It seems like just yesterday, congressional leadership was pounding its chest about ensuring that the 45th president of the United States should be held to rigorous ethical standards. Step out of line and prepare to be hit with a subpoena to appear in front of the House Oversight Committee. Bam! Oh, and that Supreme Court seat they were holding open? Yeah, maybe they’d leave it open for another four years. Raring to go for an opportunity to flex some major “checks and balances” muscle, our legislative branch was making their bold intentions known.

And then something completely unexpected happened: Donald Trump was elected.


Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images.

Suddenly up became down, black became white (or orange, depending on how you look at it), and those firmly held positions became a whole lot more malleable.

Here are a few recent examples of politicians whose positions on things like ethics, conflicts of interest, and whether or not it's OK to criticize the president have changed since the election.

1. Republican members of the Senate were set on blocking any Supreme Court nominee for an indefinite amount of time. Now they say that's unacceptable.

In February 2016, Antonin Scalia died, creating a vacancy on the Supreme Court. With nearly a full year left in his presidency, Barack Obama set out to appoint Merrick Garland to the court. The Republican-controlled Senate had other plans and refused to hold hearings to confirm Garland to his spot on the court. At the time, the argument was that we should wait until the next president was sworn in to fill the open seat, but as a Clinton victory looked more and more certain, the goalposts began to shift a bit.

"If Hillary Clinton becomes president, I am going to do everything I can do to make sure four years from now, we still got an opening on the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) in November. Others — such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) — seemed to support to Burr's plan.

Fast-forward to January 2017, with Donald Trump's inauguration looming ever closer. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) held a press conference to discuss the party's legislative plans for the new session. While there, McConnell touched on plans for President-elect Trump's choice to fill Scalia's court vacancy, warning Democrats that "the American people simply will not tolerate" Democrats blocking Trump's future court appointments.

Yep, that's right. In the span of a couple short months, the same senators went from aggressively suggesting that it would be fine to keep a Supreme court vacancy open for four years to condemning such behavior and calling it unacceptable, while hiding behind the American people to justify the sudden shift. In truth, yeah, a lengthy vacancy was probably unacceptable from the start, but this is a major 180.

2. In 2009, Mitch McConnell took a stand for ethical standards prior to confirming Obama's cabinet appointments. In 2017, he says he'll be much more hands-off when it comes to Trump's appointments.

In 2009, just after Obama was sworn into office, McConnell warned then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) against trying to push the president's appointments through without proper vetting. In a letter dated Feb. 12, 2009, McConnell laid out eight requirements he expected presidential appointments to meet — clearance by the FBI, approval by the Office of Government Ethics, complete and accurate committee questionnaires, and the submission of financial disclosure forms, among others. While several of Obama's appointees had already been confirmed by the Senate when the letter was written, McConnell's letter urged the "fair and consistent application" of ethical standards moving forward.

In 2017, however, those standards seem a little less fair and a lot less consistent. A number of Trump's appointees have fallen short of McConnell's list of best practices. McConnell's response to those who want to put the brakes on confirmation hearings until those standards are met: "We need to, sort of, grow up here and get past that."

Noting the bit of hypocrisy, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) decided to send McConnell's own letter back to him verbatim, with some names changed.

Ethical standards exist for a reason, and McConnell was right to take a stand in 2009 to defend them. What happened to those values once his party was back in power?

3. Obama's critics slammed the president for "picking winners and losers," but offered Trump praise for doing the same thing.

Depending on who you ask, 2009's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was either a much-needed piece of legislation that helped pull the U.S. out of the Great Recession or it was a gigantic waste of taxpayer money. At the time it passed, critics of the bill, which was designed to provide a stimulus to the economy, argued that this sort of government intervention set a dangerous precedent of picking "winners and losers." Similar concerns were put forward when Obama took steps to save the auto industry.

"If you take a look at the president's policies he calls them 'investments,' it's borrowing money and spending money through Washington, picking winners and losers," Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) said in 2012. "Spending money on favorite, you know, people like Solyndra or Fisker. Picking winners and losers in the economy through spending, through tax breaks, through regulations does not work."

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

But in 2016, when PEOTUS Trump announced a plan to save a few hundred jobs at an Indiana Carrier plant at a cost of $7 million to taxpayers, Ryan's tune had changed.  

"I’m pretty happy that we’re keeping jobs in America — aren’t you?" said the Speaker of the House. "I don’t know the details of the Carrier arrangement ... but I think it’s pretty darn good that people are keeping their jobs in Indiana instead of going to Mexico."

What happened to "picking winners and losers in the economy through spending, through tax breaks, through regulations does not work"? Ryan went from a politician willing to stand up for his values, and then became completely ambivalent to them once his party's candidate was elected.

4. Trump's rise in politics began with a multi-year campaign against Obama's legitimacy. Now, he — and his surrogates — are outraged that Rep. John Lewis would question his.

In an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd, Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) explained that he would not be attending Trump's inauguration, saying, "I don't see [Trump] as a legitimate president," referring to Russia's possible role in hacking Democratic National Committee emails to sway public opinion toward Trump.

Predictably, this comment led to a certain amount of controversy.

It makes sense that Trump's supporters would come to his defense. The defense they decided to go with, however, was a bit suspect. On CNN, conservative commentator Ben Ferguson said that he couldn't imagine what the reaction would be if a Republican were to suggest Obama wasn't a legitimate president.

There's only one problem with that. At least one prominent Republican spent years accusing Obama of not being legitimate — and we just elected him president. Others — such as Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), Rep. Charles Boustany (R-Louisiana), Rep. Bill Posey (R-Florida), and more — have also fanned the flames of "birtherism" in the past.

Trump appears on "Good Morning America" on April 11, 2011, to question whether or not Obama was eligible to run for president. GIF from ABC/YouTube.

There's a troubling inconsistency in how politicians act and what they believe in when someone from their own party is in power as opposed to when they're discussing someone from the other party.

It's partisanship, pure and simple, and it's harmful to our country.

Whether someone has a "D" or an "R" next to their name should not change how someone feels about the policies they put forward or to what standards should be held. When we let political divisions stand in the way of trusting whether or not our representatives have the best interests of their constituents in mind, we all lose.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Whether you voted for a Democrat, a Republican, or someone else altogether, shouldn't we ask that our representatives work together to find the best solutions for all Americans?

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

This article originally appeared on November 5, 2013


When I saw these incredible photos Angelo Merendino took of his wife, Jennifer, as she battled breast cancer, I felt that I shouldn't be seeing this snapshot of their intimate, private lives.





















The photos humanize the face of cancer and capture the difficulty, fear, and pain that they experienced during the difficult time.

But as Angelo commented: "These photographs do not define us, but they are us."

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

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Moms specifically? Yesssss.

It's hard to describe how hard navigating the pandemic with kids has been. Figuring out childcare when schools and daycare centers shut down, managing kids' remote or hybrid schooling, constantly making decisions about what's safe and what's not, dealing with the inconsistency and chaos of it all, weighing risks with who is vaccinated and who isn't—none of it has been easy. Many parents are also raising kids with mental, emotional, behavioral or physical challenges that have only been made harder by pandemic life.

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To stay connected with friends and family during the pandemic, more seniors joined social media, opening them up to new avenues for fraud.

“The combination of online shopping and social media creates easy venues for scammers to post false advertisements,” the FBI report said. “Many victims report ordering items from links advertised on social media and either receiving nothing at all or receiving something completely unlike the advertised item.”

But when scammers came after 73-year-old Jean Ebbert in Long Island, New York, they had no idea they were dealing with a law enforcement veteran. Ebbert is a former 911 dispatcher, so she knows exactly what a scam looks like.

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