We admire these do-gooders. We just don’t want to date them. – Sigal Samuel Dec 5, 2019, 7:40am EST


A neuroscientist’s studies show that altruism isn’t always attractive.

Kristen Bell as Eleanor and and William Jackson Harper as Chidi in “The Good Place” TV show.
Eleanor, the protagonist in The Good Place, is initially repulsed by Chidi, who’s always trying to teach her how to be a good person. This is why everyone hates moral philosophy professors.
Colleen Hayes/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Picture this: You’ve worked hard all year. You’re burned out. Every atom in your brain and body is crying out for a relaxing vacation. Luckily, you and your partner have managed to save up $3,000. You propose a trip to Hawaii — those blue waves are calling your name!

Just one problem: Your partner refuses, arguing that you both should donate the money to charity instead. Think how many malaria-preventing bednets $3,000 could buy for kids in developing countries!

You might find yourself thinking: Why does my partner seem to care more about strangers halfway around the world than about me?

A philosopher would tell you that your partner may be a utilitarian or consequentialist, someone who thinks that an action is moral if it produces good consequences and that everyone equally deserves to benefit from the good, not just those closest to us. By contrast, your response suggests you’rea deontologist, someone who thinks an action is moral if it’s fulfilling a duty — and we have special duties toward special people, like our partners, so we should prioritize our partner’s needs over a stranger’s.

According to research out of the Crockett Lab at Yale University, if you’re put off by the consequentialist’s anti–Hawaiian vacation response, you’re not alone. Neuroscientist Molly Crockett has conducted several studies to determine how we perceive different types of moral agents. She found that when we’re looking for a spouse or friend, we strongly prefer deontologists, viewing them as more moral and trustworthy than consequentialists.

In other words: When we’re looking for someone to date or hang out with, extreme do-gooders of the consequentialist variety need not apply. (It’s worth noting that deontologists can be hardcore do-gooders, too, just in their own very different way.)

Crockett’s studies raise a lot of questions: Why do we distrust consequentialists despite admiring their altruism? Are we right to distrust them, or should we try to override that impulse? And what does this mean for movements like effective altruism, which says we should devote our resources to causes that’ll do the most good for people, wherever in the world they might be?

I reached out to Crockett to discuss these issues. A transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity, follows.

Sigal Samuel

In the past, it’s typically been philosophers who’ve investigated issues of morality and altruism, and they’ve focused a lot on sacrificial dilemmas.

The most famous one is the Trolley Problem: Should you make the active choice to divert a runaway trolley so that it kills one person if, by doing so, you can save five people along a different track from getting killed? The consequentialist says yes, because you’re maximizing overall good and outcomes are what matter. The deontologist says no, because you have a duty to not kill anyone as a means to an end, and your duties matter.

In your studies, you do examine these types of sacrificial dilemmas, which involve doing harm. But you also examine “impartial beneficence” dilemmas, which involve doing good, and specifically the idea that we shouldn’t prioritize our family and friends when we do good. Why did you decide to study those dilemmas?

Molly Crockett

Studying impartial beneficence is really psychologically juicy, because it gets at the heart of a lot of the conflicts we face in our social relationships as the world becomes global and we think about how our actions are affecting people we’re never going to meet. Being a good global citizen now butts up against our very powerful psychological tendencies to prioritize our families and friends. So we wanted to study the social consequences people might experience as a result of having consequentialist views.

Sigal Samuel

And what did you find?

Molly Crockett

When it comes to sacrificial dilemmas, we find that generally people strongly favor nonconsequentialist social partners. We trust people a lot more if they say it’s not okay to sacrifice one person to save many others.

When it comes to impartial beneficence dilemmas, we see the same pattern. The preference is not as strong, which I think makes sense because a helpful action tends to weigh less heavily on us psychologically than a harmful action. But we still see that when it comes to deciding who we’ll be friends or spouses with, we tend to prefer nonconsequentialists.

Sigal Samuel

There was an exception in the impartial beneficence dilemmas, right? It turned out that when we’re looking for a political leader, we actually prefer the consequentialist. To me, it makes a ton of intuitive sense that we’d prefer different types of moral agents in different social roles. Were your results seen as surprising?

Molly Crockett

Well, what’s remarkable is that moral psychology up until now has mostly been about hypothetical cases involving strangers. But new research suggests that actually relational context is super important when it comes to judging the morality of others.

I’ve recently started collaborating with Margaret Clark at Yale, who’s an expert in close relationships. We’re testing some predictions that moral obligations are relationship specific.

Here’s a classic example: Consider a woman, Wendy, who could easily provide a meal to a young child but fails to do so. Has Wendy done anything wrong? It depends on who the child is. If she’s failing to provide a meal to her own child, then absolutely she’s done something wrong! But if Wendy is a restaurant owner and the child is not otherwise starving, then they don’t have a relationship that creates special obligations prompting her to feed the child.

Sigal Samuel

Totally. Philosophy abhors inconsistency, and applying deontology in some cases and consequentialism in others might come off as inconsistent. But maybe it’s actually the most rational thing to apply different moral philosophies in different relational contexts.

In your study, the story you tell about why we prefer to marry or befriend deontologists is that, naturally, if I’m looking for someone to marry I’m going to want someone who’ll give me preferential treatment over a stranger in another country. But just to kick the tires on that story a bit: Is it possible that our preference comes about not because we want someone who’ll prioritize us but because being with radical do-gooders makes us feel crappy about ourselves — because we feel like immoral jerks compared to them?

Molly Crockett

That’s a fascinating question and something we haven’t tested empirically, but it would be very consistent with the Stanford psychologist Benoit Monin’s work on “do-gooder derogation.” He essentially showed exactly what you predict, which is that people feel less warm toward people who are extremely moral and altruistic. His studies showed that the extent to which people dislike vegetarians is related to their own feelings of moral conflict around eating animals.

Sigal Samuel

Yeah, we don’t tend to love being around people who make us grapple with uncomfortable questions. Especially if they’re very in-your-face or self-righteous about it and you have to be around them all the time, like with a romantic partner.

Your study also refers to something called the “partner choice model.” Can you explain that a bit?

Molly Crockett

“Partner choice” is a mechanism through which traits evolve because they promote being chosen as a social partner. There’s a lot of work suggesting that our preferences for cooperation evolved through partner choice mechanisms, because people who were naturally more cooperative were more likely to be chosen as social partners. They reaped the benefits of being chosen, both through social capital and through reproduction, and then they passed those traits to the next generation.

My idea is that some of our moral intuitions might be explained through the same mechanism. Our deontological intuitions, to the extent that they signal to others that we’re better social partners, make us more likely to be chosen, and therefore they get passed onto the next generation.

Sigal Samuel

Wait, unpack this evolutionary explanation a bit. By “through reproduction,” do you mean that parents with deontological views are more likely to rear their kids with deontological views?

Molly Crockett

Both that, and … This is more speculative, but to the extent that deontological moral intuitions have a genetic component, it could be passed on that way as well. Obviously there’s not going to be a gene for deontological intuitions. There’s not a one-to-one mapping between genetics and complex psychological traits. But to the extent that these traits arise from brain processes (and there’s a lot of evidence that they do), there may be a heritable component.

Sigal Samuel

This reminds me of the neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland’s new book, Conscience, about the biological basis of morality. Churchland and I recently talked about how brain differences, which are underwritten by differences in our genes, shape our moral attitudes — and how those can be highly heritable. So genetics isn’t everything, but it is playing some role.

Molly Crockett

Absolutely. Broadly, my work is quite compatible with Churchland’s views.

I think the argument she makes is consistent with some of our empirical workshowing that when people are deciding whether to benefit themselves by harming another person, their brain activity tracks with how blameworthy other people would find the harmful choice. Conscience might manifest as the brain predicting how other people would view our actions.

Sigal Samuel

When you write about the implications of your studies, you talk specifically about effective altruism, a movement supported by Peter Singer, who’s probably the most influential utilitarian philosopher alive. You say the studies’ findings suggest that if you’re an effective altruist you’re going to face some stumbling blocks in terms of how people perceive you, which could impact the movement’s ability to grow. What can effective altruists do to mitigate the potential negative perception of them?

Molly Crockett

I think there are a few possibilities. Here’s one: We’ve shown in some other work that when people are judging the praiseworthiness of good deeds, they consider both the benefits that those deeds bring about and also how good it feels to perform those actions. If anything, our data suggests people weight how good it feels more strongly in judging praiseworthiness, such that people might think that a good deed that brings very little benefit but gives you a really warm fuzzy glow is actually more praiseworthy than a good deed that feels detached and emotionless but brings about a lot of benefit.

Drawing on this insight, effective altruists might emphasize the personal satisfaction that can arise from donating to effective causes, and talk about their own personal experience with the movement in ways that convey what it means to them.

In my lab now, we’re starting to think a lot about narrative — how the stories we tell about our own and others’ behavior give rise to our sense of ourselves as moral beings, and how that can actually change our behavior over the long run. I think the effective altruism movement in some sense misses an opportunity to draw on the very powerful role that narratives play in shaping our psychology.

Sigal Samuel

So, if I have a narrative about myself that emphasizes why having a more evidence-backed, cost-effective approach to giving actually makes me feel really good and gives me that glow, conveying that might get people more interested in my approach?

Molly Crockett

Potentially. Of course, conveying that may butt up against the “do-gooder derogation” effect. So you’d have to be careful about that.

I think this conversation just goes to show how much of a challenge it is to change moral behavior. There are so many different levers you can press to try to change behavior, but often they’re working at odds with one another. So if you press one, that inadvertently presses other levers that counteract its effect. It’s a complex system we’re dealing with.

Sign up for the Future Perfect newsletter. Twice a week, you’ll get a roundup of ideas and solutions for tackling our biggest challenges: improving public health, decreasing human and animal suffering, easing catastrophic risks, and — to put it simply — getting better at doing good.https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/8/27/20829758/altruism-morality-molly-crockett-study-dating-do-gooders

Revealed: Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib targeted in far-right fake news operation – David Smith, Michael McGowan , Christopher Knaus and Nick Evershed Thu 5 Dec 2019 09.00 EST


 Israeli-based group uses Facebook to spread disinformation to more than a million followers around the world, singling out Muslim US congresswomen

Coordinated Facebook posts made by an Israel-based group have vilified Muslim politicians such as Democratic congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
Coordinated Facebook posts made by an Israel-based group have vilified Muslim politicians such as Democratic congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Photograph: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Two Muslim US congresswomen have been targeted by a vast international operation that exploits far-right pages on Facebook to inflame Islamophobia for profit, a Guardian investigation has found.

A mysterious Israeli-based group uses 21 Facebook pages to churn out more than a thousand coordinated fake news posts per week to more than a million followers around the world. It milks the traffic for revenue from digital advertising.

Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who earlier this year became the first Muslim women to serve in the US Congress, have been singled out for vicious attacks by the coordinated effort.

Somali-born Omar is the most frequent target. She has been mentioned in more than 1,400 posts since the network began two years ago. Tlaib has been mentioned nearly 1,200 times. Both totals are far higher than any other member of Congress.

Omar and Tlaib are members of a group of progressive women of color known as “the squad” that also includes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. They have been subject to racist insults from Donald Trump.

The Guardian uncovered contacts between a group of mysterious Israel-based accounts and 21 far-right Facebook pages across the US, Australia, the UK, Canada, Austria, Israel and Nigeria.

The posts exacerbate Islamophobia by amplifying far-right parties and vilifying Muslim and leftwing politicians. Their content is a blend of distorted news and pure fabrication.

An analysis by Queensland University of Technology’s digital media research centre indicated a single entity is coordinating the publication of content across the Facebook pages.

Using web archiving services and domain registry information, the Guardian has been able to confirm a key figure in the network is Ariel Elkaras, a thirtysomething jewelry salesman and online operator living on the outskirts of the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.

Several of the network’s websites were either taken down or had large amounts of content removed soon after the Guardian approached Elkaras for comment. Public posts on his Facebook profile were also deleted.

Elkaras did not respond to multiple requests for comment via email and phone, but the Guardian was able to track him down in the Israeli town of Lod, near Tel Aviv, where he denied involvement in the network. “It’s nothing related to me,” he said through a translator.

The uncovering of the network is likely to fuel concerns that Facebook is failing to tackle disinformation and hate groups ahead of next year’s presidential election in the US.

Abbas Barzegar, director of research and advocacy at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said: “Spreading disinformation and faux-reporting through pre-networked social media accounts and pseudo-news websites has been the preferred tactic of the Islamophobia industry for a very long time.

“These actors create entire media and information ecosystems that inscribe dangerous ideas and narratives in audiences across the world. The impact isn’t personal prejudice, alone. Rather, such disinformation impacts our political climate, actual laws, policies and overall culture.”

Somali-born Omar, the first member of the House of Representatives to wear a hijab in the chamber, has been subject to hundreds of online death threats. In September she accused Trump of putting her life at risk after the president retweeted a post that falsely claimed she partied on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Omar told the Guardian: “As this report makes clear, foreign interference – whether by individuals or governments – is still a grave threat to our democracy. These are malicious actors operating in a foreign country, Israel, spreading misinformation and hate speech to influence elections in the United States. The goal of these anti-Muslim hate campaigns is clear – they put Muslim lives here and around the world at risk and undermine our country’s commitment to religious pluralism.”

She also slammed Facebook for its role in allowing users to spread misinformation.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Facebook’s complacency is a threat to our democracy. It has become clear that they do not take seriously the degree to which they provide a platform for white nationalist hate and dangerous misinformation in this country and around the world. And there is a clear reason for this: they profit off it. I believe their inaction is a grave threat to people’s lives, to our democracy and to democracy around the world.

”“When private corporations don’t act, we as a nation need to think seriously about ways to address the spread of misinformation while protecting core values like free speech.”

When the Guardian notified Facebook of its investigation, the company removed several pages and accounts “that appeared to be financially motivated”, a spokesperson said in a statement.

“These pages and accounts violated our policy against spam and fake accounts by posting clickbait content to drive people to off-platform sites,” the spokesperson said.

“We don’t allow people to misrepresent themselves on Facebook and we’ve updated our inauthentic behavior policy to further improve our ability to counter new tactics.

“Our investigations are continuing and, as always, we’ll take action if we find any violations.””

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/dec/05/ilhan-omar-rashida-tlaib-targeted-far-right-fake-news-operation-facebook

Filmmakers Sue to Shield Visitors to U.S. From Social Media Vetting – Cora Currier, Ryan Devereaux December 5 2019, 10:08 a.m.


A filmmaker working on a documentary that’s critical of U.S. policies. A writer who operates a pseudonymous Twitter account to evade an authoritarian regime in their home country. An activist who uses Facebook to organize protests at the U.S.-Mexico border.

These are the kinds of people who might not want U.S. immigration agents poring over their social media profiles before deciding whether they should be allowed into the country. Yet that’s exactly what the State Department now requires as part of the Trump administration’s “extreme vetting” of millions of visa applicants. As of May, people who need a visa to enter the U.S. have to disclose any social media handles they’ve used over the past five years on 20 platforms, from Instagram and Twitter to YouTube and Weibo (the Chinese microblogging service). If they don’t, their visas could be denied.

Two U.S.-based documentary film organizations filed suit on Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C. to challenge the policy, arguing that it will have a chilling effect on the filmmakers they work with. Along with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, the International Documentary Association and Doc Society are suing the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security because their international members are “concerned that their political views will be used against them during the visa process.”

“They self-censor to avoid being associated with controversial ideas or sensitive topics,” the complaint states. The nonprofit groups surveyed over 100 international filmmakers and found that “a significant majority said it would chill their speech online.” Some reported that they were reconsidering travel to the U.S. or trying to scrub online postings in light of the new requirements. Those coming from countries with repressive governments or from war zones were especially concerned, since some of them operate anonymously online to more freely share information and opinions. Once these people disclose their true identity to U.S. officials, they fear, that information could end up in hands of hostile governments or groups.

People who need a visa to enter the U.S. have to disclose any social media handles they’ve used over the past five years on 20 platforms.

Oliver Rivers, managing director of Doc Society, described two distinct harms created by the Trump administration’s policies on social media and visa applications. “One is the impact on non-U.S. citizens, non-U.S. filmmakers,” he told The Intercept. The other is on U.S.-based individuals and organizations like Doc Society and IDA that are “wanting to engage with those non-U.S. citizens.”

Those who live and work abroad using anonymous social media accounts are left with a difficult set of questions, Rivers said: “Do I disclose my identity? Do I lie about my identity? Or do I not come to the United States?” The situation is also challenging for those who use their real name online, Rivers added, and are left to question how their posts might read to the “hostile bureaucratic eye” of an American border official.

The State Department and DHS could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to the complaint, one IDA member, who lives in the Midwest, said they “reviewed three years of social media activity and deleted posts criticizing the current U.S. administration in order to avoid any delays on future visa applications.” Another said that she would no longer post original content online due to similar concerns (most of the filmmakers surveyed did not want to be named, fearing reprisals).

The groups called the requirement “the cornerstone of a far-reaching digital surveillance regime.”

Such self-censorship could play out on a massive scale, the groups fear; the State Department estimates that 14.7 million people each year will have to disclose their social media accounts. In their suit, the groups called the requirement “the cornerstone of a far-reaching digital surveillance regime that enables the U.S. government to monitor visa applicants’ constitutionally protected speech and associations not just at the time they apply for visas, but even after they enter the United States.” Carrie DeCell, a staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute, said that the government could access that data and monitor speech online “years into the future.”

The U.S. security state has long been interested in online activities of travelers. In 2016, during the Obama administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection started asking for social media handles from travelers who fall under the visa waiver program, including citizens of many European countries. (At one point, CBP even contemplated requesting travelers’ account passwords.) That information was voluntary, but it still raised free speech concerns. DHS has also sought social media information for automated threat screening, contracting with firms that slurp up online postings. All of this, the new complaint points out, is despite the fact that even many in government have questioned the effectiveness of programs scrutinizing social media to identify national security threats.

The complaint underlines “the difficulties of interpreting social media information across different languages, customs, and cultural norms.” Indeed, ProPublica reported recently that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sometimes relied on Google Translate to evaluate refugee applications. Under the new State Department rules, a mistranslation or misunderstanding of an offhand social media comment could ruin someone’s chance for a visa.

This summer, a Palestinian teenager on his way to begin classes at Harvard was turned back at Boston Logan International Airport and deported, he told the Harvard Crimson, after a confrontation with border officials over political views expressed by friends on social media. There have also been many reports of U.S. citizens who have had their phones searched by CBP or been pressured to give up account information.

Simon Kilmurry, executive director of the IDA, said that his organization was aware of several incidents in which filmmakers have had trouble obtaining U.S. visas apparently because of the nature of their work. Blocking those voices doesn’t just hurt the filmmakers, the lawsuit argues, but also deprives U.S. audiences of diverse, enlightening perspectives. “We’ve seen this boom in documentary filmmaking, and it’s become a way for people to engage with the world and the issues it’s facing. Whether it’s war and peace or climate change or immigration, these stories have a real value in enriching the dialogue,” said Kilmurry. “And to not hear from those filmmakers directly is very troubling, to say the least.”

Rivers, the Doc Society managing director, said the average citizen might reasonably ask, “What does feature documentary filmmaking got to do with me?” But at its heart, he said, the case was about “bureaucratic intervention in freedom of speech — and it’s being done in a particularly insidious way.”

“It’s not just a small requirement on a visa form,” he added. “It’s very, very clear encroaching bureaucratic oppression, and I think you have to make a stand when you see something like this.”

https://theintercept.com/2019/12/05/us-visa-social-media-screening/

The courageous optimism of young farmers – BY STACEY COOK PHOTOGRAPHS BY ERIKA LARSEN December 4, 2019


Small, family farms are facing intense challenges, but the next generation of farmers are determined to succeed.1

Like many of her generation, April Wilson left her family’s farm in Iowa after graduating from college to pursue a different path. But after 14 years in the hospitality industry, she still couldn’t shake the feeling of being a stranger in her own life. When her father started talking about retiring, she decided to come home. “Farming is a part of who I am,” she says. “Raising hogs was the heartbeat of the farm because that was my grandfather’s love and my father’s love. I wanted to keep that legacy going.”

April Wilson pictured at Niman Farm

After 14 years of working in the hospitality industry, April Wilson returned to her roots to work on her family’s farm. Photograph by Erika Larsen

Now, however, she faces an uncertain future. More than half of U.S. farms lost money this year, and the average farm was operating at a loss. Small farms, most of which are family-owned and operated, confront considerable challenges including changing weather patterns, farm consolidation, and an aging population. Over the last 12 years, U.S. agriculture lost 40 times more farmers than it gained, challenging the future of small and midsized farms throughout the country.

Farming is facing intense economic challenges, but it’s essential to the future of a healthy and resilient planet. The Wilson family’s Seven W farm is a model for sustainable practices that include rotational grazing, cover crops, and crop rotation. They even maintain wildlife refuge areas. After so many years in the city, Wilson appreciates her access to fresh organic food—she can pluck lettuce for her salad right out of the ground. At a time when many farms are expanding and becoming more mechanized, her family’s small organic farm is an outlier. “We’re the oddballs,” she says with pride.

But they’re also part of a likeminded community. For the past 20 years, the Wilsons have raised hogs for Niman Ranch, a network of more than 740 small, independent U.S. family farmers and ranchers who adhere to some of the strictest animal welfare protocols in the industry.

Dane Kruse and Kelsey Kruse sit in front of the hog pen.
Hogs gather in a spacious indoor pen.

Kelsey Kruse and Dane Kruse are two faces of the next generation of farmers striving to protect the future of real food.Photograph by Erika Larsen

The Niman Ranch Next Generation Foundation awards scholarships to the children of their farmers and ranchers in an effort to support young farmers and encourage them to return after college.

Chipotle Mexican Grill is a major donor to the scholarship fund, which aligns with the company’s emphasis on locally and ethically sourced, healthy ingredients. “Farmers committed to farming in a sustainable and ethical way need help to have a chance to succeed – both for the sake of the future of real nutritious food and the communities that rely on those farms,” said Brian Niccol, Chief Executive Officer of Chipotle.

Elle Gadient is a past scholarship recipient who went on to study environmental science and continues to advocate for sustainable and humane farming methods. The Gadients have always cared for their animals like family members. It’s not unusual for them to bring a cold little pig into the house to warm up in the winter or turn on the sprinklers to cool off the pigs in summer. Gadient even has a favorite cow, Sugar Plum, who has a penchant for apples and comes when she’s called.

Left: Elle Gadient, a Next Generation Foundation scholarship recipient, continues to advocate for sustainable farming and environmental protection.
Right:

A red tractor sits in front of the barn at A-Frame Acres.

Photograph by Erika Larsen

Gadient is now a Niman Ranch young farmer advocate. “My passion is sustainable farming, taking care of the environment, and supporting family farms,” she says. “Because families really care. This is our livelihood. It’s not a career. It’s every part of what we’re living.”

Michael Mardesen is another past recipient of the Next Generation Scholarship. Before he left his family’s farm to study veterinary medicine at Iowa State, he was interviewed in a video by Niman Ranch. His gray eyes are focused just off camera, his cheeks ruddy from the early winter air. “My dad and I do a lot of the work, but it’s not a one- or two-person show. We all have this one goal of making sure this place is still running.”

Left:

Michael Mardesen grew up on the farm his grandfather built, A-Frame Acres, where huts were given to each sow and her piglets.

Right:

A sow and her piglet at A-Frame Acres

Photograph by Erika Larsen

Mardesen grew up on the farm his grandfather built named A-Frame Acres for the little huts given to each farrowing sow and her litter of piglets. There are no confinement pens here. The pigs nestle into their straw at night and roam free in the fields during the day. The Mardesens care about their environmental impact as much as their animals, so they use sustainable farming methods like crop rotation, minimum tillage, and grassy waterways.

Maintaining a small, sustainable farm hasn’t been easy, but Mardesen always understood its value. “My dad and I, we never really played catch, we never really did the whole fishing, typical father-son relationship. But we’ve been able to work together,” he says in the video. “I’ve been able to watch him go through his struggles and hardships, and that’s helped me deal with mine. It’s one thing to read about people dealing with something tough in a book or see it or hear in the news, but when you see it firsthand and live it, and you see the expression in his eyes, to watch that and learn that lesson is something special. It’s something unique that you don’t get just playing catch.”

After completing his degree in veterinary medicine, Michael Mardesen returned to support his family’s farm. Photograph by Erika Larsen

Mardesen recently completed his veterinary degree and returned to the farm after eight years away. But he, like both of his parents, has an off-farm job, which is increasingly common. “It gets tough,” he says. “There aren’t enough revenue streams to feed all the mouths.”

When family farms can’t survive, their disappearance erodes rural economies and breaks up rural communities. But there’s hope. The number of young farmers increased between 2012 and 2017, suggesting that the next generation is committed to the industry, despite challenges such as land access, labor shortages, lack of health insurance, and student loan debt.

With the support of the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation and the National Young Farmers Coalition, the future of farming looks promising.

Photograph by Erika Larsen

In addition to supporting the Next Generation Scholarship, Chipotle has big plans to help young farmers succeed. The company recently announced several new initiatives, including 3-year contracts for farmers under age 40 who meet certain requirements, increasing its already substantial local sourcing in 2020, and start-up grants in partnership with the National Young Farmers Coalition and the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation. Beginning on “Farmer Friday” on December 6, 2019, one dollar from every entrée purchased online will go toward start-up grants, up to $250,000.

“The number-one thing I think a young farmer needs is a chance,” says Mardesen in the video. “We have what it takes. We’ve got the brains, we have the creativity, we have the willpower and the strong back. The most important thing we need right now is a chance and an opportunity to excel.” Now, it seems, that chance is here.

Learn more about how Chipotle is leading change and how you can help.

This content is brought to you by our partner. It does not necessarily reflect the views of National Geographic or its editorial staff.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2019/12/partner-content-courageous-optimism-of-young-farmers/

Bloomberg unveils sweeping gun control plan


The billionaire businessman is calling for stronger background checks and permit requirements.

Bloomberg’s plan calls for a background check system that entails permits for all new gun buyers, police notification when owners have been prohibited from holding firearms and a crackdown on unlicensed sellers at gun shows or online, according to campaign officials. As mayor in 2009, Bloomberg oversaw a sting operation at gun shows around the country and turned over illegally-bought firearms to federal authorities.

His team said his proposed law would carve out exceptions for law enforcement officials, hunting and self-defense, and noted 21 states and Washington, D.C. already have similar measures in place.

Bloomberg is also calling for a “red flag screening” to block people who pose a danger from getting permitted to own a firearm. Issuers would have to review histories of domestic violence and other risks.

In anticipation of any backlash to his permitting proposal, a contentious issue among gun rights advocates, Bloomberg came ready with a comparison of the issue to voting rights.

“Now I know critics will say that Americans shouldn’t need a permit to exercise their constitutional rights. But voting is a constitutional right, and we require people to register to protect the rights of all citizens, and this exactly the same idea,” he argued, “because a criminal with a gun can destroy our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

And his plan demands that guns not be sold before background checks are complete, a policy his team said could have prevented 15,000 sales to people prohibited from owning a gun over five years. The “Charleston loophole,” which Democrats have already tried to end, reportedly enabled shooter Dylann Roof to buy a gun in 2015 and kill nine people in a Charleston, S.C., church.

The issue of gun control has long proven a hurdle for Democrats.

President Obama described his failure to secure similar measures in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting as one of his greatest regrets, telling BBCin 2015 it was “the one area where I feel that I’ve been most frustrated and most stymied.”

Bloomberg suggested he had the chops to unite a divided Congress, demanding to know “what‘s partisan about stopping carnage,“ emphasizing that he would actually “do something“ about gun violence, no doubt a nod to the number of times gun legislation has stalled in Congress. “The movement we created gets things done,“ he declared.

A spokesman said Bloomberg “is the only candidate in the race who has taken on the NRA and won, time and again,” referring to his personal expenditure of several hundred million dollars on the issue. In 2018, Bloomberg invested $112 million on 24 political candidates who supported gun control measures and won 21 of those races.

“He’s passed gun laws in states across the country that have saved lives, including winning in states with Republican control,” the spokesman, Marc La Vorgna, said in response to how Bloomberg intends to build bipartisan support for his platform. “He has shown he knows how to break through and deliver smart gun laws and will do the same as president.”

Some proposals that can be achieved through executive action include closing the “boyfriend loophole” for physically abusive domestic partners, appointing a White House czar to oversee the issue and setting up a task force.

Prior to his announcement Thursday , Bloomberg received an endorsementfrom Colorado state Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was killed in the Aurora theater shooting, and Pastor Marlon Saunders, whose church hosted Thursday‘s town hall.

Bloomberg’s candidacy has already drawn the ire of an old and politically important foe.

“Mike Bloomberg gave Everytown for ‘Gun Safety’ $38M last year – 55% of their revenue. That means that a majority of their budget comes from just ONE BILLIONAIRE. In contrast, the bulk of NRA revenue comes from millions of hard-working Americans. #MicDrop,” the NRA tweeted about the ex-mayor’s gun control organization on Nov. 26.

A day later the organization tweeted, “Michael Bloomberg’s bought and paid for Virginia legislators have wasted no time introducing legislation that would make Virginia’s gun laws worse than New York. First up: a total ban on commonly-owned semi-auto firearms and common firearm parts.”

But Bloomberg did not shrink away Thursday, declaring the gun rights lobby a “shell” of what it once was.

He also took aim at President Donald Trump, accusing him of bowing “down to the extremists who run the NRA.”

“Donald Trump seems to accept this violence and pain, and he and the NRA leaders say there isn’t anything we can do about it — and every time I go to another funeral, I think ‘My God, there has to be something we can do about it,’” he said. “I don‘t accept that kids being murdered at school is something we should be used to.”

Caitlin Oprysko contributed to this report.

Michael Bloomberg. | Rick Scuteri, File/AP Photohttps://www.politico.com/news/2019/12/05/bloomberg-unveils-expansive-gun-control-plan-076376

Uber Safety Report Details Sexual Assaults in U.S. Over Two Years – Heather Somerville Updated Dec. 5, 2019 9:32 pm ET


Nonconsensual touching was the most prevalent type of sexual assault during or in conjunction with Uber trips

The incidents represent a fraction of the 2.3 billion Uber rides completed in the two-year study. Photo: Eric Risberg/Associated Press

Uber Technologies Inc. said it received 5,981 reports of sexual assault involving U.S. passengers or drivers during 2017 and 2018, underscoring the risk that has been a chief criticism of ride-hailing companies around the world.

In a report released Thursday, Uber voluntarily disclosed the first comprehensive review of safety issues involving its ride service. Sexual violence in particular has been a challenge for Uber as well as rivals including Lyft Inc. and China’s Didi Chuxing Technology Co., prompting heightened pressure from lawmakers, advocacy groups and customers to address the problem.

Nonconsensual touching was the most prevalent type of sexual assault that occurred during or in conjunction with Uber trips during the two-year period, according to data compiled by Uber, with 1,560 reported incidents last year. There were 515 incidents of rape or attempted rape in 2018.

Uber identified five categories of sexual assault, including nonconsensual touching and kissing.

There was a 3.7% uptick in the total number of reported sexual assault incidents, to 3,045 in 2018 from 2,936 in 2017. However, the number of trips on the Uber app also rose year-over-year by 30%.

But Uber’s numbers may be much lower than reality: sexual assault is chronically underreported.

Numerous organizations that work to end sexual assault and domestic violence applauded Uber’s report for raising awareness of the issue and encouraging more survivors to report acts of violence. A spokeswoman for Jane Doe Inc., a coalition against sexual assault and domestic violence, said Uber’s report shows “how seriously they are taking these issues” and how the company “can play a role in supporting survivors and preventing violence.”

During the two-year period, 19 people died from physical assaults that occurred during or were related to an Uber trip, according to the report, including eight riders and seven drivers. There were 97 fatal car crashes involving an Uber ride, with about 65% of those crashes involving another car and 31% involving a pedestrian or bicycle.

The report doesn’t include safety incidents outside the U.S., which may be significantly higher in regions with more violence where Uber operates, including Brazil and South Africa.

Uber has long faced criticism for its screening process for drivers, which has in some cases allowed people with serious criminal backgrounds to drive for the company, as uncovered by city officials in Houston a few years ago in the course of an audit. Last week, Uber lost its license to operate in London in part because of a loophole in its app that allowed 14,000 unauthorized drivers to ferry around passengers, posing as Uber drivers.

At a Wall Street Journal conference last month, Lyft co-founder and President John Zimmer pledged that his company would improve safety for riders and drivers amid allegations that some of its drivers had sexually assaulted and raped female passengers. Dozens of women have sued Lyft in recent weeks, alleging they had been assaulted by drivers working for the ride service, and that Lyft mishandled their reports.

Uber said in its report that during 2017 and 2018, more than a million prospective drivers didn’t make it through Uber’s screening process.

The company also highlighted a number of safety improvements it has made to its service, including an emergency button in the app to call 911 and the ability for passengers to have a loved one track their ride and know when they have arrived. The company said it has tripled the size of its safety team since 2017.

While the numbers are startling, the incidents represent a fraction of the 2.3 billion Uber rides completed during the two-year study. The vast majority of trips on Uber—99.9%—are completed without any safety related issue, Uber said.

“In the United States alone, more than 45 rides on Uber happen every second,” said Uber’s chief legal officer Tony West. “At that scale, we are not immune to society’s most serious safety challenges.”

Write to Heather Somerville at Heather.Somerville@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-issues-report-detailing-safety-incidents-on-ride-hailing-platform-11575591071?mod=hp_lead_pos2