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Youth Collaboratory

Sex trafficking is happening in the U.S. — and young people need to know about it.

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MANY

Have you witnessed sex trafficking? Your first response is probably "no." But many of us have seen it — we just didn't realize it at the time.

Maybe you remember a friend that suddenly started coming to school with much nicer clothes and a new cellphone, which she said were "gifts" from someone older. Or you may recall that guy who seemed a little bit too old to be dating a classmate, even if she was "technically 18." Maybe you encountered someone's sketchy "older friend" at a party who had the hookup for drugs or alcohol, or a classmate who wanted to “introduce you" to an unfamiliar crowd.

It might have been the woman who hung around the bus stop for no clear reason, the man who was chatting up teens at rest stops, or a friend's "modeling manager" making promises that just seemed too good to be true.


The reality is that sex trafficking doesn't just happen in faraway places. In fact, young people are sexually exploited — forced to perform sexual acts for money or other resources like food, shelter, or support —in every state in the U.S.This even includes sex trafficking of youth under the age of 18.

The reality is, though, that we aren't always quick to recognize it.

[rebelmouse-image 19397870 dam="1" original_size="5184x3456" caption="Photo by Victor Van Welden/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Victor Van Welden/Unsplash.

Learning what sex trafficking looks like is the first step to ensuring it doesn't happen to us or someone we care about. These 15 facts about youth sex trafficking and exploitation in the U.S. are a great place to start.

1. Yes, sexual exploitation could happen to anyone — including you.

While some youth, like those who are homeless or transgender, are especially vulnerable, the reality is that victims do exist across every demographic. They could be the class valedictorian, the boy who lives across the street from you, or the captain of the cheer squad.

“The victims that I come in contact with come from all different walks of life," says Mirielle Milne, Youth Catalyst for MANY and Advocate for The Jonah Project. “But I do think people get it in their mind that it is a certain type of person."

Traffickers don't discriminate and they're experienced in manipulation. They're looking for a person's vulnerabilities, and if they're able to find them, virtually anyone can be a target.

2. Traffickers may take on a generous and caring persona as part of a tactic called "grooming."

“Grooming" follows a few predictable steps. First a victim is targeted, usually because they appear to be struggling emotionally, have lower self-esteem, or need resources like a job, money, or a place to live.

The trafficker then establishes trust by befriending the victim all while learning more about them, like where they live, who their family and friends are, and what their insecurities might be.

3. And at first, the behavior of a sexual trafficker might not seem threatening at all.

Traffickers know that before they can exploit someone, they first have to earn their trust.

For example, a victim might be led to believe that a person they've connected with online just wants to be a friend. They might even help them through a difficult time. According to Milne, this kind of behavior is designed to make victims feel cared for, special, and even protected.

But this “friend" will gradually become a little more than friendly, perhaps even making grand, romantic gestures and promises.

4. Trafficking can even begin with something that seems harmless, like a job opportunity, gift, or innocent “favor."

For example, a trafficker posing as a modeling manager might set up a careful ruse by taking a victim to photoshoots and gigs that seem perfectly legitimate. Other times, traffickers might offer to help a struggling teen by buying them clothes or lending them money. Sometimes, it's even a family member that will lure youth in with a “job," insisting they need help to make ends meet.

This is all in an effort to make the victim feel as if they “owe" something to the trafficker, which they'll use later on to pressure and control their victim.

Arash Ghafoori, Executive Director at the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY), says it's that “need" that becomes the entry point into exploitation. “[Traffickers] lure youth into victimization — whether it be through love, or through drugs, or through support," he explains. “[Whatever youth] are desperately seeking."

Youth Survivor, Kristi House Project GOLD.

5. But sexual exploitation doesn't always happen overnight.

Part of why exploitation is so sinister is that it can happen gradually, making it more difficult to see at first. According to Lenore Jean-Baptiste, Project Coordinator at NPHY, some traffickers take a year or more to lure their victims and earn their trust before ever trying to sexually exploit them. Other times, an exploitative family member or peer might take advantage of the trust they've already earned to manipulate victims.

6. The trust they earn allows them to slowly escalate their abuse.

As a trafficker becomes a more central part of their victim's life, they begin to isolate them from family and friends. This can involve pitting them against their loved ones, or even controlling their phone and internet usage.

When the victim becomes completely dependent, the trafficker then demands sexual acts as repayment for the “debt" owed.

As Ghafoori explains, “As that dependency — whether it be from a relationship or a resource point of view — is developed, it turns into the sexual exploitation … these are used as tools for trade."

7. And traffickers are getting smarter about how they find and learn about their victims, too.

Social media is a tool often used by traffickers. Not only is it easy to find and contact victims through social media, it's easy to gather information about them, and keep track of their whereabouts and their support system.

“Youth are not [always] going through the person's page to see who they are," explains Jean-Baptiste.

“They introduce themselves via social media, and a lot of times, [they're] promising careers," she continues. At a time in which self-made stars are born online, the prospect of a modeling gig coming from Instagram doesn't seem so far-fetched.

8. And once they have information on their victims, traffickers can blackmail them.

Many traffickers use threats to keep victims under their control. They might threaten to harm a victim's family members or friends, or claim that they'll publish photos or videos of the abuse to shame and expose their victim.

Some traffickers coerce victims into having children as well, and will blackmail victims using their children as leverage, either by threatening to take them away or harm them.

9. Fear of law enforcement can make it difficult for victims to reach out for help, too.

Traffickers can also take advantage of an existing fear of law enforcement, making claims that victims won't be believed, or that they will be arrested for prostitution or drug use if they come forward.

People of color who might have an existing fear of police brutality struggle even more with this. “Now we're talking about historical trauma between communities [of color] and police officers," Jean-Baptiste says. “A lot of times traffickers can use those kinds of stories and experiences to make individuals feel fearful."

10. Self-blame can also make it difficult to leave even though it's never the victim's fault.

Many victims feel responsible for the abuse and exploitation they've endured, which can, in turn, make them believe they're not victims at all. Self-blame is often a big part of the trauma they experience. They feel that, by accepting money, gifts, or friendship, the abuse was their own fault.

But even if they feel that way, victims are never to blame. “It doesn't matter if you got money, it doesn't matter if you got to keep all the money," Jean-Baptiste says. “If you felt you had to engage in that activity for any survival or need … then it's exploitation."

Advocates like Milne agree, affirming that when we're talking about youth, sexual exploitation is never a job or a choice — and certainly never a victim's fault.

Traffickers use powerful abuse tactics to ensure that victims will give into their demands, and that manipulation is designed to be difficult to identify and resist. The only person responsible for abuse is the perpetrator of that abuse — no matter what a victim does or doesn't do.

11. Trauma can even be powerful enough to drive victims back to their traffickers after they've escaped their control.

If you've ever seen a victim of abuse and wondered why they didn't just leave or why they went back, it's a phenomenon known as “trauma-coerced bonding."

This is an emotional attachment that victims form with their abusers, and it's unfortunately very common. Traffickers' initial acts of kindness and generosity make a strong impression on their victims. As the exploitation worsens, the trafficker can keep up that image by switching back and forth between positive attention and abusive behavior to keep victims hooked.

[rebelmouse-image 19397872 dam="1" original_size="4650x3100" caption="Photo by Carlos Arthur/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Carlos Arthur/Unsplash.

“We're trying to tell [these youth] that this person is a trafficker… how do you say that to somebody about the person they've been having dinner with every single night for the last year?" says Jean-Baptiste. “It's hard because they've now had a relationship… [sometimes with] years involved."

12. But there is hope and support waiting for victims.

Despite these obstacles, help for victims does exist. “There is help and there are people that are looking for [you] and do care," Jean-Baptiste says.

If you believe that you or someone you know might be at risk or is being victimized, the National Human Trafficking Hotline can help. You can text 233733, use the chat feature on their website, or call them at 888-373-7888. They can connect you with local organizations and support to figure out your next steps.

If there's any possibility that an abusive person has access to your phone or internet history, clear your internet history, and consider using a payphone or borrowing someone else's phone instead.

[rebelmouse-image 19397873 dam="1" original_size="5184x3456" caption="Photo by Jenna Jacobs/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Jenna Jacobs/Unsplash.

13. Recognizing the red flags can make a big difference, too.

Knowing what to look for, and being aware of what healthy relationships do and don't look like, can be lifesaving for young people.

For example, Jean-Baptiste advises caution when someone offers you a gift. Before accepting anything, always ask if there's an expectation to pay that person back or reciprocate.

And if anyone tells you to do something with your body or pressures you, it's time to reach out for support. “You should have the full right to consent to what you do with your body," she says.

14. Don't allow a trafficker to be the first person to validate someone who's struggling.

If you're not a victim yourself, it's important to check in with your peers who may be having a tough time. If a trafficker is the first person to reach out to someone who's struggling, those individuals are much more likely to be exploited.

“We need to be more involved in our community," Milne says, noting that young people who feel supported by those around them are less likely to look to an abusive person for validation.

Jean-Baptiste says this is why young people whose families or communities have all but abandoned them, like homeless and LGBTQ+ youth, are frequent targets. “[Traffickers are] willing to have [a] conversation… that we're not having in our community."

If communities can fill the needs that traffickers try to exploit, those young people would be much safer.

15. And remember, your body is yours. Period.

Too often, it's suggested to young people — especially teens — that they should defer to the adults in their lives when making decisions. However, when it comes to our bodies, the only person in charge is you.

[rebelmouse-image 19397874 dam="1" original_size="2992x2000" caption="Photo by Oscar Obians/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Oscar Obians/Unsplash.

“No one should tell you that you have to do anything with your body… [they have] no right, no access, no privilege," Jean-Baptiste says. “You belong to you."

When we're educated and vigilant, we can make a difference in our communities! Learn more about how to get involved, and help us work towards a future where youth are no longer victimized.

Sponsored

3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

Ms. Natalie Ringold's lesson in kindness has gone viral.

No matter our age, we all want kindness and respect from our peers. No one enjoys being judged or criticized, and negative comments about our appearance sting even if we don't want them to.

Unfortunately, that doesn't always stop people from pointing out things they think we should change about ourselves. Issues like hair shaming and body shaming are all too common, despite greater awareness of the hurt they cause.

Elementary school teacher Natalie Ringold shared a lesson about this phenomenon, and though it's geared toward kids, it's one a lot of grown-ups could take to heart as well.


Holding a tube of toothpaste, Ms. Ringold explained when it's appropriate to say something about someone's appearance and when it's not.

"If somebody can't change something about themselves in 30 seconds or less," she said, "then you shouldn't be mentioning it to them."

She gave examples of things that do take 30 seconds or less, such as if someone's shoe is untied or they have something stuck to their shirt or their fly is unzipped. For those things, it's okay to tell the person (politely, and in private if it's something that might embarrass them to point out in front of other people) so they can fix it.

But if it's something that would take more than 30 seconds to change or isn't even possible to change, like their hairsytle or hair color or body shape, then that's not something you should comment on.

"Your words have power," Ms. Ringold said. Squeezing toothpaste out of the tube, she explained that when you say something about someone that they can't change in 30 seconds or less, it can be hurtful, and just like toothpaste once it's out of the tube, you can't fully take it back once it's out there.

"You try to apologize, you try to take the words back…and you try to undo what you said, undo what you did. But it's something they couldn't change about themselves, and so it get very messy. You can't totally take those words back. You can't totally fix it."

"Your words have power and your words matter," she said. "If you walk out of this room spreading kindness to the people around you, spreading love to the people around you, that is what truly makes a difference."

Ms. Ringold shared that she does this lesson with her students on the last day of school because she wants them to remember this concept for the rest of their lives. People in the comments were so appreciative of the message for all ages.

"I think many adults need to hear this message!"

"Exactly my thoughts. A lot of adults need to hear this too."

"BLESS YOU!!! As a person who was relentlessly racially harassed as a child, I wish this was taught."

"If they are old enough to be mean on purpose they are old enough to be kind on purpose."

"This should be required viewing for anyone who wants to join social media."

"This made me cry. Can I start my college courses with this?"

"I saw you post this and had this conversation with my 4th graders!! It helped so much!!"

Here's to teachers teaching lessons beyond academics, helping kids learn that their humanity matters just as much as their grades.

Images provided by P&G

Three winners will be selected to receive $1000 donated to the charity of their choice.

True

Doing good is its own reward, but sometimes recognizing these acts of kindness helps bring even more good into the world. That’s why we’re excited to partner with P&G again on the #ActsOfGood Awards.

The #ActsOfGood Awards recognize individuals who actively support their communities. It could be a rockstar volunteer, an amazing community leader, or someone who shows up for others in special ways.

Do you know someone in your community doing #ActsOfGood? Nominate them between April 24th-June 3rdhere.Three winners will receive $1,000 dedicated to the charity of their choice, plus their story will be highlighted on Upworthy’s social channels. And yes, it’s totally fine to nominate yourself!

We want to see the good work you’re doing and most of all, we want to help you make a difference.

While every good deed is meaningful, winners will be selected based on how well they reflect Upworthy and P&G’s commitment to do #ActsOfGood to help communities grow.

That means be on the lookout for individuals who:

Strengthen their community

Make a tangible and unique impact

Go above and beyond day-to-day work

The #ActsOfGood Awards are just one part of P&G’s larger mission to help communities around the world to grow. For generations, P&G has been a force for growth—making everyday products that people love and trust—while also being a force for good by giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve consumers. This includes serving over 90,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters through the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program and helping some of the millions of girls who miss school due to a lack of access to period products through the Always #EndPeriodPoverty initiative.

Visit upworthy.com/actsofgood and fill out the nomination form for a chance for you or someone you know to win. It takes less than ten minutes to help someone make an even bigger impact.

Lexis Redd D'Ville is bringing drag queens mainstream in the Deep South

Drag queens and mimosas? Now, that's Southern comfort.

Curtesy of Jacalyn Wetzel

Lexis Redd D'Ville bringing drag queens to the Deep South

Given some of the laws being passed in the southern half of the country, it's easy to assume events like drag brunch would be met with disapproval. But Autherius Lawson has been bringing drag to the Mississippi Gulf Coast for years, even in the midst of other southern cities attempting to outright ban drag performances.

Lawson performs as Lexis Redd D'Ville and has a thriving company, Lexis & Friends Entertainment. The queens are always booked and busy in a region of the country people wouldn't expect, that is, unless you're local. Lawson has been selling out his signature Drag Brunch since 2019 at White Pillars, an upscale restaurant in Biloxi, Mississippi.

When D'Ville saunters to the middle of the dinning room there is no shortage of excited cheers. But the thing that likely keeps patrons coming back outside of the fabulous song choices and amazing costumes–is the laughter. If you have nothing else while at one of D'Ville's events, you'll have a good time.


Since his first drag brunch across the street from the Biloxi beach, Lawson has expanded his operations to New Orleans, Louisiana, also hosting events in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which is about an hour north of where he got his start. More drag queens have been added to his roster of entertainers, seemingly leaving Lawson with little time to sleep. The entrepreneur not only hosts drag brunches in two different states, but he also puts on traditional drag events at bars and other entertainment venues.

On top of hosting his own events, Lawson is the show director for Sipps Bar in Gulfport, Mississippi and the New Orleans House of Blues.

Lawson tells the Associated Press, "I will say that I have prided myself on taking the chances and kicking open the doors people would not have expected."

But the Mississippi Gulf Coast is not only a tourist area but home to Keesler Air Force Base and a Naval Construction Battalion Center, creating a unique eclectic culture of its own. White Pillars is able to rake in profits from the partnership they have with Lawson, and Ms. D'Ville gets to show the Bible belt what drag is really about.

“The clientele seemed to really enjoy it, something they’re not used to, which was also one of my goals: to put drag in front of people who have never seen it before, because I have a firm belief that ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds hate, which leads to a society we can’t live in,” Lawson explains to the AP.

The brunches bring in crowds ranging from bridal parties to elderly couples, all well prepared with a stack of one dollar bills to tip the queens. D'Ville's "friends" come from all over the Deep South, from Shreveport, Louisiana to Mobile, Alabama.

They pride themselves on making sure everybody has a good time, mixing up their themes, music and costumes. Some of the costume changes happen before your eyes leaving customers wondering if the drag queens might be a little magic. There's no telling what kind of crowd the queens might encounter: a granny with better knees than a 25 year old dancing with her bottomless mimosa above her head or a group of guy friends laughing after being personally serenaded.

As Lawson's drag queen empire expands taking him to new cities, he still makes time to sell out shows at the White Pillars every third Sunday.




116 years ago, the Pasterze glacier in the Austria's Eastern Alps was postcard perfect:

Snowy peaks. Windswept valleys. Ruddy-cheeked mountain children in lederhosen playing "Edelweiss" on the flugelhorn.

But a lot has changed since 1900.

Much of it has changed for the better! We've eradicated smallpox, Hitler is dead, and the song "Billie Jean" exists now.

On the downside, the Earth has gotten a lot hotter. A lot hotter.

The 15 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998. July 2016 was the planet's hottest month — ever.

Unsurprisingly, man-made climate change has wreaked havoc on the planet's glaciers — including the Pasterze, which is Austria's largest.

Just how much havoc are we talking about? Well...


A series of stunning photos, published in August, show just how far the glacier has receded since its heyday.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

First measured in 1851, the glacier lost half of its mass between that year and 2008.

The glacier today.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

A marker placed in 1985 shows where the edge of the glacier reached just 31 years ago. You can still see the ice sheet, but just barely, way off in the distance. In between is ... a big, muddy lake.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

The view from the glacial foot marker from 1995 — 10 years later — isn't much more encouraging.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Even in just one year, 2015, the glacier lost an astounding amount of mass — 177 feet, by some estimates.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Ice continues to melt daily, and while the dripping makes for a good photo, it's unfortunate news for planet Earth. Glacial melting is one of the three primary causes of sea-level rise.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

According to a European Environment Agency report, the average temperature in the Alps has increased 2 degrees Celsius in the last 100 years — double the global average.

Beautiful, but ominous, fissures in the glacier.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

It's not unreasonable to assume that that's why this mountain hut has been abandoned by the flugelhorn-playing children who once probably lived in it.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Is there anything we can do to stop climate change besides look at scary glacier photos?

Climate change is, unfortunately, still a robust debate in the United States as many of our elected officials refuse to acknowledge that we humans are the ones doing the changing. As of last year, that list included a whopping 49 senators. Calling them to gently persuade them otherwise would be helpful. Not voting for them if they don't change their minds would be even more so.

There is some tentative good news — the Paris Agreement signed in December 2015 commits 197 countries, including the U.S., to take steps to limit future global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. While it may be too late for the Pasterze glacier, if we really commit as a world, we might be able to stop ourselves from sinking whole countries and turning Miami into a swimming pool and stuff like that.

And who knows, with a little luck, and a little more not poisoning the sky, we just might recapture a little of that Alpine magic one day.

OK, these guys are Swiss. But who's counting?

Photo by Cristo Vlahos/Wikimedia Commons.

This article originally appeared on 3.11.17

Democracy

Attorney argues why Louisiana law requiring the 10 Commandments in classrooms is un-American

He says that it's unconstitutional is only the beginning of the problem.

The U.S. Constitution prohibits the establishment of religion.

On June 19, 2024, Louisiana governor Jeff Landry signed a new law requiring that the Ten Commandments be displayed, in “large, easily readable font,” in every public school classroom from kindergarten to state-funded universities. The move prompted an outcry from Americans citing the first amendment clause that the government "shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Defenders of the law contend that the Ten Commandments are not solely religious in nature, and the language of the law refers to them as "foundational documents of our state and national government.” But the ACLU and other civil rights organizations immediately announced that they would fight the law in the courts. A similar law in Kentucky was struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980.

Author and attorney Andrew Seidel took to X to argue why the law is not only unconstitutional, but un-American.


Seidel begins by sharing that the first commandment in the specified text that the law requires be posted in classrooms states, "I AM the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

"The point of this bill is to give the false impression that America is a Christian nation," Seidel wrote in his thread. "That's Christian Nationalism."

Seidel says that the first commandment directly conflicts with the founding principles of the United States.

"No law—and this would be a law—can tell an American to worship a god, let alone which god. Americans are free to be godless (as a growing number are), or, if they wish, to worship every god from every holy book."

He pointed to the law's sponsor, Rep. Dodie Horton, stating in her explanation of why she proposed the bill: “I'm not concerned with an atheist. I'm not concerned with a Muslim. I’m concerned with our children looking and seeing what God’s law is."

In addition to the establishment of religion as a constitutional problem, Seidel shared that the Louisiana law uses an edited version of the Ten Commandments in the text that the state specifies.

Seidel explained that there are various translations and interpretations of the Ten Commandments, and that such differences have been the basis of different schisms within Christianity itself, not to mention "as James Madison put it, the 'torrents of blood' that have been spilled, trying to impose a state-sanctioned version of religious truth."

"That's what Louisiana is doing here," Seidel wrote. "Imposing it's version of religious truth on kids in public schools. It's gross."

Seidel then explained the issue with Louisiana's editing of the King James Version of the Ten Commandments, paring it down and removing certain phrases.

"If the state can rewrite one religion’s holy book, it can rewrite yours. Louisiana does not have this power. Nor does it have the power to impose that religious edict on a captive audience of your children."

"This is the worst kind of big government conservatives claim to oppose," Seidel added. "More to the point, this is one reason we have the separation of church and state, and it’s precisely how that separation protects everyone and helps ensure the foundational value of religious freedom. It not only prevents the state from weighing in on religious disagreements, scriptural discrepancies, and theological debates, but also refuses to empower the state to force its preferred scripture or religious doctrine onto we the people."

Imagine if a state legislature with Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist-majority decided that an excerpt from one of those faith's holy books prohibiting the worship of any other deities was required to be posted in every public school classroom. The same people who are pushing for and praising this law probably wouldn't stand for it.

Opponents of the Louisiana law argue the idea that the U.S. was founded on the principles found in the Ten Commandments is negated as soon as you put the first commandment up against the first amendment. The U.S. was largely founded on the principle of religious freedom. The first amendment prohibits the government from telling the people what to believe or whom or how to worship. The first commandment specifically states whom the people must worship, and the second, third and fourth commandment specify how they should worship and there therefore incompatible as government-sanctioned messages.

Virtually no one is arguing that all of the Ten Commandments are bad. Not killing, lying or stealing are standard moral codes for the vast majority of humanity, regardless of religious background. But the others are very much asserting Judeo-Christian religious beliefs, and Seidel says for the government to require that assertion in classrooms is blatantly unconstitutional and un-American as well.

You can find Andrew Seidel's books, "The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American" and "American Crusade: How the Supreme Court Is Weaponizing Religious Freedom" on Amazon.

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Sunscreen is one of our most crucial lines of defense against harmful UV rays.

Summer is officially upon us. Which means that, even though sunscreen is recommended every season of the year, nearly everyone is being more mindful about slathering some on before heading outdoors—be it for vanity’s sake, or for cancer prevention. Honestly whatever motive ingrains the habit.


But according to dermatologist Dr. Michael Park, there’s one key spot that most people tend to leave out of their sunscreen regimen, which could leave them susceptible.

“I don’t know if you guessed it, but it’s the ears,” Dr. Park says in a video posted to TikTok.

Park, who worked in a melanoma specialty clinic for over a year, recalls seeing multiple patients with melanoma, a common type of skin cancer, right behind the ear where the sun “beat down on their skin.”

Park also notes the seriousness of melanoma.

@michael.park.md #skincare ♬ original sound - Michael Park, MD

“I don’t know where people got the idea of ‘oh it’s just skin cancer, it's not that big of a deal.’ Y’all, let me make something really clear: melanoma, if not caught early, will kill you. Aggressive squamous cell carcinoma on the head and neck will also kill you,” he says.

Even basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of cancer which in most cases is not fatal, will have to be cut out…along with the skin surrounding it.

Park quips that while no one would probably want large chunks cut out of them, “certain areas that would be way worse than others, and one of those places… is the ears.” Which is why he’s sending out a friendly PSA about the importance of sunscreen in every nook and cranny that might get some sun.

“Unless you want to be a Vincent Van Gogh looking a**, make sure you put sunscreen on your ears,” his video concludes.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. So it’s important not to forget to defend any and all vulnerable areas with every UV blocking products available—from sunscreen every couple of hours to protective clothing, hats, sunglasses, etc.

For more skin care tips from Dr. Park, find him on TikTok.