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Why we should all be mad that Congress banned members from video streaming.

Banning members from streaming video to social media poses a big challenge to transparency.

Why we should all be mad that Congress banned members from video streaming.

On Tuesday, Jan. 3, members of the 115th Congress were sworn into office.

It was kind of like a first day of school: There was a lot of light chat among members and their families and a somewhat relaxed atmosphere. That didn't stop Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) from getting a bit of business done, however.

As is first-day tradition, the House of Representatives voted on the set of rules that will guide them for the next two years.


Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

Tucked away in the House rules was a provision aimed at preventing lawmakers from streaming video from the floor to social media.

Violators would be charged a fine for streaming. At first glance, it seems to make sense in a sort of "no phones at the kitchen table" kind of way. After all, if C-SPAN cameras are rolling and streaming to the world, why would any individual member of the House need to start their own live broadcast?

The answer: Sometimes those C-SPAN cameras aren't rolling — and for a very troubling reason.

In June 2016, Democrats in the House took to the floor in an act of protest after Ryan decided against bringing a gun safety bill up for a full vote.

In the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Democrats made a push for gun safety reform. In the Senate, Chris Murphy (D-CT) led a 17-hour filibuster aimed at getting Republican leadership to agree to put two gun control amendments up for an up-or-down vote. (He succeeded in getting the vote, though both amendments were shot down days later.)

In the House, Democrats, led by civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis, staged a sit-in after Republicans made the decision not to bring similar gun control legislation up for a floor vote.

The real controversy began when Ryan ordered the C-SPAN video feed of the House floor turned off. The Democrats were free to protest, but would no longer have an audience.

It turns out that the cameras that show the action on the House floor aren't owned or controlled by C-SPAN, but rather, by Congress itself. Given that Ryan and his Republican colleagues finished up for the day and the cameras are only required to be "on when the House is in session" (as per the rules voted on by the 114th Congress), Ryan did have every right to cut the TV feed.

In response, some members of the protest began to broadcast the sit-in from their phones. It was an innovative approach to a complicated problem. Using Periscope and Facebook Live, the legislators provided insight to constituents. C-SPAN even picked up the feeds, sharing them on their TV and social channels.

The newly proposed rules, however, aim to prevent members of Congress from repeating such a broadcast, something Ryan may want to reconsider.

In 2008, the very same thing happened — except it was the Republicans holding a protest with Democratic leadership giving them the cold shoulder. On Aug. 1, 2008, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her Democratic colleagues voted to adjourn. The chamber's lights were turned off, the cameras were cut, and microphones were shut off, making some Republicans pretty upset.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats speak before the 2016 sit-in. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

For hours, members of the GOP held the floor in protest. They had hoped Pelosi would bring a bill related to off-shore drilling up for a vote. To their dissatisfaction, she didn't, and so the Republicans traded off impromptu speeches from the floor about the benefits of drilling, arguing that it would lower gas prices and having the type of discussion the House of Representatives was meant to have.

In 2008, the ability to broadcast live video from a cell phone wasn't as easy as pulling up an app, the way it was during last year's protest. Regardless, it was wrong of Democrats to use their majority to silence Republicans in 2008, just as it was wrong for Republicans to do so to Democrats in 2016.

If we want to have robust, transparent debate between parties, we need to make sure all voices are heard, regardless of which party sits in the majority.

It sets a dangerous precedent for members of Congress to be able to create a media blackout anytime one of their colleagues makes an argument they don't like. If Ryan wants to fine members of the House for streaming from the floor, he should allow C-SPAN to install their own independently-run cameras. Knowledge and transparency should not be subject to partisanship.

Being able to see what happens on the floor of the House and the Senate is one of the most wonderful things to come out of technological advancement. While not every word spoken will be beautiful or insightful — for example, there's the time Ted Cruz read "Green Eggs and Ham" on the Senate floor — it's all part of our history.

Constituents have a right to know when the people they put in office are going to great lengths to represent the values they voted for — and when their opponents are trying to block them from doing so. Being able to see when our representatives are arguing on our behalf, staying up all night to protest, and broadcasting from the floor shows citizens that their voices are being heard.

The rules, as they were just voted on, take that away from us, and it's a major blow to democracy and transparency.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves
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It can be expensive to have a pet. It's possible to spend between $250 to $700 a year on food for a dog and around $120-$500 on food for a cat. But of course, most of us don't think twice about the expense: having a pet is worth it because of the company animals provide.

But for some, this expense is hard to keep up, no matter how much you adore your fur baby. And that's why Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves decided to help.

Kenneth had seen a man scraping together change in a store to buy pet food, so he offered to buy the man some extra pet food. Still, later that night he couldn't stop thinking about the experience — he worried the man wasn't just struggling to pay for pet food, but food for himself, too.

So he went home and told his wife — and immediately, they both knew they needed to do something. So, in December 2020, they converted a farm stand into a take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can Pet Food pantry.

"A lot of people would have watched that man count out change to buy pet food. Some may have helped him out like my husband did," Jill says. "A few may have thought about it afterward. But, only someone like Kenny would turn that experience into what we have today."

"If it weren't for his generous spirit and his penchant for a plan, the pantry would never have been born," she adds.

A man with sunglasses hands a box of cat food to a woman smiling Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

At first, the couple started the pet food pantry with a couple hundred dollars of pet food they bought themselves. And to make sure people knew about the pantry, they set up a Facebook page for the pantry, then went to other Facebook groups, such as a "Buy Nothing group," and shared what they were doing.

"When we started, we weren't even sure people would use us," Jill says. "At best, we were hoping to be able to provide enough to help people get through the holidays."

But, thanks to their page and word of mouth, news spread about what they were doing, and the donations of more pet food started flooding in, too. Before long, they were coming home to stacks of food — and within a couple of months, the pantry was full.

Yellow post-it note with handwritten note that reads: "Hi, I read your story on Facebook. Here is a small donation to help. I have a 3-year-old yellow lab who I adore. I hope this helps someone in need. Merry Christmas. Meredith" Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"The pounds of food we have gone through is well, well, well into the thousands," Jill says. "The orders from our Amazon Wish List alone include several hundred pounds of dry food, a couple of hundred cases of canned food, and thousands of treats and toys. But, that does not even take into account the hundreds of drop-offs, online orders, and monetary donations we have received."

They also got many 'Thank you notes' from the people they helped.

"I would like to thank you for helping us feed our fur babies," one note read. "My husband and I recently lost our jobs, and my husband [will] hopefully [find] a new one. We are just waiting for a call."

Another read: "I just need to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven't worked in over a month with a two-year-old at home. Dad brings in about $300/week. From the pandemic to Christmas, it has been tough. But with the help of beautiful people like you, my fur baby can now eat a little bit longer, and my heart is happy."

Jill says that she thinks the fact that the pet pantry is a farm stand helps people feel better.

A woman holding a small black dog and looking at the camera is greeted by Jill Gonsalves Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"When we first started this, someone who visited us mentioned how it made them feel good to be able to browse without feeling like they were being watched," she says. "So, it's been important to us to maintain that integrity."

Jill and Kenneth aren't sure how many people they've helped so far, but they know that their pet food pantry is doing what they hoped it would. "The pet owners who visit us, much like donations, come in ebbs and flows," Jill says. "We have some regulars who have been with us since the beginning. We also have some people that come a few times, and we never see again."

"Our hope is that they used us while they were in a tough spot, but they don't need us anymore. In a funny way, the greatest thing would be if no one needed us anymore."


Today, the Acushnet Pet Pantry is still going strong, but its stock is running low. If you want to help out, visit their Facebook page for updates and to find ways to donate.

This article originally appeared on 11.16.15


In the magazine aisle there's no shortage of suggestions to spice up your sex life with your partner.

They usually range from "duh" to ... absurd.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!