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Here's some good news for the nearly half of Americans uneasy about the militarization of police.

Under President Obama's new policy, police forces will need certification before accessing certain types of military-style equipment.

Here's some good news for the nearly half of Americans uneasy about the militarization of police.

If it seems like local police forces have become increasingly militarized, it's because they have.

One of the most alarming aspects of the police response to protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, was just how much heavy-duty military gear was involved and how out of place that looked against the backdrop of an American city.


This Humvee was posted outside of a Target in Jennings, Missouri, in November 2014. Photo by Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images.

On May 18, 2015, President Obama addressed this in both speech and policy, vowing to limit the amount of military-style equipment the federal government gives to state and local police.

Speaking in Camden, New Jersey, Obama addressed how when people see the police around them decked out in military-style gear, it's easy to feel as though they're simply an occupying force.


Earlier that day, the president rolled out a list of military equipment that will no longer be available to local law enforcement, including tracked armored vehicles (tanks, basically), weaponized vehicles, large ammunition and firearms (.50-caliber or higher), grenade launchers (why were these needed in the first place?), bayonets, and some forms of camouflage uniforms.

Some militarized equipment will still be available, however, so long as departments go through proper training and certification to get it. That includes planes, helicopters, drones, armored and tactical vehicles with wheels (like the Humvee shown above), explosives, and riot gear.


On Aug. 13, 2014, St. Louis County Police line up for a possible confrontation with Ferguson protesters. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

The public is split on the topic of state and local police using equipment designed for the military.

In an August 2014 USA Today/Pew Research poll, people were asked to weigh in on whether they felt confident that local police could be trusted to use military equipment appropriately. 45% of those polled stated that they either had "not too much" confidence in police or "none at all."

Data by USA Today/Pew Research.

This initiative alone won't resolve the tension between police and the public, but it will certainly have some positive effects.

In his speech in Camden, the president also announced the launch of the White House Police Data Initiative, which will help bring transparency to police work.

The initiative will make certain data available and more accessible to the public and will also help police departments internally identify officers with troublesome behavior patterns earlier:

"While many police departments have systems in place, often called “early warning systems," to identify officers who may be having challenges in their interactions with the public and link them with training and other assistance, there has been little to no research to determine which indicators are most closely linked to bad outcomes. To tackle this issue, twelve police departments committed to sharing data on police/citizen encounters with data scientists for in-depth data analysis, strengthening the ability of police to intervene early and effectively." — Launching the Police Data Initiative

In Oakland, where police have been wearing body cameras for the past four years, a team of data scientists from Stanford University is going to "comb through the audio to surface police/citizen encounters that either went particularly poorly or went particularly well." From this data, the Oakland Police Department will be able to "quickly identify problems and also to lift up real world examples of the great police work that happens every day."

It might be a few years before we start to see the effects of this data collection, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

You can watch Obama's full speech in Camden here:

Sumo Citrus
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Don Bay has been in the citrus business for over 50 years now, and according to him, his most recent growing endeavor has been the most challenging. Alongside his son Darren and grandson Luke, Don cultivates Sumo Citrus®, one of the most difficult fruits to grow. The Bay family runs San Joaquin Growers Ranch in Porterville, California, one of the farms where the fruit is grown in the United States.

Sumo Citrus was originally developed in Japan, and is an extraordinary hybrid of mandarin, pomelo and navel oranges.

The fruit is temperamental, and it can take time to get a thriving crop. The trees require year-round care, and it takes five years from seed to fruit until they're ready for harvest. Thanks to expert citrus growers like the Bay family though, Sumo Citrus have flourished in California. Don and his son Darren worked together through trial and error to perfect their crop of Sumo Citrus. Darren is now an expert on cultivating this famously temperamental fruit, and his son Luke is learning from him every step of the way.

Don, Darren and Luke BayAll photos courtesy of Sumo Citrus

"Luke's been involved as early as he could come out," Darren said in a YouTube video.

"Having both my son and grandson [working with me] is basically what I've dreamt about," said Don. "To have been able to develop this orchard and have them work on it and work with me — then I don't have to do all the work."

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Public education is one of the most complex issues under normal circumstances, but the pandemic has made it far more complicated. The question of how to meet the needs of kids who come from diverse families, communities, and socioeconomic circumstances—not to mention having diverse mental strengths, interests, and challenges of their own—is never simple, and adding the difficulty of living through a pandemic with its lack of certainty, structure, and security is a whole freaking lot.

Kids' individual experiences during the pandemic have varied greatly. While the overall situation has been hard for everyone, some kids have actually thrived at home, away from the rigid schedules and social quagmire of traditional school. Other kids have floundered without the routine and personal interaction, while still others are stuck in terrible home situations or have needs that can't be met by parents alone. Some kids are being greatly harmed by missing school.

Educators, politicians, public health officials, and parents have gone around and around for the past year trying to figure out what smart, what's safe, what's necessary, and what's not for kids during COVID-19. Many of us are worried about the mental health and educational struggles children are facing. There are no easy answers. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

However, there is an attitude that we can take that will serve all our children as more kids move back to the classroom. A 40-year veteran of our education system, former New York teacher and administrator Therea Thayer Snyder, wrote a letter on Facebook that has resonated with teachers and parents alike. In it, she describes what our kids have experienced during the pandemic, how academic standards and measures no longer apply, and what schools can do to help kids process what they've been through. It reads:

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Courtesy of Benjamin Faust via Unsplash
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After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

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Photo: Canva, @mixbecca/Twitter

A polar vortex swept through the southern United States this week, bringing snow and ice storms and record low temperatures that have debilitated the region. Texas in particular has been hit hard, and with an energy infrastructure that's not designed or prepared for such weather, millions of people have been without power for days.

People who aren't used to cold weather, who live in homes that aren't designed to retain heat, who don't have winter gear to keep them warm, are struggling to stay warm without power and heat. Some don't have water, either.

While politicians bicker over who is to blame for the dire situation, Americans are doing what they can to help. For those of us in the north, that means sharing knowledge and experience for how to stay warm when the heat goes out.

Several viral threads on Twitter have proven incredibly helpful as people offer their best tips for handling the frigid temperatures while staying safe. (Sadly, we've seen several deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning—running a car in a garage and heating a home with a charcoal grill are things you should avoid at all costs.)

Twitter user from Michigan @mixbecca shared this bullet list of advice:

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Sergi Cardenas/Instagram

Optical illusions are always fun to play with, and the paintings of Sergi Cadenas are no exception.

If you walk up to one of Cadenas's portraits from one direction, you'll see a face. If you walk up to it from the opposite direction, you'll also see a face—but a totally different one. Sometimes it's a young face that ages as you walk from one side to another, like this one:

Or this one:

Sometimes it's a face that has the...um...face part removed.

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