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Author: The Conversation

State National Guard units are taking the lead in the military’s response to the coronavirus

By Dwight Stirling, Lecturer in Law, University of Southern California As a military organization divided into 50 distinct parts that can be commanded by either the president or state governors, the National Guard is perhaps the least understood branch of the U.S. armed forces. Despite its complexity – or perhaps because of it – the National Guard is taking the lead role in the military’s response to the coronavirus outbreak crisis. As many as 10,000 National Guard members have already been activated to help communities around the country, with many more expecting a call-up soon. People may know, from...

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News outlets warned for months about the coronavirus but few listened

By Jacob L. Nelson, Assistant Professor of Digital Audience Engagement, Arizona State University Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in Wuhan, China, journalists at the biggest U.S. news organizations have diligently reported on the many dangers posed by its rapid spread. Yet even as entire states – like California and New York – shut down, many Americans still don’t believe that the coronavirus is as big a deal as the news media has made it out to be. A poll conducted in mid-March found that only 56% of Americans consider the coronavirus a “real threat,” and that 38% believe that...

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A Lifelike Death: How the embalming of President Abraham Lincoln started the funeral industry

By Brian Walsh, Assistant Professor of Communications, Elon University If you died 200 years ago in America, your family would wash and dress your body and place it in a bed surrounded by candles to dampen the smell of decomposition. Your immediate family and friends would visit your house over the course of the next week, few needing to travel very far, paying their respects at your bedside. Before the body’s putrefaction advanced too far, the local carpenter would make a simple pine casket, and everyone would gather at the cemetery (or your own backyard, if you were a...

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Protecting the Democracy: How to ensure safe elections amid the coronavirus pandemic

By Steven Mulroy, Law Professor in Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Election Law, University of Memphis At least seven states have postponed their presidential primaries in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, as Wisconsin moves forward with its April 7 election. That has raised concerns about the other states that have state elections and federal primary elections planned for later this summer, and of course the general election in November. The main concern, in terms of the pandemic, is that elections cause people to congregate at the polling places on Election Day. If it’s not safe to be within six...

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Horserace Coverage: Too many election polls have a negative effect on journalism and voters

By Michael Traugott, Research Professor at the Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan Polls have become an essential part of the news, particularly in the run-up to an election. Reports on polls feed into what’s often called “horserace coverage” – who is ahead or behind, whether the candidates’ relative standing has changed since the last poll, and what their chances are of winning on election day. What the reporting on polls doesn’t reveal is anything substantive about a candidate’s position. The emphasis on horserace coverage means that, in the short term, there is a lost opportunity to keep...

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Obligations to each other: The pursuit of happiness is tied to the collective good

By Christopher Beem, Managing Director of the McCourtney Institute of Democracy, Co-host of Democracy Works Podcast, Pennsylvania State University At its core, the United States Declaration of Independence argues that all human beings have “unalienable rights.” These include right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These rights apply to all human beings, and cannot be given away. What is more, the Declaration says that “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.” In other words, the primary objective of government is to afford citizens the opportunity to exercise these rights; the right to be left alone...

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