You may be hearing a lot about the Iowa caucus lately. If you are, you may be wondering just what the hell it is.

Or how it works. Or why it matters. Or where Iowa is. All good questions.


Iowa is right under Minnesota, by the way. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

The Iowa Caucus is the first nominating event in a presidential election. It's the first time a candidate can actually win something, which makes it a pretty big deal.

Sure, winning the Iowa caucus doesn't mean you'll become the president (71% of Democrats and only 43% of Republicans who've won the caucus went on to win the nomination), but it is a landmark vote that carries a significant amount of weight and that people pay a lot of attention to.

Winning the Iowa caucus is like losing your virginity: It may not be the most important thing you ever do, and it's definitely not indicative of how things will go from now on, but you never forget your first.

Current GOP front-runner Donald Trump has been steadily campaigning in Iowa. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Have you ever asked how voting in the caucus even works? Because the answer is pretty weird.

On the Republican side, things are pretty simple. Everyone shows up at a caucus location for their district (like a school or public building) and listens to representatives for each candidate give a speech. After that, the voters cast a secret ballot and go home.

The process on the Democratic side is much more complicated.

So complicated, in fact, that it's nearly impossible to explain without Legos, Post-its, and some sticks. Thankfully, that's exactly what Vermont Public Radio did.

First, the campaigns find the most politically active Iowans. Then, those politically active Iowan voters stand in areas of the caucus room that indicate which candidate they support.


GIF from Vermont Public Radio/YouTube.

That's right, the Democratic caucus voting process involves citizens literally picking corners of the room and standing there.

Then there's a headcount. If a candidate has less than 15% of the crowd's support in their (literal) corner, they are considered "unviable" and are removed from contention.

Any voters who supported an unviable candidate go back into the center of the room, where the remaining candidate's supporters have to convince those people to join their corners of the room.


After that, another headcount. This process is repeated until a single winner emerges for that district.

For example: This year in Iowa, Martin O'Malley will most likely be the first candidate declared "unviable," at which point supporters of Sanders and Clinton will have to convince the O'Malley supporters to come to their sides of the room.

If that all sounds strange to you, that's because it is.

The caucus system is not a one-person/one-vote system at all. Instead, it's a strange focus-group-meets-reality-competition-show.

As you can imagine, the caucus system has received a fair amount of criticism over the years.

For one thing, the hours-long event is held at 7 p.m. on a cold weeknight in February.

Which isn't exactly a great time for the elderly, or working parents, or anyone who likes eating dinner at dinnertime. So certain demographics often don't get represented at the caucuses.

In fact, Iowa's population overall is very unrepresentative of the United States. It's mostly white and has a huge evangelical Christian population.

Basically, holding a caucus in Iowa is like trying to find out what America's favorite cereal is and only asking 8-year-olds.

"Seriously? Count Chocula is the winner? I didn't even know they still made that." Image from iStock.

Perhaps the most alarming flaw in the caucus system, though, is how undecided voters are convinced to support those who remain — it's a process that isn't always done with nuanced political discussion.

See, the highly local and town-hall-sized caucuses are often filled with people who know each other well. Like, really well. They know what favors everyone might need, or what bill might need another "yea" vote, or who might want the opportunity to delegate at the Democratic National Convention.

Some might call it "making compromises," but a lot of times the process sure does look a whole lot like straight-up bribery. For example, in 2008, when Iowa caucus attendee Phillip Ryan didn't know who to support, he was swayed by John Edwards supporters who serenaded him and massaged his shoulders.


Voters at a Rand Paul event in Iowa. Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images.

Even at its least potentially corrupt, the Democratic Iowa caucus can come down to which candidate has the better snacks on their side of the room. Or which undecided voter is just tired of standing around and which corner of the room has a folding chair.

Despite Iowa being demographically unrepresentative and the caucus practices being bizarre, the results are very real.

Winning the caucus may not guarantee that a particular candidate will win the overall election or even get the nomination, but like receiving a $10 gift card on your birthday, it's slightly better than nothing.

After all, when Barrack Obama won the Iowa caucus back in 2008, the entire country had to turn around and say "Wait, who's this guy?"

I predict great things for that young senator. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Whoever wins the Democratic caucus in Iowa, keep in mind that they did so by successfully convincing people to show up to a high school gym ... or a gun shop or a grain elevator .. at 7 p.m. on a weeknight and sweet-talk other voters.

To put it simply, the caucus is old-fashioned, probably unfair, and definitely not the most democratic system in the world.

But...

The Iowa caucus does have one thing going for it: It still speaks to the power of the people.

Whether by ballot or negotiation, a candidate can only win the Iowa caucus if their supporters participate.

Bernie Sanders has had to mobilize young Iowans to stand a chance at winning the caucus. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

As infuriating as it is to read about all the games, shenanigans, and political horse trading that goes into the caucus process, just remember that at its core, individual voters are still the ultimate decider.

The caucus, like the entirety of the election, is all about voter turnout.

So, hey, while I have your attention. Why not register to vote?

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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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.

What you look like in a selfie camera isn't really what you look like in real life.

We've all done it: You snap a selfie, look at it, say, "OMG is my nose swollen?" then try again from a different angle. "Wait, now my forehead looks weird. And what's up with my chin?" You keep trying various angles and distances, trying to get a picture that looks like how you remember yourself looking. Whether you finally land on one or not, you walk away from the experience wondering which photo actually looks like the "real" you.

I do this, even as a 40-something-year-old who is quite comfortable with the face I see in the mirror. So, it makes me cringe imagining a tween or teen, who likely take a lot more selfies than I do, questioning their facial features based on those snapshots. When I'm wondering why my facial features look weird in selfies it's because I know my face well enough to know that's not what it looks like. However, when a young person whose face is changing rapidly sees their facial features distorted in a photo, they may come to all kinds of wrong conclusions about what they actually look like.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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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.

Here at Upworthy, we cherish our loved ones and although Valentine's is not all about gifts, if you are looking to buy a special gift for a special someone, then you came to the right place! We have curated a list of our personal favorites from our store, Upworthy Market, where you can feel good about your shopping because every dollar you spend directly supports local artisans who craft their own products. In this gift guide, you'll find all products have special thought, hand-made with love and they are all under $30 to help you stay within a budget.


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The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

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