all quick reads

Current Events

“All-Hands-On-Deck”

As Americans headed into Mother’s Day weekend, hackers coordinated ”the worst cyberattack to date on critical U.S. infrastructure.”
What To Know
Why It Matters

Current Events

The Basics:

The Target: A company (Colonial Pipeline) that operates a major U.S. pipeline - the "largest refined products pipeline" in the country - transporting products like gasoline, jet fuel, and home heating oil.
Why It Matters: Colonial Pipeline transports 100 million gallons of fuel A DAY, delivering nearly half of the fuel that's consumed on the East Coast.
What Happened: Hackers infiltrated the company's computer network.

Current Events

Term To Know

Ransomware is absolutely out of control and one of the biggest threats we face as a nation.”

Cybersecurity expert David Kennedy, TrustedSec, on ransomware (aka "cyberextortion") - when criminals take over a computer system and hold it hostage, only returning access when owners pay a high fee, and possibly steal data for future use or sale.

Current Events

Developing Story

  • On Monday, the FBI confirmed hackers associated with a criminal group called “DarkSide” is "responsible for the compromise of the Colonial Pipeline networks."
  • Unclear who did what, and when. Colonial says it "proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat." Either way, business & fuel distribution was disrupted.
  • The federal government loosened restrictions to transport oil by tanker truck because of the potential threat of fuel shortages.

Current Events

"It's an all-hands-on-deck effort right now. And we are working closely with the company, state and local officials to make sure that they get back up to normal operations as quickly as possible and there aren't disruptions in supply."

Commerce Sec. Gina Raimondo, Sunday May 9th, on the DarkSide Colonial Pipeline attack. Days earlier, the Sec. of the Dept. of Homeland Security said ransomware attacks increased 300% over the last year with $350 million of ransom paid: "The threat is not tomorrow's threat, but it is upon us."

Current Events

It's not just this incident... A ransomware attack targeted the government network of Tulsa, Oklahoma over the weekend. Dozens of cities, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Pensacola, and New Orleans, have confronted ransomware attacks recently, as have hospitals and school districts, including one of the largest in the country. Read more about it on our source page.

May 10, 2021

sources

Eats

Mother's Day

Apple Rose Recipe

Eats

A beautiful little recipe for a bouquet of edible flowers.

Happy Mother's Day!

May 8, 2021

sources

On This Day

The First Mother’s Day

All About Flags…Not Flowers

On This Day

“I…direct the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings and do invite the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”

Pres. Woodrow Wilson declaring the first national "Mother's Day" on May 9, 1914, but the campaign for it began years earlier.

On This Day

The Daughter Behind Mother’s Day
  • Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her own mother, who founded “Mothers' Day Work Clubs” to teach health and sanitation to mothers in the Appalachian communities during the 1860s.
  • Jarvis' mother also cared for both Union and Confederate soldiers, and formed "Mothers Friendship Day" to encourage reconciliation after the Civil War.
  • After her mother's death, Jarvis began a campaign to honor mothers. She held the first Mother's Day celebration to honor her mother (and all mothers) in West Virginia in 1908 and two years later the state declared it a holiday.

On This Day

By the 1920s, mothers nationwide were showered with candy, flowers, cards, & other gifts to celebrate Mother’s Day, but Jarvis grew frustrated with the commercialization of the holiday, that she intended as a day to honor the role mothers play in the family, church, and community. She spent the rest of her life fighting against its commercial success because she wanted it a "to be a day of sentiment, not profit."

May 7, 2021

sources

Health

Call it "Vitamin G"

A new study says gardening may have the same benefits as jogging or cycling.
Why researchers say a green thumb may lead to a healthier heart.

Health

"This is the first time the 'dose response' to gardening has been tested and the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the more frequently you garden - the greater the health benefits. In fact gardening every day has the same positive impact on wellbeing than undertaking regular, vigorous exercise like cycling or running."

Lead author Dr. Lauriane Chalmin-Pui, Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) wellbeing fellow, on a new study "Why garden? – Attitudes and the perceived health benefits of home gardening."

Health

The Basics:

  • Who: Study by University of Sheffield, the University of Virginia, and the Royal Horticulturist Society.
  • What & Where: Research collected through an online survey of UK residents: 5,766 gardeners and 249 non-gardeners.
  • Findings: The higher your "dose" of gardening (2-3 times a week) the greater the benefit participants reported - including "reductions in perceived stress, increased subjective well-being and increased self-reported physical activity levels."

Health

"It feels to me like the gold rush..."

Nikos Kavanya, a purchaser for Fedco Seeds, a Maine seed & supply company founded in 1978, describing the insatiable demand for online seed purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic as Americans stayed closer to home. Kavanya says online orders this February typically reached their daily limit 10 minutes after opening.

Health

Consider the Source:

The UK's Royal Horticultural Society, the study's sponsor, is "the world's leading gardening charity." That doesn't mean the study isn't useful or interesting, but it's always important to know the "root" (pun intended!) of the research.

May 6, 2021

sources

Current Events

Who Are The Gatekeepers?

An "independent board" decides the fate of a former U.S. president on social media platforms with billions of users worldwide.
Who They Are & Why It Matters

Current Events

"The Board has upheld Facebook’s decision on January 7, 2021, to restrict then-President Donald Trump’s access to posting content on his Facebook page and Instagram account. However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension."

The Board upheld the suspension (for now) but ordered Facebook to review it within six months to determine & justify a "proportionate response" consistent with the rules applied to other users and its policy recommendations.

Current Events

BACKSTORY

  • Jan 6 & 7: Facebook deemed former Pres. Trump in violation of its policies due to his posts about the Capitol Hill riot & election results.
  • The posts were removed and he was suspended. The next day, the suspension was extended "indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks."
  • Jan 21: Facebook's Oversight Board accepted a referral from Facebook seeking a review of the indefinite suspension.

Current Events

Facebook Oversight Board

  • Independent body created and funded by Facebook (through an endowment managed by trustees) to navigate difficult content decisions.
  • "The board operates like a Supreme Court for content" (Wall Street Journal) issuing rulings on what content Facebook & Instagram should allow or remove "based on respect for freedom of expression and human rights."
  • The board issues decisions & can make content policy recommendations, which Facebook must implement within a week.

Current Events

The Board Members:

  • Currently made up of 20 members (could vary from 11 - 40 members) initially chosen by Facebook "for the diversity of their expertise and the quality of their judgment."
  • Experts in a range of fields such as journalism, constitutional law, & freedom of expression.
  • Members come from across the globe, incl. the U.S., Kenya, Taiwan, Pakistan, etc.
  • In January 2021, the board issued its first 5 rulings (overturning 4 of Facebook’s decisions) and 9 policy recommendations.

Current Events

The Decision-Making Process:

  • Once the board decides to take up a case (via referrals from Facebook or appeals from users), that case is assigned to a panel of five of its members; we won't know which five.
  • The panel examines whether the content at issue violates Facebook's Community Standards or human rights standards, and considers information from Facebook, the user, public comments and outside experts.
  • The panel presents its decision to the full board for review. The board's final decision is binding.

Current Events

Something To Consider:

  • Your First Amendment right to free speech applies to govt. censorship – NOT social media sites run by private companies.
  • Social media sites are free to set their own rules (to which users agree when they sign up) about what type of content is allowed.
  • Federal law allows companies to take “good faith” actions to restrict access to excessively violent, obscene, or “otherwise objectionable" content regardless of whether it's constitutionally protected - this may include prohibitions against false or misleading posts.

Current Events

This case is not important simply because of former Pres. Trump, but also because of the precedent it sets for other high-profile users, world leaders, as well as Facebook's 2.85+ billion users and Instagram's 1+ billion users.

May 5, 2021

sources

Current Events

The Final Drawdown

Taliban attacks continue as the United States begins its final withdrawal from the site of America's longest war.
Afghanistan's president calls this period "a moment of risk and opportunity."
What To Know & Why It Matters

Current Events

What's Happening

  • An agreement during previous negotiations among the Taliban, Afghan government, and the U.S. under the Trump administration set May 1, 2021 as the date for full U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
  • The Biden administration called the date "hard to meet" and delayed full withdrawal to September 11, 2021 despite Taliban protests.
  • The drawdown of America's estimated 2,500 remaining troops has begun; the U.S. is packing up supplies & soldiers and handing over bases to the Afghan government.

Current Events

"The withdrawal also represents an opportunity for the Afghan people to achieve real sovereignty ... As we prepare for peace talks with the Taliban, we are also prepared to face them on the battlefield."

Afghanistan Pres. Ashraf Ghani says "integration of the Taliban into society and government is the only way forward," but the Taliban must meet demands they haven't in the past - for example, they must "address ongoing connections to al Qaeda," accept democratic elections and "uphold the rights" of women & minorities.

Current Events

“... we are about to go into a system of power. You have to be well prepared. I wish successes for you in all your duties.”

The Taliban's deputy emir, Sirajuddin Haqqani, in a recorded audio message translated by The Long War Journal's Tom Joscelyn - who reports the Taliban are preparing a judicial system to enforce Islamic rule in Afghanistan just as they maintained prior to the war. Haqqani is designated a terrorist by the United Nations & is on the F.B.I.'s "Most Wanted List" for his associations with the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Current Events

"... We've seen nothing thus far that has affected the drawdown or -- or had any significant impact on the -- the mission at hand in Afghanistan."

U.S. Dept. of Defense Press. Sec. John Kirby in response to a question about recent "deadly Taliban attacks" as America began its final drawdown on May 1st. The Taliban is reportedly behind a truck bomb that killed 21 people and injured dozens of others, as well as a rocket attack at an important American airfield; America retaliated against a Taliban position.

Current Events

Why This Matters: A Taliban-controlled Afghanistan provided safe haven for al-Qaeda as it planned the 9/11 terrorist attacks and propagated terrorist ideology worldwide, which spawned other attacks. A looming question remains on how the absence of U.S. troops will impact the security of America, innocent Afghan people and others elsewhere. Nearly 3,000 Americans died on 9/11; over 2,000 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan and more than 20,000 injured.

May 4, 2021

sources

Quote of the Day

“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.”

Audrey Hepburn

Quote of the Day

On this day in 1929, Audrey Hepburn was born in Belgium. She studied ballet from a young age while growing up in the Netherlands during World War II, before shifting her focus to acting. Both a humanitarian and fashion icon, she is best known for roles in films including "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "Roman Holiday," and "My Fair Lady." Hepburn spent her later years working as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, a charity dedicated to serving children living in poverty around the world.

May 4, 2021

sources

Health

Everyday Danger?

Questions swirl about child safety after a warning to families about a popular at-home treadmill.
What household items pose a threat to your children?
Here's what we discovered...

Health

Backstory:

  • An independent federal agency, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Comm. (CPSC), "urges" Americans to stop using the Peloton Tread+ b/c it poses "serious risks" to children - such as abrasions, fractures & death.
  • "39 incidents including one death"...from "becoming entrapped, pinned, and pulled under" the Peloton Tread+ (CPSC).
  • Peloton calls CPSC's statement "inaccurate and misleading," reminding all users to remove the device's safety key when not in use.

Health

Context:

Approx. 48 million = children under the age of 11 in America.
2,000 = reported treadmill injuries among children 8 and under in 2019.
Any loss of life is significant. Considering the rarity of this injury, we wanted to *also* ask:
After a year where many families spent more time at home than ever before, what does the data show about common dangers for children in every household?

Health

TIP-OVERS

  • Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in U.S. kids (CDC).
  • Tip-over accidents involving furniture, TVs & appliances sent an estimated 11,300 children on average to the ER each year and reportedly killed 469 children ( 1 month to 14 years old) from 2000 - 2019 (CPSC).
  • PREVENTION TIP: CPSC recommends anchoring down household items such as dressers, bookcases, TVs, TV stands and beyond.

Health

BURNS

  • 300+ U.S. children visit the ER daily for burn-related injuries & 2 die each day (CDC).
  • Burns from tap water cause more hospitalizations & deaths than burns from other hot liquids.
  • About 75% of children's scalding burns caused by hot liquids or steam are preventable (Johns Hopkins).
  • PREVENTION TIP: CDC recommends setting your water heater thermostat to 120°F or lower.

Health

PLANTS?

  • Poison incidents send 300+ U.S. children to the ER daily and two die each day (CDC).
  • Many result from medicines, cosmetics, or cleaning products, but plants rank #10 on the list of top pediatric poison exposures from kiddos ingesting houseplants (National Poison Data System).
  • PREVENTION TIP: Do a simple "background check" on your plants before bringing them home, especially if you have small children and pets.

Health

The last comprehensive report by the CDC on household injuries and children was issued in 2008! We reached out to the CDC to see if there's any updated *definitive* data.

Meanwhile, a federal class action lawsuit was filed against Peloton, accusing the company of selling and marketing the Tread+ "as safe and appropriate for use by families in the home, even though its design makes it inherently and uniquely dangerous to children."

May 3, 2021

sources

Quote of the Day

"You kick a few pebbles, you turn a few stones, and eventually you have an avalanche.”

Candace Lightner

Quote of the Day

On this day in 1980, Candy Lightner's 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was struck and killed by a drunk driver with multiple DUIs while walking to a church carnival near Sacramento, CA. Lightner channeled her grief to start Mothers Against Drunk Driving (or MADD) - now the largest nonprofit in America focused on preventing driving under the influence. MADD has supported more than 1 million victims and helped inspire or pass hundreds of state and federal laws to prevent drunk driving.

May 3, 2021

sources

On This Day

May 1, 1931

The Grand Opening of the Empire State Building.

On This Day

".... a victory of imagination. Instead of crouching close to earth like a beast, the spirit of man soars to higher regions, & from this new point of vantage he looks upon the impossible with fortified courage & dreams yet more magnificent enterprises.”

Helen Keller in a 1932 letter writing about her visit to the Empire State Building. Both blind and deaf, Keller came to this description based on feeling alone - a tribute to the symbolism and size of the building.

On This Day

"Race To The Sky"

  • 1928: The race was on to build the world's tallest building.
  • 1930: The Chrysler Building (built by the founder of Chrysler Corporation) claimed the title with 77 floors. As a result, the Empire State Building's blueprints changed from 80 to 102 floors, ensuring it would be the tallest.
  • 1931: Empire State Building completed (partly thanks to aid from an executive from Chrysler competitor General Motors) and became the first building in the world to reach 100 stories.

On This Day

May 1, 1931: Opening Day

  • May 1, 1931: Opening Day The Empire State Building opens to the public & is dedicated by Pres. Hoover. He (symbolically) presses a button from D.C., officially opening the building & turning on the lights for the first time.
  • The building is established as the tallest in the world at 102 stories high.
  • It also broke records for how quickly it was built: the entire process took around 13 months or 410 days

On This Day

Hardships & Victories

  • "Empty State Building": The Empire State Building earned this nickname after the office building struggled to get tenants. The building weathered the stock market crash of 1929 and provided jobs during the early years of the Depression, but took decades to enlist occupants.
  • King Kong: In 1933, two years after opening, the building experienced increased visitation & popularity when the movie "King Kong" was released. Millions began to flock to the building after its feature on the big screen.

On This Day

Interesting To Note

  • The Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world for 40 years & is now ranked as 43rd. The world's tallest building currently is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai at over 160 stories.
  • The Empire State Building's antenna tower is struck by lightning an average of 25 times a year!
  • On a clear day, six states are visible from the observation deck: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Delaware.

On This Day

The Empire State Building is one of America's most well-known attractions. Standing at 1,250 feet tall, it was originally designed to be a docking station for airships. Due to the city's wind currents and surrounding buildings, it was instead built to be one of the largest office buildings in the world.

May 1, 2021

sources

Quote of the Day

"Gray skies are just clouds passing over."

Duke Ellington

Quote of the Day

On this day in 1899, Edward "Duke" Ellington, a founding father of jazz, was born in Washington D.C. For nearly his entire legendary career of over 50 years, he led a jazz orchestra originally based out of Harlem (NYC) that became world famous. Pres. Nixon awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969. Fun fact: Ellington's friends nicknamed him "Duke" as a kid because of his manners and suave, cool demeanor.

Apr 29, 2021

sources

Current Events

Historic & Notable

President Biden delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress.

What he said and why it matters.

Current Events

Why Historic?

Timing: The U.S. Constitution does not specify a day or time a president must speak to Congress. However, most modern presidents deliver an address shortly after their inauguration in lieu of an official State of the Union address. President Biden waited longer than most in recent history - appearing on the eve of his first 100 days in office.
Unprecedented: First time in American history the president stood with two women behind him - Speaker of the House Pelosi (D-CA) and Vice President Harris - to deliver an address.

Current Events

"...we also need to make a once-in-a-generation investment in our families and our children."

Pres. Biden announced the American Families Plan in his address, a "once-in-a-generation investment" plan with several major pillars: family support such as free childcare & up to 12 weeks of paid family (and medical) leave, an expanded child/dependent tax credit, and four additional years of public education (two free years of preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds and two years of free community college).

Current Events

"For me, when I think about climate change, I think jobs."

President Biden mentioned the word 'jobs" more than 40 times in his address. The president discussed what he described as the "largest jobs plan since World War II," a proposal he introduced in late March. "The American Jobs Plan" includes investment in infrastructure, public transportation and green energy. The American Families Plan and the American Jobs Plan both need legislation (passed by Congress) to move from a proposal to a reality.

Current Events

"I’m the first President in 40 years who knows what it means to have a son serving in a warzone."

While the president noted America's drawdown in Afghanistan, he also spoke of the continued threat of terrorism in places like Yemen and Syria, and the importance of "allies" when confronting Iran and North Korea (both designated as state sponsors of terror by the U.S. State Dept., although the president did not use that title). BTW - the last U.S. president to have a child serve in combat was President Eisenhower.

Current Events

"He’s deadly earnest about becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world."

President Biden squarely called out China's President Xi by name midway through his speech. These comments were not in prepared remarks, and Pres. Biden went on to say that autocrats like Xi believe democracy can't compete in modern times. Later in the speech Pres. Biden again discussed Xi, reaffirming the Biden admin will "defend America's interests across the board" and maintain a "strong military presence" in the region.

Current Events

"We need to work together to find a consensus."

The president specifically asked for a police reform bill by May 25 (the one-year mark since George Floyd's death. President Biden asked the American public to "root out systemic racism that plagues America." Separately, the president also discussed immigration reform, imploring lawmakers to "end our exhausting war over immigration" by passing his proposed legislation - which he says addresses a "secure border" as well as a "pathway to citizenship."

Current Events

Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) delivered the Republican rebuttal. You can view that rebuttal and the full address to Congress on our source page.

Apr 29, 2021

sources