This Test Just Got Tougher
December 7, 2020
The Good News
- Seeds of hope: This company is using drones to replant forests devastated by wildfires (CNN)
- Guy Fieri, Flavortown Mayor, Raises $21.5 Million for Workers (Bloomberg). A really generous Guy.
- A modern miracle: 27 Years After Embryo Is Frozen, Girl Is Born in Tennessee (NYT, $)
“When you know you are of worth — not asking it but knowing it — you walk into a room with a particular power.” — Maya Angelou
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ― Lao Tzu
The Citizenship Test Just Got Tougher
(John Moore via Getty Images)
President Trump has never let little things — like legality, morality, or accuracy — impede his throwback white nationalist political agenda. And notwithstanding the drubbing his minions have taken in their election-overturning efforts, there are certainly insidious successes on other fronts.
One of the latest is the new naturalization test being administered by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to people hoping to become American citizens starting December 1st.
The Trump test draws from 128 potential civics questions — the study guide and “approved” answers are posted on the USCIS website. All applicants for naturalization will have to answer 20 of those questions chosen at random, and 12 of those answers must be “correct” to pass.
When the test was first released a few weeks ago, many critics focused on its needless difficulty and complexity, believing it was intended to create an additional and unnecessary barrier to naturalization. But even more significant is the decidedly conservative political slant, with some inclusions and omissions that are biased or just plain wrong.
Question 31 asks: “Who does a U.S. senator represent?” Approved answer: “Citizens of their state.” Question 33 asks: “Who does a member of the House of Representatives represent?” Approved answer: “Citizens in their [congressional] district.” The accurate answers are not just citizens but “all people” of the state and district, respectively. In other words, acceptable, accurate answers to these questions — on pre-Trump naturalization tests — have now been changed to ones that reflect the administration’s position in a case currently before the Supreme Court. Trump is attempting to exclude unauthorized immigrants from the census count for the purpose of apportioning seats in the House. That position is being challenged, and it’s noteworthy to point out that the 14th Amendment actually provides that representatives be apportioned according to “the whole number of persons in each State” — words that previously have always been thought to mean exactly what they say.
Five questions and answers on the new test include the Federalist Papers, revered by today’s conservatives and right-wingers. For example, approved answers to a question about documents that “influenced the US Constitution” include the Federalist Papers. However, the Constitution had already been written and circulated when the Federalist Papers were written to simply encourage states to ratify it.
The conservative spin continues. Question 65 asks: “What are three rights of everyone living in the US?” Approved answers include the freedom of expression, speech, assembly, religion, to petition the government, and the right to bear arms. Omitted answers are the rights to counsel, due process, equal protection, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment or unreasonable search and seizure. Presumably, an aspiring citizen who gave one of the latter answers could be marked wrong. Not to mention that “everyone” doesn’t have the right to bear arms. It’s a felony under current federal law for convicted felons to possess firearms or ammunition.
Another incomplete answer from the Trump naturalization test study guide is Question 2: “What is the supreme law of the land?” The approved answer is the Constitution — no mention of Article VI’s provision that the supreme law of the land additionally includes the “Laws of the United States [and] all Treaties made.”
Naturalization exams are administered orally by individual USCIS officers, who do have some discretion. But the instructions on the USCIS website explain that while “there may be additional correct answers to the civics questions, applicants are encouraged to respond” using only the sample answers. So it’s impossible to know how often people who respond with answers that are additionally “correct” — but not “approved” — might fail.
Denmark Makes Its Mark On Climate Policy
(Henning Bagger via Getty Images)
- Denmark is the EU’s biggest oil producer, so its decision to phase out all oil and gas exploration in the North Sea by 2050 is a big economic commitment, estimated to cost the country $2.1 billion. After its December 3rd vote, the Danish Parliament issued a near-total ban on companies receiving new licenses to hunt for and extract oil; it also canceled an eighth round of licensing that was set to occur. Licenses issued before the vote will be honored until 2050.
- Denmark is the first major oil-producing country to take such a big step to address climate change after the EU voted in October to cut greenhouse gas emissions 60 percent from 1990s levels by 2030. The EU’s decision increased the bloc’s pledge to the 2016 Paris Agreement, signaling Europe’s serious commitment to thwart the climate emergency. Experts said ending oil and gas extraction and exploration was the only way Denmark could meet the EU’s climate pledge.
- While the move was applauded by EU government officials and environmentalists, others were far less impressed. Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the decision really means Denmark will continue extracting oil and gas for another 30 years. However, it is hoped that Denmark’s decision will spur countries like the UK and Norway, both major fossil fuel producers and outside the EU, to phase out their production in the North Sea and transition to renewable energy sources. (Vox)
Did Cuba Direct Microwaves At Diplomats?
- A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, commissioned by the State Department, suggests the illness that affected US diplomats in Cuba was likely caused by ‘directed’ radio frequency. Several of the diplomats who registered complaints were recent arrivals at the Cuban Embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of President Barack Obama’s re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba.
- Mysterious symptoms, including severe hearing loss, headaches, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, and other ailments were reported. The condition was soon dubbed the Havana syndrome. At least one Canadian diplomat in Cuba was also treated for severe hearing loss. It was believed at the time that the Havana syndrome was being caused by an advanced sonic device, but this is the first official explanation.
- Cuban officials have categorically denied causing harm to foreign diplomats. Officials familiar with the probe said investigators were looking into the possibility that the incidents were carried out by a third country, such as Russia, possibly without the knowledge of Cuba’s formal chain of command. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- In our defense (bill)… NDAA offers Biden administration a framework to counter China (WaPo, $)
- China Turns On Its Artificial Sun: China’s Nuclear Fusion Reactor (Popular Mechanics)
- China Peddles Falsehoods to Obscure Origin of Covid Pandemic (NYT, $) Looks like someone’s trying to bat attention away from Wuhan…
- We’ve seen this movie before: Andhra Pradesh: India officials investigate mystery illness (BBC)
- India farmers: Misleading content shared about the protests (BBC)
- Kashmiris Interrogated, Tortured by Cyber Police for Tweeting (The Intercept)
- Saudi Arabia and Qatar near deal to help end Gulf crisis (NBC)
- Biden normalizes Trump’s strategy in the Middle East: The only Trump foreign policy Biden wants to keep (Axios)
- Paris protests against new security law turn violent (Axios)
- Nazi art dispute goes to US supreme court in landmark case (Guardian)
- Going through hell to stay in a hotel: After Perilous Atlantic Journey, Migrants Await Their Fate in Canary Island Hotels (NYT, $)
- Maduro Allies Set To Win Back Venezuela’s Congress In Vote Boycotted By Opposition (NPR)
- Mexican president wants to restrict US agents in Mexico (AP)
- 27,000 trees are cut down each day to meet toilet paper demand. That feels like 27,000 too many, so honeycomb created toilet tissue made from 100% sustainable bamboo. It feels just like regular high-end toilet tissue, but it doesn’t harm the environment.
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- Its short fibers are perfect for making toilet tissue, and honeycomb’s 3-ply texture strikes the perfect balance between soft & strong. Biodegradable and 100% plastic-free, they also deliver straight to you. Use code PNUT10 to take 10% off your first shipment.
220 Republicans Are Just Biden’ Their Time
- A survey conducted by the Washington Post last Thursday and Friday of all 249 Republicans in the Senate and the House resulted in just 27 who would acknowledge that Joe Biden had won the 2020 presidential election. Two Republicans — Representatives Paul Gosar of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama — say Trump won the election despite all evidence that Biden had a clear victory of more than 7 million votes nationally, and a convincing electoral-vote margin that exactly matched Trump’s 2016 tally.
- The other 220 GOP members of the House and Senate — about 88 percent of all Republicans serving in Congress — simply will not say who won the election. The survey began the morning after Trump posted a 46-minute video in which he not only claimed that he had defeated Biden, but leveled outlandish allegations of “corrupt forces” who had stolen the outcome from a sitting president.
- The lame duck president is said to be privately discussing using his waning powers as commander in chief to order up the exit he wants after dissing Biden by refusing to concede the election, welcome him to the White House, or commit to attending his inauguration. (Axios, WaPo)
New York’s Liberty Bell Lit Ablaze
- The massive blaze in April 2019 that devastated large parts of the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was heartbreaking. Equally heartbreaking to New Yorkers was the massive fire that gutted the historic Middle Collegiate Church in lower Manhattan early Saturday morning.
- The church’s tower was home to “New York’s Liberty Bell,” which rang out to mark the birth of the US in 1776, the inauguration and death of every US president, and for September 11th remembrances and other occasions. A statement posted to the church’s website said there had been no loss of life, but that the congregation was devastated by the damage.
- The church’s history dates back nearly 400 years. Its first building was erected in 1729; the church moved to its current East Village location in 1892. Several Tiffany stained-glass windows and a skylight dome were apparently lost in the six-alarm blaze, which had originated in an adjacent building about 5 am. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that the Middle Collegiate Church is an “icon of the East Village.” (NPR)
Additional USA News
- Trump’s Georgia rally was supposed to pump up Loeffler and Perdue. It ended up being a grievance-fest. (Vox)
- Should we implore or ignore? The President Is Acting Crazy, so Why Are We Shrugging It Off? (New Yorker, $)
- Barr Is Said to Be Weighing Whether to Leave Before Trump’s Term Ends (NYT, $). It’s time to get out of DOJ.
- Rudy Giuliani tests positive for coronavirus, Trump says (CNN)
- Corporate backers are always a factor: Neera Tanden’s tenure at CAP faces new scrutiny after Biden picks her to lead OMB (WaPo, $)
- After Public Criticism, Facebook Will Allow Political Ad-Tracking Project to Continue (Vice)
- Preparing for a pandemic presidency: Biden’s debut nightmare (Axios)
- Obama: Democrats need ‘universal language’ to appeal to moderate voters & The Real Reason Obama Trashes ‘Defund the Police’ (Guardian, Intelligencer)
- States defer to health providers on who gets first vaccines (Politico)
- Nearly 85% Of California Residents To Be Under Stay-At-Home Orders Through Christmas (NPR)
- ‘Flexing their power’: how America’s richest zip code stays exclusive (Guardian)
- Paradise Lost: How Famous Surfers and Wealthy Homeowners Are Endangering Hawaii’s Beaches (ProPublica)
- ICE Is Trying To Force BuzzFeed News To Divulge Its Sources (Buzzfeed News)
Elvis And The Vaccine Effect
- Back when polio was ravaging the country in the 1950s, Elvis Presley used his celebrity status to help convince reluctant teens and young adults, who didn’t think they were at risk, to get vaccinated. A young and healthy Presley received a polio shot on live TV on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956. The singer’s decision likely helped slow the highly contagious disease, which was eventually eradicated after Dr. Jonas Salk developed a vaccine in 1955.
- By 1962, the average number of polio cases dropped significantly, and the US has been polio-free since 1979. Now, this power of celebrity influence and endorsement has led three former presidents, as well as President-elect Joe Biden, to say that they will too publicly receive the COVID-19 vaccine when available.
- Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Biden have all volunteered to get their vaccines publicly as a way to emphasize its safety and efficacy. A poll taken in September showed that two-thirds of Americans weren’t willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Since then, three drug manufacturers have applied for emergency use approval for their vaccines, and officials are hard at work trying to turn public opinion around.
- The New York Times reported that as of Friday afternoon, there have been more than 14.2 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the US, and at least 276,375 people have died. Currently, over 2,000 people die each day from the virus, and health experts warn that could double to 4,000 daily deaths in less than two weeks’ time. (People, MSN)
- Are we in for 2020 2.0? Events to Shake, or Gently Rattle, the World in 2021 (NYT, $)
- Samfundssind: The Danish concept to get us through the pandemic (Fast Company)
- Citizen science allows laymen to contribute to groundbreaking investigations, even without traveling (WaPo, $)
- X-rays might be the x-factor: High-Energy X-Rays Reveal the Secrets of Ancient Egyptian Ink & High-powered x-ray reveals cute baby dinosaur (Wired, Inverse)
- Hayabusa-2: Capsule with asteroid samples in ‘perfect’ shape (BBC)
- Physicists Measure the ‘Magic’ Fine-Structure Constant (Atlantic, $). It all depends on one decimal.
- How modern mathematics emerged from a lost Islamic library (BBC)
- The US government will let TikTok run out the clock and ‘overlook’ its own deadline (The Verge)
- The Most Misquoted Movie Lines of All Time (New Yorker, $)
- Warner Bros. deals a near-fatal blow: Did Movie Theaters Just Die? (Ringer)
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