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The Iran deal as explained by Jack Black, Morgan Freeman, and people who actually know about it

Raise your hand if you think we should pass the Iran deal. Now raise your hand if you understand the Iran deal.

The Iran deal as explained by Jack Black, Morgan Freeman, and people who actually know about it

Have you heard about the "Iran deal"?

In case you missed it, the White House struck a deal with Iran to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons for the next 10 years. If you've been watching cable news, there's been no shortage of pundits yelling past each other about how awesome or awful it is. The Democrats love it and the Republicans hate it. But do you really want to base your decisions on what people in Congress say? I sure as hell don't. Congress doesn't really do nuance that well.

Based on the analysis I've read, the deal itself seems to be a good idea. But honestly, how many of us can say we truly understand how it works?


If only we had celebrities to explain it to us. WAIT! DON'T LEAVE!

Just watch this explainer video. The celebrities get fact-checked at 47 seconds in. (Don't worry, they're in on the joke.) If you don't want to watch the video, scroll down for the explainer.


The details of the deal are, frankly, over my head.

Often, when major issues are brought to the American public, marketing people trot out celebrities to scare you into changing your mind on an issue. In this satirical video, movie stars Jack Black, Natasha Lyonne, Farshad Farahat, and Morgan Freeman are here to scare you. They start by explaining how we'll all die if the Iran deal doesn't happen.

All GIFs via Global Zero.

But then the video takes a turn for the interesting.

First of all, America is not going to get nuked.

But the deal is still incredibly important to stability in the Middle East.

What makes this video different is that the celebrities get fact-checked by people with experience.

I was suspicious until I watched the whole thing (again, at 0:47 it gets interesting). This video is different not because of the celebrities, but because of the actual foreign policy experts who keep the celebrities honest. Their resumes are pretty impressive when it comes to these sorts of things.

Queen Noor of Jordan (who has extensive experience fighting for human rights), former CIA agent Valerie Plame (whose work included stopping Iran from getting the bomb) and former United States Ambassador Thomas Pickering (who was instrumental in making sure we didn't get embroiled in a decade-long war the first time we went into Iraq) fact check them.

What happens if we don't accept the deal that's on the table?

Former U.S. Ambassador Pickering (who was a Republican appointee) says:

And what happens if we go to war?

Former CIA agent Plame, who again, just to remind you, worked for the CIA on a mission to prevent Iran from getting nukes, says:

And we all know how well we do at long-term invasions in the Middle East, right?

Why is this deal a good one?

We'll be able to keep an eye on everything.

According to the White House, everywhere that Iran touches nuclear material, international inspectors will have immediate access.

Image via the White House.

And if they try to create a new secret location, the inspection team has a plan for that as well. According to at Slate:

"This makes it extraordinarily difficult for Iran to cheat. Iran might want to set up a covert enrichment plant, but where would it get the uranium? Or the centrifuges? Or the scientists? If 100 scientists suddenly don't show up for work at Natanz, it will be noticed. If the uranium in the gas doesn't equal the uranium mined, it will be noticed. If the parts made for centrifuges don't end up in new centrifuges, it will be noticed. Iran might be able to evade one level of monitoring but the chance that it could evade all the overlapping levels will be remote."

Morgan Freeman summarizes the deal more succinctly.

That's all well and good, but what do other experts say?

Having a celebrity-filled video is great but if you really want to verify that something is going to be successful, you have to see what the actual experts think.

James Fallows at The Atlantic did a great job of explaining who is for it and who is against it. I won't go into detail, but here's a summary.

People who are against the Iran deal:

The Republican candidates for president, the Republican members of Congress, a few American conservative Israel think tanks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and many conservative Israeli Netanyahu supporters.

People who are for the Iran deal:

Basically, everyone else — Democrats and Republicans from across the spectrum who have worked in foreign policy, more than 100 former U.S. ambassadors of every political stripe, including five former American ambassadors to Israel, over 60 highly respected American "national-security leaders," Hans Blix (the guy who ran inspections for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq), a bunch of optimistic Iranian dissidents, and according to The Atlantic article, "numerous Israeli analysts and former military and intelligence-service officials."

You can see a more comprehensive and in-depth list of everyone who both supports the deal and is against it in James Fallows' astute piece.

But what can you do about it?

Basically, the only thing that can stop this deal now is Congress.

Many of them are saying, "We need a better plan." But they don't actually say what a better plan would be.

And we know that experts from across the political spectrum think this Iran deal is a good compromise. So I was hoping to ask you to do something you might not normally do.

We need you to call your member of Congress at (877) 630-4032.

Ask them to give diplomacy a chance. And then consider sharing this.

And just to thank you for doing that, I'm including a GIF of U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering grinning cheesily at the camera. You're welcome.

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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