LeBron James Helps To Pay Fees Of Floridians With Felony Convictions So They Can Vote.

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LeBron James Helps To Pay Fees Of Floridians With Felony Convictions So They Can Vote.

voting rights group founded by NBA superstar LeBron James is raising funds to help people in Florida with felony records pay outstanding court debts that prevent them from voting, the group announced Friday.

More Than A Vote, a campaign the Los Angeles Lakers player started with other Black athletes and artists last month to fight Black voter suppression, is partnering with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), a group that helped end Florida’s lifetime voting ban for most people with felony convictions in 2018. They hope to raise $100,000.

Miami Heat Forward Udonis Haslem, who’s also a member of More Than A Vote, said in a statement that the thinking is simple: “We believe that your right to vote shouldn’t depend upon whether or not you can pay to exercise it.

There are around 1.4 million Floridians with felony convictions, the FRRC said. And as of 2016, one in five Black citizens in Florida were disenfranchised. As Politico noted, as many as 775,000 people in Florida with felony convictions face financial penalties that render them ineligible to vote until they can pay them.

Those penalties come in the form of restitution, court fines or other fees associated with their past convictions. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Florida’s rule blocking people from voting if they have any of those outstanding fees, which Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed into law last year. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor argued the law disenfranchises people “simply because they are poor.” 

The FRRC, which has already raised more than $1.5 million for its fines and fees program, hopes teaming up with James’ campaign will raise awareness around the issue. 

“This partnership will improve lives and strengthen our democracy,” FRRC executive director Desmond Meade said, adding, “We look forward to the positive impact it will have on our communities and the lives of those who are hoping to vote and have their voices heard.” 

While the deadline to register for Florida’s August primary has already passed, residents have until Oct. 5 to register for the presidential election on Nov. 3. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, currently holds a 13-point lead over President Donald Trump in the state, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday. 

Source: https://bit.ly/32lVSR7

The 1% Are Cheating Us Out of a Quarter-Trillion Dollars in Taxes Every Year.

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The One Percent Are Cheating Us Out of a Quarter-Trillion Dollars in Taxes Every Year.

The next time you hear conservative politicians insist they want “law and order,” hate “looting,” and believe America can’t afford new government programs, show them two landmark reports that emerged in the last twenty-four hours. The data in those analyses tell the story of conservative politicians letting billionaires and corporations brazenly evade laws and effectively loot hundreds of billions of dollars from the public treasury — all while those same politicians plead poverty to justify cutting the social safety net during a lethal pandemic.

The first report came from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which found that between 2011 and 2013, $381 billion in taxes went unpaid every single year. Couple that data with recent Harvard University research showing that the top one percent of income earners are responsible for 70 percent of the tax gap, and you see the full picture: The wealthiest sliver of the population is depriving the American public of about $266 billion of owed tax revenue every year.

That tax gap didn’t just magically happen — it is the result of conservatives’ huge cuts to the Internal Revenue Service’s enforcement budget, which resulted in a particularly precipitous decline in audit rates for the superrich. In fact, the $266 billion figure could be an understatement, because the congressional budget analysts were estimating the tax gap that existed before those IRS budget cuts.

“With the money that these tax cheats owe, this year alone, we could fund tuition-free college for all, eliminate child hunger, ensure clean drinking water for every American household, build half a million affordable housing units, provide masks to all, produce the protective gear and medical supplies our health workers need to combat this pandemic, and fully fund the U.S. Postal Service,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, who requested the CBO study. “That is an absolute outrage, and this report should make us take a long, hard look at what our national priorities are all about.”

“Shifting Over $1 Trillion in Profits Every Year to Corporate Tax Havens”

Just after the congressional report was released, the Tax Justice Network released a separate study showing that newly released international data prove “that instead of declaring profits in the countries where they were generated, multinational firms operating around the world are shifting over $1 trillion in profits every year to corporate tax havens” — moves that deprive governments of $330 billion in tax revenue that is owed but that is not being paid.

The study noted that just four small countries — the UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Luxembourg — “are together responsible for half of the world’s corporate tax avoidance.”

The United States alone is losing about $60 billion of revenue a year because of these corporate tax evasion schemes, according to Reed College economist Kimberly Clausing.

In case you thought the tax haven shenanigans were just limited to corporations, jog your memory and recall the Panama Papers and Credit Suisse scandals that spotlighted how wealthy individuals have gotten in on the offshore schemes.

We Know How to Fix Things, But Our Political System Is Rigged

At a time when the social safety net is being shredded in the name of budget austerity, the ruling class refusing to pay owed taxes is a grotesque form of looting. So what is Washington doing in response to all this?

On the domestic front, Donald Trump began his presidency proposing more IRS budget cuts, but this year, the White House is pushing for an increase. At the same time, though, Trump’s Justice Department is prosecuting far fewer criminal cases referred by the IRS: over the last 5 years, such prosecutions have dropped by more than 66 percent, according to data compiled by Syracuse University researchers.

On the international front, Trump’s 2017 tax cut bill included several provisions that “encourage American-based corporations to shift profits offshore,” according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. The administration has also recently moved to roll back rules designed to crack down on so-called corporate inversions, whereby companies incorporate offshore in order to avoid tax liabilities. And thanks to Trump’s coronavirus legislation, firms that already pulled the inversion maneuver could now be rewarded with Federal Reserve bailouts, according to Bloomberg News.

The problem here isn’t that we lack the knowledge to fix things — the problem is our political system.

The lawmakers with the power to truly beef up enforcement and crack down on profit shifting operate inside a machine that runs on legalized bribery. Some of them are trying to do the right thing, but most of them are bankrolled, in part, by big donors and corporate interests that are enriched by lax tax enforcement and offshore tax evasion. Those bought-and-paid-for lawmakers will publicly insist they want “law and order” and oppose looting, but they’ll allow widespread looting and tax lawlessness to continue, while they pretend there’s no money to pay for anything.

Meanwhile, because advocacy groups, voting blocs, and political leaders tend to be organized around specific programs and issues (say, Medicare or public education), there remains no large mobilized constituency organized around the general goal of cracking down on tax cheating — even though such a crackdown could provide new resources for key programs and issues.

Maybe all of this can change. Maybe the rise of grassroots-funded elected officials can break the link between corruption and policies that encourage tax theft. And maybe one day we will see more explicit organizing, movement building, and public education around the tax issue — it has started to happen in the UK, where some celebrities have made tax fairness their cause, so maybe it can happen here.

But if it doesn’t happen, millions will continue fighting over a few budget crumbs while the one percent keeps taking bigger and bigger bites of the revenue pie.

Source: https://bit.ly/34uJWPJ

A Few Words About That Ten-Million-Dollar Serial Comma.

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A Few Words About That Ten-Million-Dollar Serial Comma.

The case of the Maine milk-truck drivers who, for want of a comma, won an appeal against their employer, Oakhurst Dairy, regarding overtime pay (O’Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy) has warmed the hearts of punctuation enthusiasts everywhere, from the great dairy state of Wisconsin to the cheese haven of Holland.

Nothing, but nothing—profanity, transgender pronouns, apostrophe abuse—excites the passion of grammar geeks more than the serial, or Oxford, comma. People love it or hate it, and they are equally ferocious on both sides of the debate. Individual publications have guidelines that sink deep into the psyches of editors and writers. The Times, like most newspapers, does without the serial comma. At The New Yorker, it is a copy editor’s duty to deploy the serial comma, along with lots of other lip-smacking bits of punctuation, as a bulwark against barbarianism.

While advocates of the serial comma are happy for the truck drivers’ victory, it was actually the lack of said comma that won the day. Here are the facts of the case, for those who may have been pinned under a semicolon. According to Maine state law, workers are not entitled to overtime pay for the following activities: “The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: (1) Agricultural produce; (2) Meat and fish products; and (3) Perishable foods.”

The issue is that, without a comma after “shipment,” the “packing for shipment or distribution” is a single activity. Truck drivers do not pack food, either for shipment or for distribution; they drive trucks and deliver it. Therefore, these exemptions do not apply to drivers, and Oakhurst Dairy owes them some ten million dollars.

Judge David J. Barron’s opinion in the case is a feast of subtle delights for anyone with a taste for grammar and usage. Lawyers for the defense conceded that the statement was ambiguous (the State of Maine specifically instructs drafters of legal statutes not to use the serial comma) but argued that it had “a latent clarity.” The truck drivers, for their part, pointed out that, in addition to the missing comma, the law as written flouts “the parallel usage convention.” “Distribution” is a noun, and syntactically it belongs with “shipment,” also a noun, as an object of the preposition “for.” To make the statute read the way the defendant claims it was intended to be read, the writers would have had to use “distributing,” a gerund—a verb that has been twisted into a noun—which would make it parallel with the other items in the series: “canning, processing,” etc. To the defendant’s contention that the series, in order to support the drivers’ reading, would have to contain a conjunction—“and”—before “packing,” the drivers, citing Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner, said that the missing “and” was an instance of the rhetorical device called “asyndeton,” defined as “the omission or absence of a conjunction between parts of a sentence.”

Lest we lose perspective, this law on the books of the State of Maine applies to people who work with perishable foods, and the point is that pokey employees should not be rewarded for taking their sweet time getting the goods to market. Possibly (but improbably) for this reason, in an effort to illustrate (or not) ambiguity in a series, the coverage of O’Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy served up a lot of food imagery. The Times noted that it would break with style and add the serial comma in the following sentence: “Choices for breakfast included oatmeal, muffins, and bacon and eggs.” The Guardian, too, would avoid ambiguity at the breakfast table: “He ate cereal, kippers, bacon, eggs, toast and marmalade, and tea.”

Contrast these with a dinner described in a recent e-mail from John Pope, the author of a collection of obituaries that ran in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, who remains adamant in his rejection of the serial comma: “The next day, I enjoyed pan-roasted oysters with a tomato sauce over rice, broccoli salad and bread pudding with chocolate sauce.” A comma after “broccoli salad” would have cleared the table before dessert.

The case of the dairy-truck drivers’ comma has got several things going for it. It’s got David and Goliath in the story of the little guy sticking it to a corporate boss. It’s got men driving around in trucks with copies of Strunk & White in the glove compartment. And you know what else it’s got? Of course you do. It’s got milk. For all the backlash against the dairy industry—the ascendance of soy milk, almond milk, hemp milk (note the asyndeton), none of which, by the way, are really milk, because you can’t milk a hazelnut—there is something imperishably wholesome about cows and milk.

Got milk? Got commas?

Source: https://bit.ly/3gEtQWG

The made-up and mysterious world of Munchhausen Syndrome / Factitious Disorder.

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Things to Know about Factitious Disorder.

Most of us hate going to the doctor and being sick. It’s no fun to get blood drawn, take medication or undergo procedures. So when you learn about someone who is intentionally creating an illness or exaggerating symptoms on purpose, it can be mind boggling and confusing.

Causing illness in yourself or in someone else isn’t just a disorder that happens in Hollywood or on the big screen. Instead, recent movies and shows like Mommy Dead and Dearest and The Act have helped to shine light on a very real illness.

Psychiatric social worker Karen Salerno, MSSA, LISW-S, helps to break down this type of mental illness.

So what actually is it?

Factitious disorder imposed on self (FDIS) is a type of mental disorder in which a person will intentionally cause, create or exaggerate an injury or illness in his or herself. It was formerly referred to as Munchausen syndrome.

Factitious disorder imposed on another (FDIA) is a type of mental disorder when someone in a caretaker role (usually a parent or someone caring for an elderly relative) intentionally creates, causes or exaggerates an illness or injury in the person they’re caring for. It was formerly known as Munchausen by proxy.

Someone with factitious disorder will go to great lengths to make it seem like he or she is very sick, when in reality they may be the cause of their own illness. From tampering with test results, to lying and causing physical harm to themselves or the person they’re caring for – nothing is off-limits.

And why would someone do this? The main motivator behind factitious disorder is often a concrete gain in attention from others. Whether it’s from family, neighbors, colleagues or even on social media.

It’s believed that an estimated 1 to 2% of hospitalized patients have factitious disorder. But because it’s a disease of deceitfulness (and takes a team of doctors to diagnose), the number could actually be higher.

“It’s hard to account for how many people might actually have factitious disorder,” says Salerno. “A person with this disorder typically goes to multiple doctors all over the country. It’s challenging to keep track of what the person is doing and to establish a pattern of behavior.”

It takes a medical team made up of multiple providers and close scrutiny of medical records to diagnose the disorder.

A disorder of deception

Most people with factitious disorder don’t believe they have a mental illness. And because this disorder deals with deception and dishonesty, it can be difficult to spot.

Signs of factitious disorder can include:

  • Reporting symptoms that aren’t witnessed by others.
  • Receiving healthcare from multiple providers and often leaving healthcare facilities against medical advice.
  • Undergoing numerous extensive procedures and treatment.
  • Erratic medical history with a strange set of symptoms.
  • Enjoyment from being hospitalized.
  • Reluctance to allow anyone else to speak with their doctors.

These red flags can also be true of factitious disorder imposed on another.

When illness becomes your identity

Factitious disorder can come in all shapes and sizes, but over the past several decades, medical experts have started to piece together this mysterious illness.

Here are eight things to know about the disorder:

1.) Electronic medical records have made it easier to identify.

Before the arrival of electronic medical records, those with factitious disorder could typically move from doctor to doctor with little explanation or paperwork. But when healthcare organizations switched over to digital patient files, it helped professionals begin to track and see a patient’s full medical history.

“It was harder to diagnose factitious disorder when medical records were just on paper,” explains Salerno. “You had no idea what other doctors the patient was seeing and what symptoms the patient was reporting. Electronic medical records still don’t show us everything, but it helps piece things together and establish a pattern of behavior.”

2.) People with factitious disorder are “professional patients.”

Most people with factitious disorder are knowledgeable about medical terminology and the medical field. Often times, the person may have worked previously in healthcare. This allows them to describe their symptoms and illness in great detail. He or she might know a lot about medication, tests and treatments and may even ask for invasive medical procedures by name.

3.) Social media has made it easier for patients to deceive a wider audience.

With social media, it has made it easier for those with factitious disorder to receive attention or sympathy from a larger group of people.

“A lot of people with this disorder will post things on social media about their illness that simply aren’t true,” says Salerno. “It’s all about attention-seeking behavior, whether it’s asking for money or to gain emotional support through others.”

4.) Factitious disorder imposed on another is a form of abuse.

Any time a person fakes or creates an illness in someone they’re caring for, it’s considered a form of abuse. This can be done to a child, elderly adult or someone with a disability.

Suspect it’s happening to someone around you? Salerno recommends to:

• Keep a journal of the person’s symptoms.
• If you can, discuss your concerns with the person’s treating physician.
• Call Child or Adult Protective Services (your identity will remain anonymous).

5.) Attention is often the main motivator.

People with factitious disorder are often looking for emotional support and attention from others. They believe they can achieve this through faking an illness or injury. The worst part? Attention only fuels more lies and deceitfulness.

“It can be attention from family, neighbors bringing over food or even strangers donating money on social media,” says Salerno. “The attention the person receives further encourages the behavior.”

6.) The cause is complex.

Although the exact cause of this illness is unknown, most experts believe that factitious disorder is linked to both biological and psychological factors, says Salerno. So whether it’s from family conflict, parental divorce, grief, trauma or abuse – it can all play a role in developing this type of mental illness.

7.) It takes a village to diagnose.

Given the lying and deception involved, those with the disorder are often times the least suspected – and that’s what makes it so tricky to identify. In order to be officially diagnosed, someone else has to physically witness the person inducing the illness or injury in themselves or in another person. Often times, it takes a large team to help diagnose (which can include psychiatrists, physicians, social workers, case managers, infectious disease specialists, bioethicists and sometimes even law enforcement officials). The medical team looks at the patient holistically and tries to piece everything together to get the bigger picture of what’s really going on.

8.) There is treatment available.

Some people with factious disorder might not ever admit to causing their symptoms. Those that do have a long road to recovery to identify the issues that caused this type of behavior in the first place. The person has to be willing to acknowledge that there’s a problem.

Types of treatment can include psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy) and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).

“CBT helps identify thoughts and feelings that are contributing to the deceptive behavior,” says Salerno. “If the person strongly identifies in the ‘sick role’ then it’s hard to see themselves as healthy. CBT provides skills that the patient can use to form relationships that are not associated with being sick,” says Salerno.

U.K taxpayers were paying compensation to slave traders until 2015.

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U.K taxpayers were paying compensation to slave traders until 2015.

Revelations that UK taxpayers have been paying compensation to slave traders up until 2015 has caused outrage on social media following the Black Lives Matter protests.

The government pledged £20 million in 1833 in order to reimburse the owners of slaves when slavery was abolished in Britain.

The sum, while big now, was monstrous in 1833, and it took the British taxpayer 182 years to pay off.

The information was revealed by the Treasury after a freedom of Information request from the Bristol Post.

Slave capital of Britain

The city – once known as the ‘slave capital’ of Britain – has become the focus of protests after a statue of Edward Colston was toppled.

The bronze memorial to the slave trader, situated in the city centre since 1895, was torn down after crowds left College Green as part of a Black Lives Matter demonstration.

It had been the subject of an 11,000-strong petition to have it removed.

Images showed crowds rushing to stamp on the statue, which stood in Colston Avenue, before it was rolled along the road and pushed into the harbour.

Slave descendants paying compensation to slave owners

But despite there being no compensation for the victims of the slave trade, what many people don’t realise is that UK taxpayers have been paying money to wealthy slave owners for centuries.

As Bristol historian Kirsten Elliott said at the time, not only were the freed slaves given no compensation themselves, the debt meant their descendants paid off the money that went to their ancestors’ owners.

“Am I right in thinking that means that descendants of slaves – who never got any compensation – have been paying for the compensation paid to slave owners?” she said.

Don’t you think it’s disgusting…

Stand-up comedian London Hughes has reignited the debate over slave trader compensation this week.

She tweeted:

“Don’t you think it’s disgusting that when slavery ended, the UK government paid out millions to former slave owners as a way of saying sorry. The debt was so huge it came out of tax payers money until 2015. Which means that I helped pay off the people that tortured my ancestors.”

And others were quick to point it out too.

Source: https://bit.ly/2ZavdXe

Facebook Copy-and-Paste Posts Promising to ‘Bypass,’ ‘Reset’ Facebook Are Hoaxes.

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Facebook Copy-and-Paste Posts Promising to ‘Bypass,’ ‘Reset’ Facebook Are Hoaxes.

Amid near-constant scrutiny for its content-review policy and data-sharing practices, Facebook has also been plagued with another problem—spam posts. An old scam/hoax has become new again as copy-and-paste posts go viral once more. The scam is about “bypassing” or “resetting” Facebook in order to see more friends in your newsfeed.

The posts, like many other Facebook scams, ask that users copy and paste the post into their newsfeeds. It reads: “Thanks for the tips to bypass FB y’all. I have a whole new news feed. I’m seeing posts from people I haven’t seen in years. Here’s how to bypass the system FB now has in place that limits posts on your news feed.”

Ignoring the fact that Facebook’s algorithm generally shows those you interact with most frequently as the ones you’ll see most often in your news feed, the post continues: “Their new algorithm chooses the same few people – about 25 – who will read your posts. Therefore, Hold your finger down anywhere in this post and ‘copy’ will pop up. Click ‘copy’. Then go to your page, start a new post and put your finger anywhere in the blank field. ‘Paste’ will pop up and click paste. This will bypass the system.”

Other cut-and-paste scams read in a similar way.

“Hi new and old friends! Fixed my blocked posts I wondered where everybody had been! This is good to know: It’s ridiculous friends and only 25 are allowed to see my post,” another post reads. “I ignored this post earlier, because I didn’t think it worked. It WORKS!! I have a whole new news feed. I’m seeing posts from people I haven’t seen in years.” The post continues with instructions of how to copy and paste into your newsfeed to “bypass Facebook.”

Newsweek reached out to Facebook for comment on the spam posts, but Facebook did not immediately respond.

According to the fact-checking site Snopes, the copy and paste Facebook hoax started last year. Some posts, the Snopes notes, Facebook limits your feed 26 people, while say 25. Facebook did switch its algorithm this year, but the change actually allowed more of your friends show up in your newsfeed at the expense of pages you follow.

“With this update, we will also prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people. To do this, we will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in feed,” Facebook said in an announcement on January 11. “These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to.

“We will also prioritize posts from friends and family over public content, consistent with our News Feed values,” Facebook’s statement said.

Earlier this year, another old Facebook scam resurfaced—the fake Facebook friend request. Similar to the copy and paste posts, they were nothing more than spam posts filling up your newsfeed.

Source: https://bit.ly/38Rucq5

How Much Do We Need The Police?

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How Much Do We Need The Police?

One effect of the widespread protests across U.S. cities this week has been to renew discussions of what role the police should play in society.

For many Americans, it goes without saying that the police are critical in maintaining public safety. Have an emergency? Call the police. But many others — especially black people and poor people — have long countered that the police pose more of a threat to their safety than a boon. See a police officer? Walk in the other direction.

So it seems like a good moment to talk to Alex S. Vitale. He’s the author of the 2017 book The End of Policing. In it, he argues that rather than focus on police reform or officer retraining, the country needs to reconsider fundamentally what it is the police should be doing at all.

I spoke with Vitale about what roles police should and shouldn’t play, what he makes of the current protests and what actual change in the way police in this country do their jobs might look like. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

One of the arguments you make in The End of Policing is that police are being asked to do too much. They’re basically being tasked with addressing every social problem that we have. So what are police asked to do? And what should they be asked to do?

One of the problems that we’re encountering here is this massive expansion in the scope of policing over the last 40 years or so. Policing is now happening in our schools. It’s happening in relation to the problems of homelessness, untreated mental illness, youth violence and some things that we historically associate police with.

But the policing has become more intensive, more invasive, more aggressive. So what I’m calling for is a rethink on why we’ve turned all of these social problems over to the police to manage. And as we dial those things back, then we can think more concretely about what the rest of policing should look like and how that could be reformed.

You brought up homelessness. In many cities police are tasked with dealing with people experiencing homelessness — but they don’t have many options besides basically moving people or arresting them.

Well, we’ve created this situation where our political leaders have basically abandoned the possibility of actually housing people. Which, of course, is the real solution, supportive housing for those who need extra support. But basically, we have a massive failure in housing markets that is unable to provide basic shelter for millions of Americans.

So instead of actually addressing that fundamental problem, we have relabeled it as a problem that is the fault of the disorderly people who we label as morally deficient. And then we use police to criminalize them, to control their behavior and to reduce their disorderly impact on the rest of us. And this is perverse and unjust. So then it places police in this completely untenable situation, because they completely lack the tools to make this problem any better. And yet we’ve told them it’s their problem to manage.

Part of our misunderstanding about the nature of policing is we keep imagining that we can turn police into social workers. That we can make them nice, friendly community outreach workers. But police are violence workers. That’s what distinguishes them from all other government functions. … They have the legal capacity to use violence in situations where the average citizen would be arrested.

So when we turn a problem over to the police to manage, there will be violence, because those are ultimately the tools that they are most equipped to utilize: handcuffs, threats, guns, arrests. That’s what really is at the root of policing. So if we don’t want violence, we should try to figure out how to not get the police involved.

There are obviously a lot of people who agree broadly with the notion that the way that policing happens in this country is a problem and that there needs to be some sort of change. But they’re pretty invested in the idea that police are needed to maintain public safety. People ask the question, without police, what do you do when someone gets murdered? What do you do when someone’s house gets robbed? What do you say to those people who have those concerns?

Well, I’m certainly not talking about any kind of scenario where tomorrow someone just flips a switch and there are no police. What I’m talking about is the systematic questioning of the specific roles that police currently undertake, and attempting to develop evidence-based alternatives so that we can dial back our reliance on them. And my feeling is that this encompasses actually the vast majority of what police do. We have better alternatives for them.

Even if you take something like burglary — a huge amount of burglary activity is driven by drug use. And we need to completely rethink our approach to drugs so that property crime isn’t the primary way that people access drugs. We don’t have any part of this country that has high-quality medical drug treatment on demand. But we have policing on demand everywhere. And it’s not working.

Obviously, a big part of what is on people’s minds right now is the role that police have in dealing with protesters, dealing with different types of political unrest. In your book, you talk a lot about the history of how police have been used to quell social unrest. Can you talk about that history a little bit?

Well, I think that one of the myths we have about policing is that it is politically neutral, and that it is always here to sort of create order in a way that benefits everyone. But the reality is that America’s social order has never been entirely equitable. We have a long history of exploitation of the Indigenous population, of African Americans through slavery, Jim Crow and today.

And while we’re not using police to manage slavery or colonialism today, we are using police to manage the problems that our very unequal system has produced. We’re invested in this kind of austerity politics that says the government can’t afford to really do anything to lift people up. We have to put all our resources into subsidizing the already most successful parts of the economy. But those parts of the economy are producing this huge group of people who are homeless, unemployed, have untreated mental health and substance abuse problems. And then we ask the police to put a lid on those problems — to manage them so they don’t interfere with the “order” that we’re supposedly all benefiting from.

But if you’re one of those poor people, one of those folks with a mental health problem, someone who’s involved in black market activities to survive, then you experience this as constant criminalization.

And would you say the same goes for people who are political protesters?

Political protest has always been a part of this dynamic, right? Political protests are a threat to the order of this system. And so policing has always been the primary tool for managing those threats to the public order. Just as we understand the use of police to deal with homelessness as a political failure, every time we turn a political order problem over to the police to manage, that’s also a political failure. I think the mayor of Minneapolis, for instance: Jacob Frey. He has consistently tried to frame this as a problem of a few bad apples. And he says, “Why are you protesting? We fired them.” But this completely misunderstands the nature of the grievances. And instead of actually addressing those grievances, he’s throwing police at the problem.

Are the interactions that are happening right now between police and protesters something that you think is predictable? Or is this something new that we haven’t seen before?

It’s not completely new; it’s just the intensity of it compared [with], let’s say, five years ago during the Eric Garner and the Mike Brown protests. What we’re seeing is really an immediate escalation to very high levels of force, a high degree of confrontation.

And I think part of it is driven by deep frustration within policing, which is that police feel under assault, and they have no answer. They trotted out all the possible solutions: police-community dialogue sessions, implicit bias training, community policing, body cameras. And it just didn’t work. It didn’t make any difference. And so they ran out of excuses.

So the protests today are a much more kind of existential threat to the police. And the police are overreacting as a result.

If we were to take serious steps toward moving in the direction of having police address fewer of our social problems and putting those problems in the hands of people who are actually more equipped to deal with them, what would be the next step? What is the next thing that we as a country have to push for?

I think this will look like a series of local budget battles. And that’s really what’s going on across the country, is when we have these divest campaigns in places like Los Angeles and Minneapolis and New York and Durham, N.C., and Nashville, Tenn., and Dallas, Texas. These are folks who are saying concretely: “We don’t want police in our schools. We want that money spent in ways that help our children, not criminalize them. We don’t want more money for overtime for narcotics officers. We want actual drug treatment programs, safe injection facilities, things that will help people.” So that’s what this looks like. It’s about rallying city council members and mayors around a new vision of creating healthier communities.

When you’re looking around at what’s happening right now, what are the things that you think people need to understand to really process what is going on around the country?

Well, I think the police are making the argument for us, right? People started this conversation by saying policing is out of control; they’re not making the situation better. They have not been reformed. Well, now all you have to do is turn on the nightly news and see how true that is.

The level of aggression and unnecessary escalation is stark evidence of how unreformed policing is, and I argue how unreformable it is. The question is whether or not people will take it to the next step and ask the tough political questions. Why are our mayors turning this over to the police to manage? Why are we using curfews instead of having conversations? Why are we throwing protesters in prison instead of trying to figure out what’s driving all of this anger?

Source: https://n.pr/2O5hM4p

The pandemic shows it’s time for an alternative to American capitalism.

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The pandemic shows it’s time for an alternative to American capitalism.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the inherent flaws of American capitalism, a profit-driven system of winners and losers that is unprepared to respond to a national emergency and ill-equipped to address the basic needs of society. While the coronavirus has created an historic economic crisis, a dire emergency of economic inequality and injustice in this country long predated the outbreak. Capitalism must undergo structural change. The nation has an opportunity to take advantage of this transformative event and pursue an alternative to the current system.

The failures and shortcomings of American capitalism have made the country particularly vulnerable to a plague. Over 47 million people—more than 1 in 4 U.S. workers—have filed for unemployment since mid-March. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the pandemic is projected to cost the U.S. economy nearly $8 trillion in real GDP through 2030, prompting calls for more federal assistance to states and businesses to stave off permanent job loss. The coronavirus killed all jobs created since the Great Recession, and the economic environment rivals the Great Depression in severity of unemployment. Research suggests many of these jobs will never return. The newly unemployed now form mile-long bread lines as farmers destroy crops and euthanize herds.

The pandemic has exposed a U.S. economy lacking resilience, and a social welfare system which has been gutted and lacks robustness thanks to corporate lobbying and Reagan-era conditioning that government is part of the problem. Although other countries have suffered greatly, the U.S. was uniquely positioned for disaster as the only wealthy nation without universal healthcare, and because of the perilous decision by its political leadership to choose massive unemployment with little relief beyond a one-time stimulus payment, much less a plan for recovery. In contrast, European nations and Canada are offering monthly government payments, providing as much as 90 percent of workers’ salaries for the duration of the pandemic.

Under American capitalism, which operates on competition and individualism rather than collective action and social uplift, the U.S. is not protecting the health and economic security of its citizens. The wealthiest nation in the world has failed to provide adequate testing, contact tracing, ventilators, and masks during the pandemic—because this is not profitable. In a mad rush to reopen, state governments and big business are forcing workers to make a choice: Return to work and risk their lives, or stay home, lose their unemployment benefits, and go hungry. And while Wall Street enjoys bailouts and billionaires profiteer during the pandemic, poor and working people are suffering from years of widening inequality, with no relief in sight. The U.S. economic system was not designed for this moment.

These times demand a reinvention of the corporation. A concept that has gained ground of late is stakeholder capitalism or moral capitalism—the notion that business requires moral leadership and cannot solely concern itself with the corporate world, because all areas of society are interconnected. Whereas the business world is driven by the supremacy of company shareholders and increasing the return on their investment, stakeholder capitalism dictates that members of the greater community are just as important as those who own stock in the company.

Last year, the Business Roundtable issued a statement from 181 CEOs “who commit to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders—customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders,” and redefine the purpose of a corporation to promote “an economy that serves all Americans.” Arguing the “American dream is alive, but fraying” and advocating the free market as the best system for job creation, economic opportunity, innovation, and the environment, the group declares “Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity.”

But the free market has been anything but free, as the private sector has long depended on government intervention, and workers are left to fend for themselves. Corporations were rewarded with bailouts during the 2008 financial crisis and exorbitant tax cuts in 2017 that benefited the few, and were funneled into stock buybacks to give more money back to shareholders rather than workers, who still face more layoffs amid rising profits. Now the coronavirus has exposed the precariousness of workers, as worker bargaining power has declined over the past decades and given rise to the gig economy. According to a 2018 Federal Reserve survey, almost 40 percent of Americans were unprepared for a $400 emergency, and a quarter skipped necessary medical care because they couldn’t afford it. Amid wage stagnation, working people have depended on credit cards to survive.

While the business sector can and should do better, labor advocates argue that employers cannot rely on CEO morality to save them, as employer benevolence comes only through labor unions and organizing, and even the most enlightened corporations are motivated foremost by profit and the market. Capitalism is failing workers, they argue, pointing to companies’ union-busting activities and the firing of labor organizers who seek protections for workers that threaten to eat into corporate profits. Democratic control of corporations through worker buyouts, employee ownership, and worker cooperatives would fuel a more equitable distribution of wealth through good wages and benefits and an equal share of company profits, center the needs of workers and the community, and address greed and corruption at a time when many companies are failing to provide a living wage.

COVID-19 has ushered in a new reality that makes going back to normal impossible and more state action in the economy inevitable. Under a system of “managed capitalism,” the government would regulate the business sector more robustly; tax corporations to pay for infrastructure, education, and other social goods; and implement industrial policy in the mold of many East Asian nations such as Japan, China, and South Korea. Industrial policy involves aggressive and heavy-handed government intervention in the economy that incentivizes private production of goods, subsidies to industries, protection of certain sectors from foreign competition, and other measures, with coordinated, long-term goals.

A sustainable and equitable capitalism would mean lower pay for CEOs, particularly of, but not limited to, companies receiving government bailouts; higher taxes for corporations; and, like Belgium, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland, a wealth tax that would raise trillions of dollars in revenue, tackle endemic inequality, and redistribute wealth downward. Former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren proposed taxing a family’s wealth over $50 million at 2 percent annually and at 3 percent on wealth over $1 billion, while Bernie Sanders proposed a tax on extreme wealth for people worth above $32 million. Such a tax could pay for universal childcare and healthcare, affordable housing, and other social programs.

Rethinking American capitalism means overcoming an addiction to infinite economic growth that is plundering the planet and imposing unbearable environmental and societal costs. The country requires a planned de-growth of the economy that, unlike austerity and disaster capitalism, favors human well-being, including a cut in unnecessary consumption, a shorter workweek, a low-carbon, less industrialized society to deal with climate change, and a universal basic income. Other countries with a more robust social safety net have not experienced the inequality, economic turmoil, and dislocation Americans have faced in the so-called “land of opportunity.”

Transforming the American economy requires a rethinking of the political system. According to a 2017 report from the Harvard Business School, the U.S. political system is the primary impediment to solving the country’s major challenges, a factor that has undermined U.S. competitiveness and public trust in the federal government. Further, the authors argue that the system is not broken, but rather is delivering based on how it was designed. “The real problem is that our political system is no longer designed to serve the public interest, and has been slowly reconfigured to benefit the private interests of gain-seeking organizations: our major political parties and their industry allies,” the authors wrote, recommending a restructuring of the election process and system of governing, and diminishing the influence of money in politics.

American capitalism cannot return to normal, because a system thriving on inequality, greed, and abject cruelty rather than the common good is inherently flawed and unsustainable. Throughout history, wars, pandemics, and other crises have acted as agents for social change. Rather than seek incremental reforms, the U.S. must shift course as it is compelled to do, and pursue nothing short of an overhaul to avert economic devastation and social unrest.

Source: https://bit.ly/3gIbHab

White Supremacist Ideas Have Historical Roots In U.S Christianity.

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White Supremacist Ideas Have Historical Roots In U.S. Christianity.

When a young Southern Baptist pastor named Alan Cross arrived in Montgomery, Ala., in January 2000, he knew it was where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. had his first church and where Rosa Parks helped launched the famous bus boycott, but he didn’t know some other details of the city’s role in civil rights history.

The more he learned, the more troubled he became by one event in particular: the savage attack in May 1961 on a busload of Black and white Freedom Riders who had traveled defiantly together to Montgomery in a challenge to segregation. Over the next 15 years, Cross, who is white, would regularly take people to the old Greyhound depot in Montgomery to highlight what happened that spring day.

“They pull in right here, on the side,” Cross said, standing in front of the depot. “And it was quiet when they got here. But then once they start getting off the bus, around 500 people come out – men, women and children. Men were holding the Freedom Riders back, and the women were hitting them with their purses and holding their children up to claw their faces.” Some of the men carried lead pipes and baseball bats. Two of the Freedom Riders, the civil rights activist John Lewis and a white ally, James Zwerg, were beaten unconscious.

Though he had grown up in Mississippi and was familiar with the history of racial conflict in the South, Cross was horrified by the story of the 1961 attack on the Freedom Riders. Montgomery was known as a city of churches. Fresh out of seminary, Cross had come there to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Why didn’t white Christians show up?” he recalled wondering.

To his dismay, Cross learned that many of the people in the white mob were regular churchgoers. In the years that followed, he made it part of his ministry to educate his fellow Christians about the attack and prompt them to reflect on its meaning.

“You think about the South being Christian, but this wasn’t Christianity,” Cross said. “So what happened here in the white church? How did we get to that point?” It’s a question he explored in his 2014 book, When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus.

The answer to the question lies partly in U.S. history, beginning in the days of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, but not ending there. Elements of racist ideology have long been present in white Christianity in the United States.

Racism from the pulpit

Less than three weeks after the 1961 attack on the Freedom Riders, Montgomery’s most prominent pastor, Henry Lyon Jr., gave a fiery speech before the local white Citizens’ Council, denouncing the civil rights protesters and the cause for which they were beaten — from a “Christian” perspective.

“Ladies and gentlemen, for 15 years I have had the privilege of being pastor of a white Baptist church in this city,” Lyon said. “If we stand 100 years from now, it will still be a white church. I am a believer in a separation of the races, and I am none the less a Christian.” The crowd applauded.

“If you want to get in a fight with the one that started separation of the races, then you come face to face with your God,” he declared. “The difference in color, the difference in our body, our minds, our life, our mission upon the face of this earth, is God given.”

Lyon saw himself as a devout Bible believer, and he was far from an extremist in the Southern Baptist world. A former president of the Alabama Baptist Convention, his Montgomery church had more than 3,000 members.

How respected people of God could openly promote racist views was a question that would trouble many Southerners in the years that followed. Among them was a young woman growing up in East Texas in the 1970s, Carolyn Renée Dupont. The girl’s grandmother took her regularly to church, made her listen to sermons on the radio and gave her a quarter for every Bible verse she memorized. But the grandmother believed just as deeply in the superiority of the white race.

“I asked her about that once,” Dupont recalled, “and she said, ‘I just don’t believe Blacks should be treated the same as whites.’ ” Dupont, now a historian at Eastern Kentucky University, said the experience with her grandmother spurred her to focus her research on the racial views of Southern white evangelicals. “I wanted to understand what seemed like a central riddle about the South,” she said. “The part of the country that was the most fervent about religious faith was also the one that practiced white supremacy most enthusiastically.” It was the same question that bothered Cross as a young pastor in Montgomery.

Slavery and the Bible

At an earlier point in American history, some Christian theologians went so far as to argue that the enslavement of human beings was justifiable from a biblical point of view. James Henley Thornwell, a Harvard-educated scholar who committed huge sections of the Bible to memory, regularly defended slavery and promoted white supremacy from his pulpit at the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., where he was the senior pastor in the years leading up to the Civil War.

“As long as that [African] race, in its comparative degradation, co-exists side by side with the white,” Thornwell declared in a famous 1861 sermon, “bondage is its normal condition.” Thornwell was a slave owner, and in his public pronouncements he told fellow Christians they need not feel guilty about enslaving other human beings.

“The relation of master and slave stands on the same foot with the other relations of life,” Thornwell insisted. “In itself, it is not inconsistent with the will of God. It is not sinful.” The Christian Scriptures, Thornwell said, “not only fail to condemn; they as distinctly sanction slavery as any other social condition of man.”

Among the New Testament verses Thornwell could cite was the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he writes, “Slaves, obey your human masters, with fear and trembling and sincerity of heart.” (Biblical scholars now discount the relevance of the passage to a consideration of chattel slavery.)

Thornwell’s reassurance was immensely important to all those who had a stake in the existing economic and political system in the South. In justifying slavery, he was speaking not just as a theologian but as a Southern patriot. In the First Presbyterian cemetery, Thornwell’s name appears prominently on a monument to church members who served the Confederate cause in the Civil War.

“Slavery, in the minds of many, was necessary for the South to thrive,” said Bobby Donaldson, director of the Center for Civil Rights History and Research at the University of South Carolina. “So Thornwell used his pulpit to defend the South against charges by the North, by abolitionists. … He provided the intellectual defenses that many slaveholders needed.”

Thornwell’s First Presbyterian congregation included slave owners and businessmen and other members of the political and economic elite in Columbia, and as their pastor he represented their interests. A belief in white supremacy was a foundational part of Southern culture, which is one reason some otherwise devout Christians have failed to challenge it.

The Southern way

Lyon’s opening prayer before the white Citizens’ Council meeting in Montgomery included words starkly reminiscent of the Civil War era. “We stand on the sacred soil of Alabama in the cradle of the Confederacy of our beloved Southland,” he said. “Help us to realize with all of the fervency of our heart and mind that every inch of ground we stand on tonight is sacred and honorable.”

A fear that their regional culture was at risk lay behind much of the opposition to the civil rights movement among Southern Christians. Cross, the Montgomery pastor who was dismayed by what he learned of the attack on the Freedom Riders, ultimately decided that the best explanation for the involvement of Christians was that they were acting on the basis of their perceived self-interest.

“People try to protect their way of life,” he said. “You know, ‘What’s best for me and my family?’ You even begin to use God as a means to an end. It makes a lot of sense to people, and they’re, like, ‘Well, that’s what everybody does.’ ”

A “don’t-rock-the-boat” philosophy can have a powerful appeal among people who are unnerved by the prospect of social change, and church leaders may feel powerless to counter it.

In 1965, Lyon’s more moderate son, Henry Lyon III, was called to lead an all-white Baptist church in Selma, Ala. He arrived in the city two months after the “Bloody Sunday” confrontation on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, when more than 2,000 civil rights marchers were savagely attacked by Alabama state troopers and local law officers. The younger Lyon, who died in 2018, never adopted his father’s bigoted rhetoric, and his wife, Sara Jane Lyon, said he was willing to open his church to African Americans. During the 21 years Lyon was the church’s pastor, however, his congregation never accepted Black members, apparently because he did not feel free to press the issue.

“Selma wasn’t ready for it,” Sara Jane Lyon told NPR in an interview. “He knew it would accomplish nothing if he upset everybody and pushed, you know, to integrate the church.”

Churches operate within a cultural context. By challenging local customs and perspectives, pastors may alienate the white economic and political players who serve as their deacons, elders, Sunday School teachers and financial supporters.

In his sermons, Sara Jane Lyon recalled, her husband would tell his congregation, “I have not come here to change your heart. There’s no way I can do that. … Only the Lord can change your heart.” Asked whether her husband ever discussed racial justice as a pastor, she said, “That was not his style of preaching. He didn’t get up and talk about local issues. He preached the Word of God.”

The church and the status quo

After leaving Selma, the Lyons relocated to Montgomery and joined the First Baptist Church there. With about 5,000 members, the church has a central place in civic life. The congregation is almost entirely white, but it’s not because of a deliberate policy. The pastor, Jay Wolf, said he welcomes everyone.

“When I came to know the Lord, I became colorblind,” Wolf said. When some visitors asked Wolf how many African Americans attended his church, he said he had “no idea.”

“I don’t know how many white members we have,” Wolf told NPR. “Like, does it make any difference? I just know that we have people, crafted in the image of God. I am completely resistant to this idea of breaking things down on a demographic basis. We are the body of Christ, and we need Jesus, and that’s all I need to know.”

On the other side of Montgomery, where African Americans are concentrated, Pastor Terrence Jones also preaches about needing Jesus, though with a message attuned to a multiracial congregation. The son of a Black Southern Baptist preacher, Jones said he thinks the Christian church is partly to blame for America “dropping the ball,” in his words, on race issues.

“The message of Jesus is a unifying message,” Jones said. “According to Ephesians 2, he tears down ‘every dividing wall of hostility’ through his death on the cross. I think we’ve done a poor job of showing the world that, because we’ve been so segregated.”

Jones argues that Christians need to focus on racism far more seriously.

“When people get shot, when our president says something racially charged, people get pushed into their corners, and they don’t wrestle with what does this mean for me as a minority, what does this mean for me as a white person, but also, what does this mean for me as a follower of Jesus?”

At the time of the civil rights movement, King argued that church leaders needed to take a broad view of their mission and accept responsibility for addressing social inequity. In his 1963 Letter From a Birmingham Jail, written in longhand from his jail cell, King lamented the failure of “white churchmen” to stand up for racial justice when it meant challenging the local power structure.

“So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound,” King wrote. “So often it is an arch-defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent — and often even vocal — sanction of things as they are.”

A theology of inaction

Some white Christian leaders have even provided moral and theological reasoning for their reluctance to challenge the existing system. Evangelicals in particular generally prioritize an individual’s own salvation experience over social concerns. The primary mission of the church in this view is to win souls for Christ. Working for racial justice, in contrast, may be seen as a “political” issue.

“In that configuration, immorality only lives in the individual person,” said Dupont, the religion historian who grew up in Texas. “There’s no conception of systemic injustice and systemic sin.”

Civil rights activists who cited the Bible in support of their cause were often dismissed as “a bunch of theological liberals,” Dupont said. “And then it becomes an argument about who really believes the Bible. If Christianity is really about individual salvation, and the mission of the church is to win the lost, then [it is said that] these people who are telling us we need to get involved in the civil rights movement are just trying to lead us astray.”

The rejection of a “social gospel” remains popular among those conservative evangelicals today who see advocating for Black Lives Matter or immigrant rights as political activities. It is an argument with roots extending back to the theology of Thornwell and like-minded religion scholars of the 19th century.

“What, then, is the Church?” Thornwell asked in his 1851 Report on Slavery. “It is not, as we fear too many regard it, a moral institute of universal good whose business it is to wage war upon every form of human ill, whether social, civil, political or moral.”

Such pronouncements have made Thornwell popular among “orthodox” Christian theologians who rebel against liberal interpretations of the church’s mission in the modern world. Once his pronouncements on slavery and race are disregarded, Thornwell’s theological views still resonate.

One of the buildings on the grounds of his former church in South Carolina is Thornwell Hall. Until it closed due to concerns over the coronavirus, the building was used for children’s education. The First Presbyterian ministerial staff has not been overly concerned that by honoring Thornwell, it may be offending potential African American members.

“As far as I know, it has not kept people from our doors,” said Gabe Fluhrer, an associate pastor at the church.

Fluhrer has studied Thornwell’s writings, many of which are highly sophisticated, and he is dismayed that the theologian’s views on slavery and race have made it more difficult for people to appreciate his broader biblical insight.

“If it were an impediment [to someone],” Fluhrer said, “I would love to speak to that person and say, ‘Look, we need to condemn what is wrong with him, and we need to celebrate what is good.’ He got a lot right on the Scriptures and everything wrong when it comes to race.”

Getting everything wrong with regard to race, however, can be an unforgivable failing for people whose life experience is shaped by racism.

For many years, African American worshippers were relegated to the First Presbyterian balcony. Church authorities later permitted them to have a church a few blocks away where they could worship separately under the supervision of the First Presbyterian elders. It became known as Ladson Presbyterian Church, after one of the church’s early pastors.

The church has only a few dozen active members these days, but the congregation is close, and the Sunday services are intimate and joyful gatherings. There is no longer any connection to the original church.

“I don’t know anyone who goes to First Presbyterian,” said Rosena Lucas, 88, a longtime Ladson member. “I’ve never had any interest [in attending].”

Nor has Hemphill Pride, an elder in the Ladson congregation. “I see that church as a stranger, really,” he said. For Pride and other Ladson members, the Thornwell connection still taints the parent church.

“It’s an affront to me,” Pride said. “[To have] buildings named after people who interpreted the Bible in that manner is disrespectful to all Black people.”

Source: https://n.pr/2BncNJO

Scientists estimate there are around 30 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy.

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Scientists estimate there are around 30 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy.

Are we alone in the universe? Astronomers have been debating this question for centuries, hunting for signs of life in a world that is not our own. Humans have built satellites, probed the stars, and in general just pondered the binary answers of “yes” and “no” for centuries.

However, a team of researchers have developed a new approach to help resolve life’s biggest mystery. Based on what we already know of how life evolved on Earth, they came to the stunning conclusion that there could be more than 30 intelligent civilizations across the galaxy that are active right now.The study, published Monday in The Astrophysical Journal, not only narrows down previous estimates of life in the wider cosmos, but also sheds light on the longevity of life here on Earth. If other civilizations don’t exist at the same time we do in the Milky Way, then maybe our time is rather short lived.

Is anybody out there? For a 100 years, humans have been trying to communicate with extraterrestrial civilizations. KTSDESIGN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

THE SOLAR SYSTEM FORMED AROUND 4.5 BILLION YEARS AGO, and our home planet formed from a swirling disc of gas and dust millions of miles away from its host star. However, the first signs of microbial life appeared on Earth around 3.5 billion years ago, taking about a billion years to develop.

And it then took much longer for modern humans to evolve, dating back around 200,000 years, and for modern civilization to begin around 6,000 years ago.

Following all those years, human beings became an intelligent, communicating civilization around 100 years ago.

Considering that it took nearly 5 billion years for a technological civilization to exist on a planet, and assuming that life evolved on other planets the same way it did on Earth, the team of researchers behind the new study estimate that there could be 36 other alien civilizations or more in the Milky Way alone.

The criteria for these civilizations is based on how long they have been actively sending out signals of their existence out into the universe, such as radio transmissions, the same way that Earthlings have.

“The idea is looking at evolution, but on a cosmic scale,” Christopher Conselice, professor of Astrophysics at the University of Nottingham, and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “We call this calculation the Astrobiological Copernican Limit.”

Rather than the traditional method of looking for signs of extraterrestrial life in the distant cosmos by discovering and exploring alien planets, the study came up with an estimate based on how long it took for our own civilization to develop on Earth, and how long we have been around on this planet.

However, the researchers estimate that these extraterrestrial civilizations may be located around 17,000 light years away, which would make it hard to detect or communicate with them with our current technology. But, maybe they’re ahead of us with their own technology.

Of course, if it turns out that no other active modern civilization exists elsewhere in the Milky Way at the moment, it doesn’t bode very well for us. It could be an indication that the survival window for civilizations like ours is quite small, and we basically keep missing each other.

“Our new research suggests that searches for extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations not only reveals the existence of how life forms, but also gives us clues for how long our own civilization will last,” Conselice said. “If we find that intelligent life is common then this would reveal that our civilization could exist for much longer than a few hundred years, alternatively if we find that there are no active civilizations in our Galaxy it is a bad sign for our own long-term existence.”

Abstract: We present a cosmic perspective on the search for life and examine the likely number of Communicating Extra-Terrestrial Intelligent (CETI) civilizations in our Galaxy by utilizing the latest astrophysical information. Our calculation involves Galactic star formation histories, metallicity distributions, and the likelihood of stars hosting Earth-like planets in their habitable zones, under specific assumptions which we describe as the Astrobiological Copernican Weak and Strong conditions. These assumptions are based on the one situation in which intelligent, communicative life is known to exist—on our own planet. This type of life has developed in a metal-rich environment and has taken roughly 5 Gyr to do so. We investigate the possible number of CETI civilizations based on different scenarios. At one extreme is the Weak Astrobiological Copernican scenario—such that a planet forms intelligent life sometime after 5 Gyr, but not earlier. The other is the Strong Astrobiological Copernican scenario in which life must form between 4.5 and 5.5 Gyr, as on Earth. In the Strong scenario (under the strictest set of assumptions), we find there should be at least civilizations within our Galaxy: this is a lower limit, based on the assumption that the average lifetime, L, of a communicating civilization is 100 yr (since we know that our own civilization has had radio communications for this time). If spread uniformly throughout the Galaxy this would imply that the nearest CETI is at most lt-yr away and most likely hosted by a low-mass M-dwarf star, likely far surpassing our ability to detect it for the foreseeable future, and making interstellar communication impossible. Furthermore, the likelihood that the host stars for this life are solar-type stars is extremely small and most would have to be M dwarfs, which may not be stable enough to host life over long timescales. We furthermore explore other scenarios and explain the likely number of CETI there are within the Galaxy based on variations of our assumptions.

Source: https://bit.ly/2VGyBqC