americans lie in state in the Capitol's Rotunda, but Congressman Cummings will be honored in Statuary Hall - the original chamber of the House of Representatives. This doesn't change the importance of this honor, but is a slightly different location than tradition.

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SAFER SEX?

It’s often called “the oldest profession in the world”… will prostitution become newly “legal” in America’s capital?

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THE BASICS

What’s Going On: This week Washington D.C. will hold a public hearing on whether to decriminalize prostitution. The law wouldn’t “legalize” prostitution, but would remove criminal penalties for those 18-years-and-older.

Why It Matters: Other states are also considering similar legislation: Maine, Massachusetts, New York.

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“By removing criminal penalties for those in the sex trade, we can bring people out of the shadows, help connect them to the services they need to live safer and healthier lives…”

Washington D.C. Councilmember David Grosso re-introduced legislation - previously rejected in 2017 - to decriminalize prostitution. Supporters say women should have freedom to do what they wish with their bodies and the government should not interfere with activities of consenting adults.
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“… prostitution is not work, it is sexual abuse at its worst.”

Vednita Carter, former prostitute and founder of "Breaking Free," a non-profit that works to transition women out of prostitution and sex trafficking. Critics of decriminalization say it will embolden pimps and others to abuse women by legitimizing their businesses.
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Something To Consider

  • Nevada is the only U.S. state with legalized prostitution – and still has limits. Only counties with population under 700,000 can legalize prostitution. Prostitution is illegal in counties containing Reno & Las Vegas.
  • Democrat presidential candidates have recently weighed-in on this issue with varying opinions (read more on our source page).
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Washington D.C.'s legislation is reportedly modeled after New Zealand. NZ legalized prostitution in 2003. The gov't says while research suggests the law benefited sex workers, it also notes the challenge of collecting data and says exploitation still continues.

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Trouble With Turkey

The complexities of a country that bridges East and West, and now finds itself at odds with allies and adversaries alike.

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The Basics: Turkey

  • Population: Approx. 80M
  • Strategically important – geographically links Europe to Middle East.
  • Member of NATO – one of 29 countries, including the U.S., in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; only Muslim nation.
  • Critics say Turkey has turned away from democracy towards an Islamist dictatorship.
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“Hey, European Union, pull yourself together. If you try to label this operation as an occupation … we will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way.”

President Erdogan as the European Union announced it has halted all arms sales to the country in protest of the offensive.
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What Does Turkey Want?

  • Create a “safe zone” by the border it shares with Syria.
  • Resettle 3 million+ refugees from Syria’s civil war.
  • “Remove all terrorist elements”: Turkey’s president argues Turkey doesn’t have an issue with all Syrian Kurds, but a specific group advocating for an independent state. (Critics say Turkish forces are targeting ALL Kurds.)
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America’s Dilemma

  • America allied with Syrian Kurds to defeat ISIS, providing weapons, equipment & training. Syrian Kurds don’t have their own nation but governed the Syrian territory they fought to secure with U.S.
  • America is allied with Turkey as part of NATO – an alliance built on cooperation politically and militarily.
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Why This Story Matters

  • Turkey provides NATO a strategic foothold in the Middle East, but is now at odds with NATO members.
  • Syria & Russia – enemies of America – have stepped in as “power brokers” in this conflict, aiding Kurds.
  • Risk of: broader conflict, humanitarian crisis, release of imprisoned ISIS fighters.
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“We cannot have situation where ISIS is resurgent. That’s the bottom line. The Kurds obviously have been a tremendous ally for us. If we abandon them in this way, it will be very difficult to establish alliances in the future. And we need those to avoid having to deploy massive numbers of U.S. forces on the ground.”

Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY)
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Pres. Trump Monday threatened to "destroy" Turkey's economy if it does not stop its offensive. The U.S. halted trade talks and issued new sanctions. The White House previously defended a hands-off approach, allowing Turkey to proceed into Syria.

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KINDNESS CONTAGION

Why watching a political “odd couple” enjoy each other’s company at a football game sparked smiles (and a social media storm).

The science of being kind.

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“When I say, ‘Be kind to one another,’ I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone.”

Ellen DeGeneres, a self-described "gay Hollywood liberal" defending herself against critics who didn't like to see her enjoying the company of former President George W. Bush, a conservative Republican, at a Dallas Cowboy's game.
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Why Being Kind Matters

  • Witnessing or performing acts of kindness produces oxytocin (love hormone) and dopamine (feel-good hormone) in our brains.
  • Kind people have lower levels of cortisol (stress hormone) and age at a slower rate.
  • Doing *or* observing kind acts, whether to strangers, friends, family or YOURSELF, increases happiness (Oxford University).
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“We all seek a path to happiness. Practicing kindness toward others is one we know works.”

Professor of psychiatry, Dr. Waguih William IsHak, Cedars-Sinai. Practicing kind acts is sometimes included in certain psychotherapy to boost mood.
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"President and Mrs. Bush really enjoyed being with Ellen and Portia (de Rossi) and appreciated Ellen’s comments about respecting one another. They respect her." President Bush's spokesperson to Fox News.

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The Survivor Tree

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One tree, common to many cities, has an extraordinary story. Read more on our source page.

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Fact or Fiction?

“If you look at the numbers, we’re looking at an active shooter every other week in this country.”

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Who Said This?

FBI special agent Christopher Combs said this during an interview on last week’s mass shooting in West Texas.

The FBI defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.”

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What We Know

It’s true in recent years.

From 2000 – 2018, America saw an average of 14.5 each year (less than one every other week).

*BUT* in 2017 & 2018 there was an average of 28.5 active shooter incidents each year (more than one every other week).

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Why It Matters

  • In addition to increasing in frequency over the years, active shooter incidents have become more deadly.
  • Of the more than 800 people killed by active shooters, more than a quarter were killed during 2017 and 2018 incidents.
  • No single explanation as to why the numbers recently increased.
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Despite the increase of active shooter incidents, the numbers also show they are rare considering the American population of 300M+.

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TAKE A BREAK, AMERICA!

How (and why) Labor Day became a National Holiday.

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“Lager beer kegs… mounted in every conceivable place.”

One description of the first Labor Day parade in New York City, 1882. Labor unions celebrated their trade with music and costumes. The parade ended with speeches, cigars and (ahem) beverages.
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Origin: Federal Holiday

  • Holiday’s founder debated. Labor unions advocated for it.
  • Celebrated first as a local or state holiday in the 1880s. 23 states had a statewide “Labor Day” before it was a national holiday.
  • 1894: Congress argued the working man needed a federal holiday, similar to others like Christmas, for a “reasonable amount of rest and recreation.”
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“By making one day in each year a public holiday for the benefit of workingmen the equality and dignity of labor is emphasized.”

Rep. Lawrence McGann (D-IL) May 15, 1894 appealing to Congress to recognize Labor Day as national holiday to celebrate the "nobility" of work.
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This year is the 125th anniversary of Labor Day as a Federal holiday. Interesting fact: Americans currently nearing retirement age have held an average of 12 jobs between the ages of 18-52.

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“Mass Shooting”

An all-too-familiar term fueling debate and discussion after two murder sprees in America within 24 hours.

Here’s what you need to know …

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“Mass” Killing vs. Shooting

No single accepted definition.

  • Justice Dept. defines “mass killing” as 3 or more people killed in one incident in a public place.
  • “Mass shooting” is not a legal term defined by gov’t so news sources may differ on the definition. Often references 4 or more shot (injured or killed) not counting the shooter.
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Limitations

  • Data for “mass shooting” statistics *often* date back to a shooting at the University of Texas in 1966. Hence, it’s inaccurate to say “deadliest in history” because the data is limited.
  • Some news sources may/may not include gang shootings or robberies in “mass shooting” statistics making data difficult to compare.
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BIG PICTURE

In 2019, there’s been more than one mass shooting a day in America: 253 in 216 days (vs. 207 in 2018).

However…

Mass shootings significantly trail many other crime categories involving firearms: home invasions (1,039), unintentional shootings (943) & defensive shootings (889).

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20 people died, 26 injured in El Paso, Texas Saturday in one of the deadliest mass shootings in the modern era. 9 people died, at least two dozen injured in Dayton, Ohio early Sunday.

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WHY CENSURE?

It’s not a constitutional power granted explicitly by name to Congress, but lawmakers have slapped a censure on four sitting Presidents.

Pres. Trump makes history as #5.

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What Happened:

  • The Democrat-led House of Representatives voted to censure Pres. Trump for a tweet he wrote about Democrat lawmakers.
  • Critics called the tweet racist; the President denies it.
  • We placed the entire tweet on the source page for you to read in full.
  • The resolution to censure Pres. Trump passed along party lines: 240-187.
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What Happens Now?

Practically: Not much. It’s a public reprimand with no other actionable or legal punishment.

Politically: Democrats can rally together, showing a united front against a Republican president ahead of an election year. President Trump can also use this to rally his base.

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Interesting To Note:

  • Congress can punish lawmakers three ways: expulsion, censure and reprimand.
  • Expulsion is the only punishment mentioned by name in the constitution. 
  • Censure evolved as a punishment starting in 1800s.
  • Other Presidents censured: Presidents Jackson, Lincoln, Taft & Buchanan.
Now You Know

The first time censure was considered in Congress? In 1798, when one state lawmaker spat on another; ultimately there was no censure vote. Mostly censure has been used for bad behavior: "defamatory or insulting statements."

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What’s The Deal With Deportations?

 

 

ICE raids. Threats of arrests. Heated political debate.

What’s the real deal when it comes to *deportations* in America?

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What To Know

ICE uses 2 deportation categories:

Removals: a person who had been in the U.S. illegally, received a court order of removal (deportation), and is confirmed to have left.

Returns: a person who did not receive a court order of removal but leaves the U.S. – i.e., someone turned away at the border who exits the country.

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Context Matters

How the U.S. handles deportations over the last 20 years changes depending on how you look at these categories.

  • “Removals” peaked during the Obama administration: 432,448
  • “Returns” peaked during the Clinton administration: 1,675,876
  • Since 2013, both removals & returns have declined.
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BIG PICTURE

  • Up to this point, the Trump admin. has deported fewer people than the Obama admin. The Obama admin deported fewer people than the Bush & Clinton administrations.
  • ICE says 1 million+ people have currently received final removal notices. 2,000 were reportedly the focus of this weekend’s raids.
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“The Trump administration would have to increase the pace of interior removals dramatically to reach Obama’s previous peak.  Unless something dramatic changes, that won’t happen…”

The Cato Institute says Obama admin (which focused on illegal immigrants w/criminal records) received more support from local law enforcement than Trump admin (which focuses on the record # of families apprehended crossing the border) when it comes to enforcing immigration laws.
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When focusing on illegal immigration in the "interior" of America (outside of the southern border), less than 1% of the total estimated illegal immigrant population has been removed in recent years.

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