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Author: TheConversation

Undoing the Spoils System: The need to return civil service to a merit-based structure for the public good

By Barry M. Mitnick, Professor of Business Administration and of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh The federal government’s core civilian workforce has long been known for its professionalism. About 2.1 million nonpartisan career officials provide essential public services in such diverse areas as agriculture, national parks, defense, homeland security, environmental protection and veterans affairs. To get the vast majority of these “competitive service” jobs – which are protected from easy firing – federal employees must demonstrate achievement in job-specific knowledge, skills and abilities superior to other applicants and, in some cases, pass an exam. In other words,...

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A Digital Lent: Moderating how we use technology to assist with our expressions of devotion

By Heidi A. Campbell, Associate Professor, Texas A&M University The season of Lent is upon us. This is a holy season for Christians who seek to identify with Jesus Christ’s 40 days of fasting as he prepared to be tested and later crucified. In order to identify with Christ’s self-sacrifice, Christians often join in a symbolic fast, giving up certain foods such as meat or chocolate or even giving up certain practices. In recent years, fasting from the internet or other forms of technology has become popular. Fasting from technology is encouraged by many religious leaders as the ideal...

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Fad Diets: A chronicle of the strange American obsession with gimmick weight loss plans

By Melissa Wdowik, Assistant Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University “Of all the parasites that affect humanity I do not know of, nor can I imagine, any more distressing than that of Obesity.” So started William Banting’s “Letter on Corpulence,” likely the first diet book ever published. Banting, an overweight undertaker, published the book in 1864 to espouse his success after replacing an excessive intake of bread, sugar and potatoes with mostly meat, fish and vegetables. Since then, fad diets have appeared in many forms. To what length will people go to achieve their desired...

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A Political Game: The danger of voters acting like hard-core sports fans

By Michael Devlin, Associate Professor of Communication, Texas State University; and Natalie Brown Devlin, Assistant Professor of Advertising, University of Texas at Austin During Donald Trump’s presidency, the American electorate became more divided and partisan, with research suggesting that the ongoing division is less about policy and more about labels like “conservative” and “liberal.” Essentially, voters increasingly see themselves in one of two camps – a “red team” and “blue team,” each with a faction of hard-core members. The dangerous extent of this devotion was on display when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, convinced that...

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Law enforcement continues to criminalize Black activists while accommodating White reactionaries

By Paul Ringel, Associate Professor of U.S. History, High Point University In the early hours of February 10, 1971, police surrounded a property in High Point, North Carolina, where members of the Black Panther Party lived and worked. In the ensuing shootout, a Panther and a police officer were both wounded. The incident did not receive much national attention at the time – armed conflict of this type was relatively common during the late 1960s and early 1970s. But 50 years on, as the U.S. reckons with a year that saw militarized police confront Black Lives Matter protesters and...

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Another crisis of unity: Old divisions resurface to show historic fragility of American democracy

By Alasdair S. Roberts, Director, School of Public Policy, University of Massachusetts Amherst For many people, the lesson from the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 – and more broadly from the experience of the last four years – is that American democracy has become newly and dangerously fragile. In fact, American democracy has always been fragile. And it might be more precise to diagnose the United States as a fragile union rather than a fragile democracy. As President Joe Biden said in his inaugural address, national unity is “that most elusive of things.” Certainly, faith...

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