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Author: TheConversation

The Tyranny of Generosity: When philanthropists think making sandwiches is enough to end hunger

By Ted Lechterman, Research Fellow, University of Oxford How should wealthy people respond to daunting problems like racism, economic inequality and climate change? Leading thinkers have long questioned whether philanthropy offers appropriate or meaningful solutions to vexing challenges. Eighteenth-century philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft called private giving “the most specious system of slavery.” Wollstonecraft saw charitable and philanthropic efforts as softening the effects of unjust laws and political institutions – rather than dismantling them. A century later, the poet and playwright Oscar Wilde argued that private giving “creates a multitude of sins.” Wilde thought that charity “degrades and demoralizes” while preventing...

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Historic sites are not Disneyland: Why tours of slaveholding plantations are inflaming culture wars

By Kelley Fanto Deetz, Visiting Scholar, University of California, Berkeley Located on nearly 2,000 acres along the banks of the Potomac River, Stratford Hall Plantation is the birthplace of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and the home of four generations of the Lee family, including two signers of the Declaration of Independence, Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee. It was also the home of hundreds of enslaved Africans and African Americans. From sunup to sundown, they worked in the fields and in the Great House. Until fairly recently, the stories of these enslaved Africans and of their brothers...

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King’s Vision: How the Vietnam War pushed the Civil Rights leader to embrace global justice

By Anthony Siracusa, Senior Director of Inclusive Culture and Initiatives, University of Colorado Boulder On July 2, 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. stood behind President Lyndon Baines Johnson as the Texan signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although not the first civil rights bill passed by Congress, it was the most comprehensive. King called the law’s passage “a great moment … something like the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln.” Johnson recognized King’s contributions to the law by gifting him a pen used to sign the historic legislation. A year later, as Johnson signed...

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Coup by a thousand cuts: Trump’s erosion of American democracy depends on vicious conspiracy theories

By Ken Hughes, Research Specialist, the Miller Center, University of Virginia Now that a full year has passed since the January 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol, the 2020 election and the republic, it is evident that the attack never really ended. Instead, it spread out to other, less visible, more vulnerable targets. Donald Trump had hoped to reverse his election loss in a single, decisive, dramatic confrontation between his supporters and the republic’s, broadcast live around the world. His plan backfired, filling our screens with vivid illustrations of authoritarianism’s most repugnant ills: chaos, lawlessness, violence, racism, fascism and...

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Wisconsin jurisdictions part of new federal effort giving non-English proficient citizens access to vote

By Gabe Osterhout, Research Associate, Idaho Policy Institute, Boise State University; and Lantz McGinnis-Brown, Research Associate, Idaho Policy Institute, Boise State University As Americans and their elected representatives debate who should be allowed to vote and what rules should govern eligibility and registration, one key issue isn’t getting much attention: the ability for people to vote in languages other than English. Communities with relatively high numbers of voting-age citizens with limited English-language proficiency tend to have lower voter turnout. This problem worsens when the people who are not proficient in English also don’t have very much education. They include...

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Beyond Omicron: The laws of biochemistry mean that COVID-19 variants cannot improve indefinitely

By Ben Krishna, Postdoctoral Researcher, Immunology and Virology, University of Cambridge It is controversial whether viruses are alive, but they do evolve like all living things. This fact has become abundantly clear during the pandemic, as new variants of concern have emerged every few months. Some of these variants have been better at spreading from person to person, eventually becoming dominant as they out-compete slower versions of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This improved spreading ability has been ascribed to mutations in the spike protein – the mushroom-shaped projections on the surface of the virus – that allow...

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