20 “American” Traditions We Totally Stole from Other Cultures – By ALEX DANIEL MAY 25, 2018

America is a country rich in tradition. But what a lot of us don’t realize is that many of the traditions for which we’re super proud aren’t even ours to begin with. Take our holy “American” cuisine of barbecue. Did you know that actually begins with the Spanish? Also, did you know that “the Star-Spangled Banner” was originally written by a British man? And what about the fact that our time-honored tradition of watching parades actually begins in Europe? True story! For those and more, read on. And for more about our favorite traditions, know that these are the 20 American Summer Traditions That Foreigners Will Never Understand.

Eating Apple Pie
apple pie Fake American Traditions

What’s more American than apple pie? A lot of things, in fact, since this classic baked treat is not actually American. English apple pie recipes date back to the time of Chaucer. To be fair, these “apple pies” were baked in straight-sided, free-standing crusts—and in many cases didn’t even include sugar, so it was different than the pies that Americans celebrate today, but still close enough to be recognizable.

Standing for The Star-Spangled Banner
American Flag Fake American Traditions

Our most patriotic song is set to the tune of a song about a Greek poet and written by a British composer. When Francis Scott Key wrote his poem on which the song would be based, he imagined it would be sung to the tune of “The Anacreontic Song,” by London-based writer John Stafford Smith, who composed it around 1775 for a gentlemen’s music club, with lyrics all about an ancient Greek poet who praised love and wine. Crazy, right? And for more great facts about our history, check out The 30 Craziest Things U.S. Presidents Have Done. 

Eating Hot Dogs

couple eating hot dog partner Fake American Traditions

No Fourth of July picnic or baseball game would be complete without them, but they are simply reinterpretations of the classic German staples the wiener or frankfurter, given an American twist by the Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker, who created his own recipe—complete with ketchup—which he sold for cheap at Coney Island.

Observing Democracy
White House Fake American Traditions

Sure, Americans came up with a few innovative applications when setting down the Constitution for the new country in the late 18th century, but these were hardly new ideas. The idea of giving people more freedom in governing themselves dates back at least to the ancient Greek thinker Cleisthenes, whose ideas paved the way for Athens first democratic constitution. While these early forms of democracy might seem more constraining than ours today, it was what set the model for the modern “rule by the people.”

Playing Baseball
old baseball glove and ball Fake American Traditions

The first recorded baseball game may have been played in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1846, but the game and its rules were lifted from the U.K.

As writer Daniel Luzer explains, “According to an 1801 book by Joseph Strutt called The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, baseball goes back to at least the 14th century and a game called stoolball, in which a batter stood before a stool and hit a ball thrown by a pitcher with a bat. If the ball hit the stool, the batter was out.”

Having Picnics
Couple Having Picnic Valentine's Day simple pleasures Fake American Traditions

With summer upon us, many people pack up their baskets and head out to the park or some equally pleasant outdoor spot to enjoy snacks and fight off ants. But “picnic” actually comes from the French word “pique-nique,” referring to foodies of the 1600s who would bring their own wine when dining out—generally wealthier folks. While the term has come to mean a more casual sort, it’s still all about taking your food to go.

Having a BBQ
charcoal or gas Fake American Traditions

Speaking of outdoor eating, the practice of barbecuing began when the Spanish landed in the Caribbean, using the word barbacoa to describe the slow-cooking method of the locals in preparing their meats. Since pigs proliferated in the region, they soon became synonymous with the practice.

Shooting Fireworks
new year's resolutions Fake American Traditions

Another summer tradition, fireworks were actually originated in medieval China, during the Tang Dynasty of the 9th century (though obviously much cruder than anything we have today, these fireworks were popularly used in festivities and believed to expel evil spirits while ringing luck).

While American certainly did not invent the pyrotechnic treats, we were using them early in our history, with fireworks used to celebrate the very first Independence Day of 1777.

Having a Boy Scouts

boy scouts Fake American Traditions

While the Boy Scouts of America has been showing a progressive streak lately by lifting its bans on girls and gays, it remains an organization that brings to mind old-fashioned Americana and Normal Rockwell paintings.

In fact, the concept was lifted wholesale from the British. Robert Baden-Powell had succeeded in bringing military discipline to British boys early in the 20th century and was happy to share his ideas with the world. Chicago publisher W.D. Boyce was happy to bring the idea to the U.S. and founded the BSA in 1909, following many of Powell’s teachings and programs verbatim.

Driving Cars

young woman driving Moms Should Never Say Fake American Traditions

Americans love their cars, and when we think of the man who helped make them a mass-market phenomenon, the name Henry Ford likely comes to mind. But while Ford and his Model T can be credited with making automobiles something used by the masses, many European inventors beat him to it—including Carl Benz, Emile Levassor, Gottlieb Daimler, and Nicolaus Otto, to name a few.

Flag Waving
American Flags in Crowd Fake American Traditions

We may take our patriotic flag waving farther than many cultures, but we were hardly the first to do it. From knights carrying flags into battle to indicate which side they were on to those used to indicate one’s territory in medieval times, showing off one’s colors was around much longer than the United States.

Celebrating the Statue of Liberty
nyc meghan markle prince harry honeymoon Fake American Traditions

We know the statue, formally known as Liberty Enlightening the World, was a gift from the French (built by none other than Gustave Eiffel himself), but the idea itself was originally meant to go to Egypt, rather than the U.S.

Frederic Bartholdi, who designed the statue, first approached Isma’il Pasha, Khedive of Egypt about a statue for the northern entrance to the Suez Canal. Called Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia, it would be a massive lighthouse in the form of an ancient Egyptian woman… Sound familiar?


cowboy western film Fake American Traditions

A gun-slinging, lasso-twirling cowboy may seem like the epitome of American masculinity, but the concept grew out of the Spanish tradition of the vaquero—most famously embodied by Cervantes classic, delusional hero Don Quixote. The Spanish conquistadores brought the cattle herding tradition to North America, and it made it’s way to the western U.S. from there.

Wearing Blue Jeans
Small jeans pocket Fake American Traditions

Denim is part of the all-American uniform, but the term was coined by a Swiss banker named Jean-Gabriel Eynard and his brother Jacques who provided local troops with uniforms cut from denim which they termed “bleu de Genes”—what would become Anglicized as “blue jeans.” Adding the rivets to make the denim pants sturdier was done in the U.S. by German immigrant Levi Strauss.

Watching Parades
mardi gras traditions Fake American Traditions
Getty Images

From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, we love heading out into the streets. But these street parties were adapted from European military marches as well as more celebratory festivals (when Louis Bamberger started the Macy’s parade, he cited the fact that many of his employees were European immigrants and were eager to adapt their tradition there to a U.S. celebration).

Practicing Yoga
meditation brain function Fake American Traditions

While upper classes in the U.S. have adopted yoga as their thing, it can be easy to let its modern Lululemon reputation hide the deep eastern traditions out of which it grows.

Running Marathons

man running marathon feats Fake American Traditions

While the U.S. may have taken marathon running to higher, more ridiculous levels with themed runs, corporate runs, and famed runs like the NYC Marathon, the original marathon grew from the legend of Philippides the Greek messenger, reputed to have run from the battlefield of Marathon to the city of Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated—a distance estimated to take a bit more than 26 miles.

Sitting on Santa Claus’s Lap
Mall Santa and kid, Pick-Up Lines So Bad They Might Just Work Fake American Traditions

Americans certainly took Santa Claus and Christmas to the next level, making him fat, jolly, and the perfect soft drink spokesman. But the character himself is rooted in European tradition and figures like England’s St. Nicholas and France’s Pere Noel. We gave him our own commercialized twists and sold him back to Europe, but he was their invention to begin with.

Eating Doughnuts

Fake American Traditions

Favorites of police officers and Homer Simpson, these delicious pastries were first devised by the Dutch. Originally called olykoeks (aka “oily cakes”), Dutch settlers brought them to New York during the 17th century.

In his satirical A History of New-York, Washington Irving makes special mention of them: “Sometimes the table was graced with immense apple-pies, or saucers full of preserved peaches and pears; but it was always sure to boast of an enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called dough-nuts, or oly koeks: a delicious kind of cake, at present scarce known in this city, excepting in genuine Dutch families.”

Drinking Budweiser

Budweiser Fake American Traditions

The most classically American beer on earth has Germanic roots. While it was brewed originally in St. Louis, it was done in the German style of brewing. The name itself is believed to have been used in the region of what is now the Czech Republic as early as the late 19th century. And for more on our favorite beers, check out The Best Craft Beer In Every U.S. State.

Image via Wikimedia Commons 

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20 “American” Traditions We Totally Stole from Other Cultures

Facebook Boycott Grows: Ford Joins Coca-Cola, Starbucks And Other Brands Alina Selyukh – June 29, 20204:45 PM ET

The exodus of major advertisers from Facebook continues to grow as the company weathers criticism over its handling of racist, violent and other hateful rhetoric on the platform.

On Monday, Ford became one of the latest companies to pause social media advertising when it announced a 30-day halt. Another major brand, Pepsi, is reportedly weighing a similar move, following Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Unileverand dozens of other brands shifting their ad dollars away from Facebook.

The brands said they are standing up against hate speech. Clorox, for instance, said it will stop all advertising on Facebook through December because “we feel compelled to take action against hate speech.”

Facebook has been under intense scrutiny over its handling of recent posts by President Trump. After weeks of a staunch hands-off approach, CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday reversed course as a parade of brands began severing their ties with the company. Zuckerberg said Facebook will put warning labels on posts that break its rules, even if they are newsworthy, opening the door to potentially labeling posts by Trump.

Civil rights groups — including the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP and Color of Change — launched a campaign called #StopHateForProfit and urged brands to halt Facebook advertising during July, saying the social network profits off bigotry, racism and violence.

For Facebook, which also owns Instagram, advertising is the single most important source of money, bringing in almost all revenue — or close to $70 billion — last year.

Ford spokesman Said Deep told NPR on Monday that it is “actively engaged” with initiatives led by the Association of National Advertisers to increase “accountability, transparency and trusted measurement to clean up the digital and social media ecosystem.”

“The existence of content that includes hate speech, violence and racial injustice on social platforms needs to be eradicated,” Deep said in a statement.

Zuckerberg has long maintained that people should be able to see what politicians say, no matter how offensive, and has criticized Twitter’s decision to label the president’s tweets earlier this year. He has not addressed the advertising boycotts so far.

“A handful of times a year, we make a decision to leave up content that would otherwise violate our policies because we consider that the public interest value outweighs the risk of that content,” he said on Friday. “In the same way that news outlets will often report what a politician says, we think it’s important that people should generally be able to see it for themselves on our platforms, too.”

Editor’s note: Facebook, Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Unilever are among NPR’s financial supporters.

NPR’s Shannon Bond and Camila Domonoske contributed to this report.


Arizona orders bars and gyms to close, joining other states in reversing reopening – Mario Koran Mon 29 Jun 2020 20.44 EDT

Move comes on the heels of state reporting nearly 4,000 new Covid-19 cases Sunday, its largest one-day caseload so far

Medical personnel prepare to test hundreds of people for Covid-19 in Phoenix, Arizona, 27 June 2020.
Medical personnel prepare to test hundreds of people for Covid-19 in Phoenix, Arizona, 27 June 2020. Photograph: Matt York/AP

The governor of Arizona has ordered bars, movie theaters, gyms and water parks to shut down, in a dramatic move that echoed similar efforts by states around the country to roll back plans for reopening.

The order from the Republican governor, Doug Ducey, came on Monday and went into effect immediately, and will last for at least 30 days. Ducey also also ordered public schools to delay the start of the classes at least until 17 August.

“Our expectation is that our numbers next week will be worse,” he said.

Arizona health officials reported 3,858 more confirmed coronavirus cases Sunday, the most reported in a single day in the state so far and the seventh time in the last 10 days that daily cases surpassed the 3,000 mark. Since the pandemic began, 74,500 cases and 1,588 deaths stemming from the virus have been reported in Arizona.

Most Arizona bars and nightclubs opened after Ducey’s stay-at-home and business closure orders were allowed to expire in mid-May.

The state is not alone in its reversal. Places such as Texas, Florida and California are backtracking, closing beaches and bars in some cases amid a resurgence of the virus. Oregon and Kansas, meanwhile, announced Monday that everyone would be required to wear masks in public.

In California over the weekend, the governor, Gavin Newsom, ordered bars and nightclubs in nine counties to close, including Los Angeles, which has nearly 100,000 cases – the most of any region of the state.

The state is in the midst of trying to “toggle back” plans to reopen as case numbers and hospitalizations flare up in sections of the state. Red flags have been raised on a number of metrics, including “disturbing trendlines” in positivity rates, hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

Particularly hard hit is southern California’s Imperial county, where an outbreak is taxing the region’s hospital system. In recent weeks, health officials have had to move roughly 500 patients into neighboring regions, burdening their hospital systems, too.

Newsom has urged Imperial county to reissue a stay-at-home order that had been previously lifted, and on Monday leveled the threat of a heavier hand if the county chose not to take the advice.

Meanwhile in Texas, a group of bar owners sued on Monday to try to overturn the Republican governor Greg Abbott’s order closing their businesses. They contend Abbott doesn’t have the authority, and they complained that other businesses, such as nail salons and tattoo studios, remain open.

Ducey has faced criticism for what fellow lawmakers see as a failure to react to the severity of the crisis. A letter sent by the Democratic congressman Ruben Gallego in mid June chastised the governor for failing to highlight the “seriousness of the growing public health emergency our state is facing”.

While Ducey has urged Arizonans to keep their distance from one another in public, he refused to issue a statewide order to wear masks and until recently resisted calls by some cities to allow them to require masks.

The move also comes less than a week after Donald Trump visited the Arizona-Mexico border and held a rally in Phoenix in which few people wore masks.


Is It Legal for Cops to Force You to Unlock Your Phone? – Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica 06.27.2020 10:00 AM

Indiana Supreme Court

In Indiana, the Supreme Court ruled that the Fifth Amendment protects a woman from having to give the police access to potentially incriminating data.PHOTOGRAPH: GETTY IMAGES

Because the relevant Supreme Court precedents predate the smartphone era, the courts are divided on how to apply the Fifth Amendment.

Indiana’s Supreme Court has ruled that the Fifth Amendment allows a woman accused of stalking to refuse to unlock her iPhone. The court held that the Fifth Amendment’s rule against self-incrimination protected Katelin Seo from giving the police access to potentially incriminating data on her phone.

This story originally appeared on Ars Technica, a trusted source for technology news, tech policy analysis, reviews, and more. Ars is owned by WIRED’s parent company, Condé Nast.

The courts are divided on how to apply the Fifth Amendment in this kind of case. Earlier this year, a Philadelphia man was released from jail after four years of being held in contempt in connection with a child-pornography case. A federal appeals court rejected his argument that the Fifth Amendment gave him the right to refuse to unlock hard drives found in his possession. A Vermont federal court reached the same conclusion in 2009—as did a Colorado federal court in 2012, a Virginia state court in 2014, and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 2014.

But other courts in Florida, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania have reached the opposite conclusion, holding that forcing people to provide computer or smartphone passwords would violate the Fifth Amendment.

Lower courts are divided about this issue because the relevant Supreme Court precedents all predate the smartphone era. To understand the two competing theories, it’s helpful to analogize the situation to a pre-digital technology.

Suppose that police believe that a suspect has incriminating documents stored in a wall safe, so they ask a judge to compel the suspect to open the safe. The constitutionality of this order depends on what the police know.

If the government can’t show that the suspect knows the combination—perhaps the suspect claims the safe actually belongs to a roommate or business partner—then all courts agree that forcing the suspect to try to open it would be unconstitutional. This is because the act of opening the safe functions as an admission that the suspect owns the safe and the documents inside of it. This fact could be incriminating independent of the contents of any documents found inside the safe.

On the other hand, if the government can show that the suspect knows both the password and which specific documents are in the safe—perhaps because the suspect described the safe’s contents during an interrogation—then all courts agree that the suspect can be forced to open the safe. That’s because the Fifth Amendment is a right against self-incriminating testimony, not the production of incriminating documents.

But what if the state can show the suspect knows the combination but doesn’t know which documents are in the safe? Here the courts are split.

One theory holds that only the act of opening the safe is testimonial. Once the safe is open, the safe contains whatever documents it contains. The police get the information in the documents directly from the documents, the same as they would if they’d found them lying on the suspect’s desk. So the contents of the documents are not compelled testimony.

The other theory—the one endorsed by Indiana’s Supreme Court this week—holds that it matters whether the police know which documents they’re looking for. If the police are looking for specific documents that they know are in the safe, then there may be no Fifth Amendment problem. But if the request is more of a fishing expedition, then it’s barred by the Fifth Amendment, since the act of opening the safe gives the police access to information they wouldn’t have otherwise. Some courts have found this argument particularly compelling due to the vast amount of information on modern smartphones.

A key ruling here is a 2000 Supreme Court opinion in the prosecution of Webster Hubbell, a Bill Clinton associate who got ensnared by the Whitewater investigation. Prosecutors asked Hubbell to produce documents in 11 broad categories. By combing through the documents Hubbell provided, prosecutors were able to find evidence to charge Hubbell with mail fraud and tax evasion. Hubbell argued that the prosecution violated his Fifth Amendment rights, since he’d been compelled to provide the evidence used to prosecute him.

The Supreme Court sided with Hubbell. The key issue was that the prosecutor’s subpoena to Hubbell lacked particularity. It asked for broad categories of documents and relied on Hubbell to figure out which documents met the criteria prosecutors provided.

Hubbell wasn’t just producing specific documents requested by the government. He was using his own knowledge and judgment to provide the government with documents whose existence it might never have discovered without Hubbell’s help. Whenever Hubbell turned over a document the authorities didn’t know about, he was implicitly admitting that it existed. That admission was an act of testimony protected by the Fifth Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled.

Indiana’s Supreme Court argues that the same principle applies when a suspect is compelled to unlock a smartphone. By unlocking her phone, Katelin Seo would be giving prosecutors access to files they didn’t know existed and might not be able to access any other way.

“Even if we assume the State has shown that Seo knows the password to her smartphone, the State has failed to demonstrate that any particular files on the device exist or that she possessed those files,” Indiana’s Supreme Court held. “Detective Inglis simply confirmed that he would be fishing for ‘incriminating evidence’ from the device.”

There are good policy reasons to favor the Indiana Supreme Court’s interpretation of the law. Modern smartphones contain a wealth of sensitive personal information that simply didn’t exist in a pre-smartphone era. It’s troubling to give police or prosecutors the freedom to rummage through every aspect of a suspect’s personal life looking for evidence of illegal behavior.

At the same time, I don’t think the Indiana Supreme Court’s reading of Hubbellprecedent makes much sense. The key to the Hubbell ruling was that prosecutors relied on Hubbell’s knowledge and judgment to locate incriminating documents.

“Given the breadth of the description of the 11 categories of documents called for by the subpoena, the collection and production of the materials demanded was tantamount to answering a series of interrogatories asking a witness to disclose the existence and location of particular documents fitting certain broad descriptions,” the Supreme Court wrote in its 2000 ruling. By contrast, while the government doesn’t know which specific files are on Seo’s smartphone, the government also isn’t relying on Seo’s knowledge or judgment to decide which files it wants. The smartphone contains whatever files it contains, and the prosecutors want access to all of them.

In other words, the subpoena effectively forced Hubbell to tell prosecutors whether certain categories of documents existed. But if a suspect unlocks a smartphone, the suspect is admitting only that she owns the smartphone. She’s not making any statements—implicit or otherwise—about what files exist on the smartphone.

A key sentence from the Hubbell ruling makes this clear. The Supreme Court wrote that Hubbell’s actions were “like telling an inquisitor the combination to a wall safe, not like being forced to surrender the key to a strongbox.” The courts have been clear that the government can force a suspect to supply the key to a strongbox even if the government (in the words of the Indiana Supreme Court) “failed to demonstrate that any particular files” exist in the strongbox. That’s because supplying the key doesn’t tell the government what’s in the box—it merely enables the government to look for itself.

Imagine that a suspect admits to police that she wrote down her smartphone’s passcode on a piece of paper and put the paper in a strongbox. A judge wouldn’t violate the Fifth Amendment by ordering the suspect to turn over the key to the strongbox—even though the practical impact is exactly the same as unlocking the phone directly. That’s because entering the passcode merely amounts to an admission that the suspect owns the phone—not to any statements about what files are on the phone.

Of course, as I mentioned previously, a number of courts have reached the opposite conclusion. They’ve read Hubbell as requiring the government to have a specific idea of which files it wants in order to compel decryption.

In any event, this is a case that’s crying out for intervention by the US Supreme Court. This issue will only get more important as people conduct more of their personal lives—and commit more crimes—with the aid of smartphones. Enough courts have staked out contradictory positions that the only way to resolve it is for the US Supreme Court to take one of these cases and provide a definitive ruling.


Exclusive: Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduces nationwide eviction moratorium bill – By Jen Kirbyjen.kirby@vox.com Updated Jun 29, 2020, 11:04am EDT

The coronavirus is exposing America’s housing crisis. Democrats in Congress are proposing a nationwide eviction moratorium.

Daily Life In Los Angeles Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
Graffiti supporting the rent strike appear on La Brea Avenue during the coronavirus pandemic on May 1, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images

Desiree Kane, an organizer with Colorado Rent Strike and Eviction Defense, says her neighbors are fearful. Many have lost jobs or wages, and bills are piling up.

“Mostly the Colorado Rent Strike and Eviction Defense is a support group for people,” she said, “who come in, and they’re like, ‘Oh, my god, my entire world is crumbling around me. What do I do?’”

Colorado, like many other states and cities, implemented a temporary eviction moratorium in March, to prevent people from losing their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

But the state’s moratorium expired on June 13, though Gov. Jared Polis issued a last-minute emergency order that required landlords to give tenants more notice about any evictions, effectively delaying many evictions for another 30 days. It was a reprieve, but a temporary and incomplete one.

This is the grim reality facing vulnerable renters in Colorado, and across the US: Emergency eviction moratoriums are beginning to run out, if they haven’t already, and housing courts are starting to reopen. The policies that allowed renters unable to pay their bills to stay in their homes are ending.

But the coronavirus crisis is far from over in the country, and while states are opening up, millions have lost jobs or had their hours cut. The end of the moratoriums has experts and housing advocates predicting a “tsunami” of evictions, one that could lead to a spike in homelessness at a time when, still, the best defense against the pandemic is to stay home.

Against this backdrop, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is introducing legislation that would implement a nationwide eviction moratorium. The Protecting Renters From Evictions and Fees Act would extend eviction protections for nonpayment of rent for one year, starting from March 27, 2020. It would also substantially expand the current federal eviction moratorium so it includes most renters.

“Renters who have lost their job or had their income reduced shouldn’t have to fear losing their homes in the middle of a pandemic,” Warren said in a statement to Vox. “Housing is a human right and an absolute necessity to keep families safe during this crisis, and Congress must step in now to help keep people in their homes.”

Currently, states and localities have their own rules, which amounts to a confusing patchwork of eviction policies. The CARES Act, the massive stimulus package Congress passed in March, imposed a 120-day moratorium on evictions for tenants in federally assisted housing or in homes with federally backed mortgages — about 12.3 million of the 43.8 million rental units in the US, according to the Urban Institute. Those protections are set to expire on July 25, 2020.

Warren’s bill would keep those safeguards in place for an additional eight months, and extend those benefits beyond those in federally backed housing to almost all renters, unifying the mishmash of state eviction moratoriums currently in place. The bill would also bar landlords from charging additional fees for nonpayment of rent, and require landlords to give tenants 30-days notice of eviction after the moratorium ends.

Reps. Jesús “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) are pushing similar legislation in the House. Garcia said in a statement to Vox that as existing moratoriums expire, it’s more important than ever for Congress to protect renters. “My district consists principally of immigrant and working class communities, and more than half of my constituents are renters,” Garcia said. “As our country faces historic levels of unemployment and with another first of the month around the corner, people in my district are hurting — the last thing they should worry about is having a roof over their head.”

This new legislation is a standalone bill. The HEROES Act, the $3 trillion stimulus package passed by the House that has languished in the Republican-led Senate, includes a similar nationwide eviction moratorium for nonpaymentfor most renters.

The HEROES Act also comes with additional cash stimulus, expanded unemployment insurance, and almost $200 billion in financial support for housing and homelessness programs, including $100 billion for emergency rental assistance. (There’s standalone legislation on this, too.) That money would also keep payment flowing to landlords, especially smaller landlords, who may rely on rental income to pay for building maintenance, utilities, mortgages, taxes, and other expenses.

The eviction moratorium does provide a stopgap, preventing renters from becoming immediately homeless during the pandemic. A nationwide policy is also much more effective than the current mess of state and local rules. But the bill would not mean the rent is no longer due, or prevent arrears from piling up. And tenants could still be evicted for nonpayment after the moratorium expires.

A nationwide eviction moratorium would protect renters. But it’s just a start.

A nationwide eviction moratorium is just one piece of protection for vulnerable renters. “It’s a short-term emergency move to help prevent people from losing their homes, but ultimately, you need to be able to pay the rent,” Alex Schwartz, a professor of urban policy at the New School, said of eviction moratoriums, in a conversation last week about the struggles facing US renters unrelated to Warren’s bill.

And, at least at the start of the pandemic, benefits contained in the CARES Act likely helped households pay their rent. It offered Americans making $75,000 or less per year a one-time stimulus check of $1,200, with additional money for kids. It also expanded unemployment insurance by $600 per week, but that is expected to end on July 31. So far, Congress has not replaced or extended any of those benefits.

“When that ends, and it’s all ending, I just don’t see where the rent money is going to come from,” Schwartz said.

Even before the coronavirus hit, America’s renters, especially those of lower incomes, were in crisis. Of the country’s approximately 43 million renters in 2018, more than 40 percent were already considered “rent burdened,”spending more than 35 percent of their income on housing and utilities, according to US Census data.

The economic fallout from the pandemic has exacerbated this. The Urban Institute estimates about 8.9 million renter households — almost 20 percent of all renter households — have seen at least one household member lose a job in the past two months.

A moratorium on evictions would immediately protect tenants if they can’t send a rent check for a few months, but it does not stop landlords from charging, or trying to collect, rent. And for people who fall behind on rent because they’ve lost their jobs or had their incomes cut, it will be even harder to catch up.

This is why some housing activists and organizers are calling for dramatic interventions, specifically canceling or pausing rent and mortgage payments, so both tenants and landlords could weather the crisis.

This wouldn’t be a deferral of payment; it would be an erasure. But it could be harder than it sounds to execute. Even if rents are forgiven, it’s not guaranteed that private mortgage lenders would get on board. And a lot of those mortgages are bundled and sold as investments; as CityLab pointed out, many of those investors are things like pension funds.

This means the money may have to come from somewhere — whether directly into renters’ pockets to help get them from month to month, or somewhere on the back end to bail out the rent and mortgages that won’t get paid. Economic stimulus and emergency rental assistance, such as those measures contained in the HEROES Act, would help achieve that while keeping more people stably housed.

Stimulus doesn’t entirely eliminate the need for a nationwide eviction moratorium, either. A moratorium adds another critical safety net for vulnerable renters, especially those who may not be eligible for benefits like expanded unemployment or other assistance. “Eviction equals death,” Julian Smith-Newman, a member of the Los Angeles Tenants Union, a member-funded housing advocacy group, told me in April. “That’s never been more obvious than at this moment and in the public health crisis that we’re living in.”

This post has been updated with a comment from Rep. Garcia.


Spiritual storytelling – America’s faith-based streaming services are thriving | Prospero | The Economist Jun 23rd 2020

Spiritual storytelling
America’s faith-based streaming services are thriving

Living Scriptures, the “Mormon Netflix”, hosts thousands of titles which combine “spiritual knowledge with fun stories”

Books, arts and culture

WHEN LIVING SCRIPTURES was set up in 1974, the company sold audio cassettes which dramatised the Mormon texts. Jared Brown and Seldon Young, the co-founders, sent salesmen door-to-door in Ogden, Utah, and business was good: they soon expanded across the state and branched out into videotapes for children, animating the stories of the Old and New Testaments as well as the Book of Mormon.

By the beginning of the 21st century, things had changed. It was difficult to motivate an increasingly expensive sales force of 150 people to sell to the already converted. Videocassettes and DVDs were on their way out. Matt Brown, who would later take over the business from his father, decided in 2010 to change tack. “I could see the ship was going to burn down,” he says, echoing the Mormon founding legend in which the prophet Lehi sailed with his family to the Americas from Israel, at God’s urging, in 600BC. “We had to build a new one and hope it would get us to land.”


A Cheap, Race-Neutral Way to Close the Racial Wealth Gap – Annie Lowrey June 29, 2020

It’s time to try baby bonds.

An illustration of a baby hand holding money.
Constance Bannister / Image Source / Getty / Katie Martin / The Atlantic
What if a single, cheap, easy-to-administer, and race-neutral policy could help close the country’s chasmic racial wealth gap in less than a generation?

Reader, it exists. It is called a baby-bond program. For something like $80 billion a year—roughly 2 percent of the annual federal budget, less than a tenth of the annual cost of Social Security—the United States could not only end its most pernicious forms of poverty, reduce wealth inequality, improve social mobility, foster self-sufficiency among poor families, and increase family net worth en masse, but also put black and white families on more equal footing.

There is a strong moral case for doing that, and a strong economic case, too. The average white family is 10 times wealthier than the average black family. Black families with kids have a single penny in wealth for every dollar that white families with kids have. And white high-school dropouts have a higher net worth, on average, than black college graduates. Black individuals cannot close this gap on their own. Washington created the wealth gap. Washington needs to fix it.

Read: American wealth is broken

Today’s racial wealth inequality is a product of many decades of government policy, not the differing actions and choices of black and white individuals. The Social Security Act, for instance, initially excluded agricultural and domestic workers, who were disproportionately black. The GI Bill offered college tuition, home loans, and unemployment benefits to white veterans, while excluding black veterans. The Federal Housing Administration instituted redlining and fomented racial housing segregation. “It’s not about savings,” Thomas Shapiro, the director of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University, told me. “It’s about institutional practices.”

Contemporary institutional practices sustain the gap created in past centuries. Consider how the tax code not just perpetuates, but actively generates, racial wealth inequality. A refusal to levy significant taxes on inheritances encourages dynastic wealth, meaning white wealth. (Ahem.) The country taxes paid labor more heavily than passive income, predominantly accumulated by white families. The home-mortgage interest deduction, the 529 college-savings program: These kinds of regressive elements Swiss-cheese the code. And in myriad other ways, government policies extract money from black families and black communities. Fines-and-fees policing, for instance, functions as a covert tax on black Americans.

Even when they earn very high incomes, many black individuals end up accumulating far less wealth than their white peers. That’s in part because black workers tend to offer more financial support to poor relatives, and in part because black kids are more likely to have to take out hefty student loans to pay for college. Those factors add up to less money socked away in a savings account or invested in the stock market, and less money to pass along to children.

Even if a multifarious, complicated set of policies helped create the racial wealth gap, another multifarious, complicated set of policies is not necessary to start to close it. A little-known but elegant solution is waiting for implementation, a policy suggested by Thomas Paine in Agrarian Justice and rewritten for the modern era by Darrick Hamilton, who leads the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, and Sandy Darity, the director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University. Baby bonds are simple. The government would create investment accounts for infants, giving babies born to poor families large seed grants and babies born to rich families small ones. The money would grow, and kids would gain access to it when they reached adulthood, to use for school, a down payment, or a start-up.

That’s it. Black families need wealth. The government could just give it to them. “At the root of the racial wealth gap, and wealth inequality in general, is capital itself,” Hamilton told me. “Baby bonds are specifically aimed at giving people that seed capital, that asset that passively appreciates over their lifetime.”

Read: In D.C., white families are on average 81 times richer than black ones

Government investment and the magic of compound interest would eliminate much of the racial wealth gap, perhaps 70 or 80 percent over time. Naomi Zewde of the City University of New York studied a hypothetical baby-bond program that would provide rich babies $200 in assets and poor babies $50,000 in assets, with infants born to middle-class families getting scaled amounts in between. As of 2015, the median white young adult had a net worth of $46,000, versus $2,900 for the median black young adult. Had they been granted baby bonds at birth, white young adults would be worth $79,159 and black young adults $57,845, Zewde found. White kids would be roughly 40 percent wealthier than black kids, not 16 times as wealthy.

Of course, baby bonds are not a magic bullet. Hamilton stressed the importance of considering reparations on their own terms. “I see reparations as a retrospective approach that is more direct, more parsimonious,” and race-specific, he said, whereas baby bonds are prospective, race-neutral, and “in perpetuity moves society toward becoming more egalitarian.” Eliminating student debt, ending mass incarceration, rationalizing the country’s system of health insurance, stopping covert redlining, ending poverty as measured by income—all of those are necessary elements of racial justice, and would be complementary policies to help make the country’s wealth distribution more equitable.

One thing that will likely not do much to end the racial wealth gap is President Donald Trump’s Opportunity Zones initiative, which he has made the centerpiece of his election-year pitch to black voters. The program, part of the sweeping 2017 tax law, provides tax breaks for development projects in underinvested areas. When it passed, experts warned that the money would primarily go to real-estate developers working on existing projects, intensifying gentrification without aiding low-income neighborhoods. That seems to be precisely what is happening.

The black-white wealth gap was wide when Trump became president, and might be even wider when he leaves office. Typical white households hold 10 times the wealth of typical black households. Closing much of that gap could take just a single policy and a sliver of the federal budget.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Annie Lowrey is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers economic policy.

How to Forecast Outbreaks and Pandemics – By Caitlin Rivers and Dylan George June 29, 2020

A Health and Human Services staff member shows a coronavirus outbreak map in Washington, D.C., February 2020 Carlos Barria / Reuters

A Health and Human Services staff member shows a coronavirus outbreak map in Washington, D.C., February 2020 Carlos Barria / Reuters

In 1900, the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history hit Galveston, Texas. The storm, estimated to have been a Category 4, all but washed the city away. An estimated 8,000 people died, and even more lives would likely have been lost if Isaac Cline, the chief of the Texas section of the U.S. Weather Service, had not spent the day before the hurricane’s arrival walking around and urging people to seek higher ground. He did so on little more than a hunch based on the fact that a bad storm had recently passed over Cuba. The science of weather forecasting had yet to emerge; guesswork was the best anyone could do.

Over a century later, hurricane forecasts are a central feature of summer and fall for millions of Americans. Such forecasts, along with those predicting winter storms, tornadoes, and floods, have saved an untold number of lives and many billions of dollars. Even fair-weather forecasts play an important role in modern life. Take the airline industry, for example. “Even when you’ve got clear skies, that has an economic benefit,” explained Greg Romano of the National Weather Service, “because then you don’t necessarily need to plan to reroute as much, so you can perhaps take on less fuel; you know that you can have tighter schedules.”

With the world moving quickly toward an age of pandemics, the story of how weather forecasting in the United States improved deserves attention. Because when it comes to modeling the likely course of contagious outbreaks, the country is in some ways closer to the bad old days of deadly, no-notice hurricanes than to the current era of precision storm tracking and multiday weather forecasts.

Today, if a hurricane was barreling down on Florida, no one would suggest that an arbitrary assortment of academics gather data, quickly develop models to predict the storm’s course, anticipate its landfall, tell agencies where to preposition response teams, and craft warnings for the public. That, however, is essentially what the U.S. government has done during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, sophisticated disease modeling has contributed a great deal to the response to the pandemic. Early in the outbreak, modelers estimated that the new coronavirus would prove more deadly than influenza. Others concluded that rapid containment of the virus in China was unlikely, based on the unusually high number of infected international travelers. And when the United States was in the throes of the worst outbreak in the world, it was modelers whose work informed the White House task force that coordinated the federal response, including the decision to begin (and later extend) the “Slow the Spread” campaign of social-distancing measures and business closures.

Unfortunately, however, the full force of epidemiological expertise in the United States is not being brought to bear. Despite some successes, serious gaps remain in the ability of infectious disease models to inform public health policy. That is because the country has no centralized system for disease forecasting; there exists no epidemiological equivalent of the National Weather Service. That is precisely what the country needs to succeed in the fight against COVID-19 and to avoid future failures and missteps of the sort that has marred the U.S. response to the current pandemic.


This is hardly the first time that academics have filled the disease-modeling vacuum. In 2009, during the H1N1 pandemic, officials in Pennsylvania consulted modelers as they deliberated about whether to shut down schools. During the Ebola outbreak of 2014, modelers helped the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services calculate the risk that travelers would import cases into the United States, how many hospital beds would be needed domestically, and how many future cases could be expected under varying scenarios.

But after those outbreaks ended, the ad hoc and informal ties that had developed between modelers and decision-makers were not institutionalized; no formal system emerged for centralizing expertise within the government. So it should have been no surprise that the few modeling experts who do this work within government agencies were quickly overwhelmed by the enormous number of consequential decisions demanded by the COVID-19 pandemic. And once again, academic modelers have stepped in to fill the gap.

This is part of a familiar pattern. During contagion crises, modeling becomes a priority. However, as the sense of urgency fades, attention shifts to other issues and relationships between experts and decision-makers fade. The chief danger is that as the results of modeling shift, those changes won’t get on the radar of policymakers. “The projections provide information at a particular moment but unfortunately will change all the time. It’s important to communicate that uncertainty,” said Jeffrey Shaman, a professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University. Shaman’s research has been consulted by the White House task force on COVID-19, but Shaman says that the working relationship has been limited.


Twitch, YouTube, and Reddit punished Trump and other racists – and that’s a great thing for freedom – MATTHEW ROZSA JUNE 30, 2020 12:09AM (UTC)

Donald Trump VS freedom of speech (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images/Reddit/Youtube/Twitch)

Freedom is impossible for everyone when viewpoints prevail that dehumanize anyone. And it appears that several big social media platforms agree, judging from recent bans or suspensions of racist accounts across YouTube, Twitch, and Reddit.

For those who are dehumanized — whether by racism, sexism, classism, ableism, anti-LGBTQ sentiment or any other prejudices — their voices are diminished or outright silenced, and in the process they lose their ability to fully participate in our democracy. We all need to live in a society where hate is discouraged, discredited and whenever possible scrubbed out completely from our discourse. This doesn’t mean we should label all ideas as hateful simply because we disagree with them; to do that runs afoul of President Dwight Eisenhower’s famous statement, “In a democracy, debate is the breath of life.” When actual hate enters the dialogue, however, it acts as a toxic smoke in the air of debate, suffocating some voices and weakening the rest.

This brings us to a series of recent decisions by big tech companies:

Twitch, a popular video streaming service associated with the gaming community, temporarily suspended President Donald Trump’s accountbecause the company claimed it violated their policies on hate. Trump had posted a video of a speech claiming undocumented Mexican migrants are more likely to be rapists and criminals, as well as a video in which he spoke hypothetically about “a very tough hombre” breaking into the house of a “young woman.”

“Hateful conduct is not allowed on Twitch,” a spokesperson for the company told Salon. “In line with our policies, President Trump’s channel has been issued a temporary suspension from Twitch for comments made on stream, and the offending content has been removed.”

Similarly, YouTube banned several explicitly white supremacist channels for hate speech including those associated with American Renaissance, David Duke, Stefan Molyneux and Richard Spencer. In addition, Reddit banned a popular pro-Trump forum called r/The_Donald along with roughly 2,000 other forums, including the prominent left-wing community r/ChapoTrapHouse. And this doesn’t even include Trump’s current war with Twitter, one that culminated in him retaliating against the company and threatening free speech.

“We have strict policies prohibiting hate speech on YouTube, and terminate any channel that repeatedly or egregiously violates those policies,” a spokesperson from YouTube told Salon in a statement. “After updating our guidelines to better address supremacist content, we saw a 5x spike in video removals and have terminated over 25,000 channels for violating our hate speech policies.”

Reddit referred Salon to a statement explaining,”We committed to closing the gap between our values and our policies to explicitly address hate” and that “ultimately, it’s our responsibility to support our communities by taking stronger action against those who try to weaponize parts of Reddit against other people.”

No one who understands Constitutional law can argue that these corporate decisions violate the First Amendment, which only protects speech from government repression. Professor Rick Hasen at the University of California, Irvine Law School told Salon by email that “private companies running websites are not subject to being sued for violating the First Amendment. The companies are private actors who can include whatever content they want unless there is a law preventing them from doing so.”

UCLA School of Law Professor Eugene Volokh echoed Hasen’s observation, but then encouraged Salon to evaluate the issue from a different point of view through a thought experiment.

“It doesn’t violate First Amendment rights. It doesn’t violate any statute that I know of. It doesn’t violate any common law principles because Twitch is a private entity and Amazon, which owns it, is a private entity at the same time,” Volokh told Salon. He then said that the decision could be considered problematic if one compared it to a hypothetical scenario in which Harvard fired a professor for being too left-wing.

“You might say there are broader free speech principles that are being violated here, though that of course is not a legal argument,” Volokh said. “That’s an argument you might think of in Harvard’s context as being about academic ethics, that academic institutions shouldn’t try to censor speech to or by their students. Likewise, you might say this is a matter of kind of media ethics, and in particular, that a platform like Twitch or like YouTube or like Facebook shouldn’t restrict important speech that people are trying to convey.”

This is where I must respectfully disagree with this argument. And to explain why, I must make reference to personal experience.

Article continues:

Invading Cicadas May Turn Into Sex-Crazed Zombies This Summer – VICE News Jun 27, 2020

The cicada summer is here. Millions of periodic cicadas are emerging across the Mid-Atlantic after hibernating underground for 17 years. They’ve missed everything from the creation of YouTube to Trump being elected. The cicadas’ unique life cycle comes as a means of “predator avoidance.” Scientists theorize cicadas spend a prime number of years underground, 13 or 17 years, depending on the species, to avoid synching up with predators. Then by descending in unison, the millions of clumsy, defenseless cicadas can overwhelm predators and stand a chance of survival. But they’ve got an even bigger thing to worry about above surface: a hallucinogenic fungus that turns them into sex-crazed zombies.