He was fired when he attended his son's birth. His community got fired up too.

The Austin family in Concord, New Hampshire, went through a roller coaster of emotions shortly after the ball dropped to ring in the new year.

Their fourth child, a son named Cainan, was the first baby born in the city in 2017, at 7:44 a.m. on New Year's Day.

Hours earlier, around 1 a.m., father Lamar Austin also lost his job, via text message no less. But he told the Concord Monitor, "Sometimes you lose something and you get something even better."


Lamar with his new son, Cainan. Photo provided by Lamar Austin, used with permission.

Austin made an honorable choice to put family first. His former employer made a choice too — one that sounds heartless, but was legal.

An Army ammunition specialist who served six months in Iraq, Austin struggled to find steady work to support his family after he left the service. He had bounced around a variety of jobs, from crossing guard to fryer manufacturing, and relied on support from veterans programs and his local church community. "It’s been tough, but God has always provided for me when I needed it," he said in an interview with the Concord Monitor. "Some kind of help always came in the strangest forms."

In the fall of 2016, he received an opportunity to put his military training to use at Salerno Protective Services, a private security firm based in New Hampshire. Austin was hired on a part-time basis for a 90-day trial period, during which he was reportedly expected to be on call 24/7.

Main Street, Concord, New Hampshire. Photo by John Phelan/Wikimedia Commons.

The problem is much, much bigger than Austin and this one company.

Even if Austin were a full-time, salaried employee with an expectation of job security, it might not have mattered.

New Hampshire is an "employment at-will" state, which essentially means contractual employees can be terminated from a job at any time, without reason. Some states do have limitations on this law, but not the Granite State.

New Hampshire recognizes the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, but for Austin and his family, it wouldn't be enough. Even working full-time at that wage, he would gross just over $15,000 a year, which is well below the poverty line for his family. While New Hampshire might have a low unemployment rate, underemployment is a different story — and the situation can be worse for veterans.

Furthermore, the United States is one of the only developed nations that doesn't guarantee paid parental leave after the birth of a child. Some U.S. companies do choose to offer maternity leave (or at least unpaid time off with a job to return to), but paternity leave is still hard to come by.

The CEO of Salero Protective Systems did admit to an "error in judgement" one week later, and while he and Austin have reportedly made peace with one another, it doesn't change the fact that things like this have happened and will continue to happen as long as the law allows it.

The whole Austin family together. Photo provided by Lamar Austin, used with permission.

Austin's termination was unfortunate. It was also nothing new. This time, however, people are paying attention — and that could make a difference.

Local politicians, including State Senator Dan Feltes and Executive Councilman Andru Volinsky, have voiced their support for both the family and for family-friendly labor policies in general.

Sara Persechino — a Concord resident and total stranger to the Austin family — was so moved by their story that she launched a GoFundMe campaign to help them out, raising more than $8,000 in the first five days. "I don’t think anyone should ever have to choose between their family and their job," she told The Independent.

Even more, Austin has been offered several new job opportunities from people who were touched by his story. Representatives from the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers chapter and the AFL-CIO labor federation reached out to encourage him to take advantage of the flexible and family-friendly support nets offered by their respective unions. Austin would still have to start as an apprentice as he hones his trade, but skilled labor could be just what he needs to find steady work.

Austin hasn't made any decisions just yet, as he is focusing on being a good dad to newborn Cainan and a good husband to his wife, Lindsay. He already knows that no matter what happens, he'll always have his family — and that's what matters most.

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As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

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Someday, future Americans will look back on this era of school shootings in bafflement and disbelief—not only over the fact that it happened, but over how long it took us to enact significant legislation to try to stop it.

Five people die from vaping, and the government talks about banning vaping devices. Hundreds of American children have been shot to death in their classrooms, sometimes a dozen or so at a time, and the government has done practically nothing. It's unconscionable.

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For those of us who are not on the spectrum, it can be hard to perceive the world through the senses of someone with autism.

"You could think of a person with autism as having an imbalanced set of senses," Stephen Shore, assistant professor in the School of Education at Adelphi University, told Web MD.

"Some senses may be turned up too high and some turned down too low. As a result, the data that comes in tends to be distorted, and it's very hard to perceive a person's environment accurately," Shore continued.

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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