An Alabama judge has ruled this week that a state law criminalizing teacher-student sex is unconstitutional — and dismissed charges against a teacher and aide accused of having relations with their students, according to local media.
The law, created in 2010, prohibits school employees from having sex with students under 19 — and violators could be charged with a Class B felony, carrying a punishment of up to 20 years behind bars, the site reported. The law requires those convicted to register as sex offenders — and consent is not a defense.
But defense attorneys have argued that the law violates teachers’ equal protection right under the 14th Amendment, because it treats teachers and other school employees differently than other citizens, the outlet reported. In Alabama, other adults who have consensual sex with 16-year-olds do not face criminal prosecution.
“The Court finds this statute unconstitutional as applied to these defendants,” Thompson wrote in his order, according to AL.com. “In finding so, this court does not endeavor to absolve any wrongdoing or to excuse the defendants. Moreover, the court does not encourage any similarly situated party to engage with impunity in what may very well be criminal behavior.”
Witt, 43, a history, psychology and social studies teacher who also coached girls’ golf and junior varsity cheer, was charged with two counts of a school employee having sex with a student in March of 2016, the outlet reported.
She is accused of having sex with a male student who was 17 when the relationship started and another male student who was 18, authorities said.
Solomon, 26, was fired later that month after his arrest on one count of a school employee having sex with a student.
He is accused of having sex with a 17-year-old female student whom he met on Facebook, police said.
Judges have been asked to dismiss the charges in other similar cases on unconstitutionality grounds, but have neglected to do so, AL.com reported.
“We’ve already been in touch with the [Attorney General’s] Office and they are going to handle the appeal, which is typical when a state statute is attacked on a constitutional basis,” Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson told the outlet.
Bed bugs are bed bad. People’s entire lives have been overturned by these (increasingly common) blood-sucking, itch-inducing pests. Thankfully, they’re not disease vectors, but I would rather not share my home with a roommate who wants to eat me, thank you very much.
Scientists have noticed an expansion in bed bug cases across the world, in no small part due to increased international travel. But one team wanted to know how the bed bugs managed to hitch a ride, and how to prevent the spread. It turns out that part of the answer lies with the dirty laundry inside your travel bag.
“There are a lot of good studies out there focused on trying to understand how bed bugs are attracted to humans and how they get around apartment blocks, but no one has really talked about how they get into the house in the first place,” study author William Hentley from the University of Sheffield in the UK told Gizmodo. “Stopping people from bringing bed bugs home can be a big step in preventing them spreading throughout the world.”
Scientists already know that human odor attracts bed bugs, though not which chemicals in the odor specifically. But for the newest study, researchers prepared a mock bedroom with laundry bags containing clean and dirty clothes—in other words, there were no humans in the room. The critters were “twice as likely to aggregate on bags containing soiled clothes compared to bags containing clean clothes,” according to the paper published today in the journal Scientific Reports. Contrary to the researchers’ hypothesis, the amount of carbon dioxide in the room did not affect their results—the CO2 source would represent a human, since some bugs like mosquitos are specifically attracted to the carbon dioxide you exhale.
These results were enough to convince the researchers that bed bugs could travel throughout the world by hitching a ride in luggage containing dirty clothes.
As a caveat, this was an experimental room and not real life, said both Hentley and Toby Fountain, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Uppsala in Sweden who was not involved in the study. But still, said Fountain, the authors “demonstrate a striking pattern that bags containing clothes with human odor were more frequently used as refuges than those without. This result emphases the importance of making sure luggage and other belongings are made as inaccessible to bed bugs as possible when staying in increased risk places, for example by making sure bags are fully closed and secured and kept away from the bed.” Hentley agreed with this advice.
So there you have it. When traveling to possibly bed bug-contaminated locations—like, say, that sketchy-seeming hotel—keep your luggage on metal racks (bed bugs don’t like crawling on metal, said Hentley) or put your whole suitcase in a plastic bag to avoid picking up the horrors that are bed bugs.
Every week, America implodes over yet another seemingly stupid cultural battle. The latest blow-up over NFL players kneeling for the National Anthem, however, takes the cake. That’s because over the last week, the debate has moved from a relatively clear consensus — protesting the National Anthem is idiotic, but people shouldn’t be fired for doing it — to outright warfare.
Here’s what you need to know.
It’s Idiotic To Protest The National Anthem.Protesting the National Anthem is foolish politics. It’s foolish because that’s one of the symbols that unites us. It’s the equivalent of burning the American flag; no successful American political movement has built itself on flag-burning or Anthem-protesting. There have been historic figures who say they have a hard time with the National Anthem, most prominently veteran and American hero Jackie Robinson — but that was back in 1972, not in 2017, when America has largely moved beyond the shadow of legally enshrined racism. Protesting the National Anthem on the basis of police brutality is particularly stupid, given the lack of statistical evidence of national law enforcement discrimination against innocent black Americans. National Anthem protest-initiator Colin Kaepernick is largely and correctly seen as a dolt who divides the country.
It’s Idiotic For President Trump To Call For Firing Those Who Protest The National Anthem. As Jamie Weinstein suggested, it’s worthwhile doing a little thought experiment: imagine that Tim Tebow had taken a knee during the Anthem to protest against legal abortion. Now imagine that President Obama had suggested that Tebow should have been pulled from the game and fired. Would that have been proper behavior from the White House? Of course not. It’s one thing for the president to speak about his strenuous disagreement with public positions taken by public figures outside the government; it’s another for the president, with the force of the White House behind him, to seemingly pressure businesses to run the way he wants them to run. That’s inappropriate, and we on the Right wouldn’t stand for it if the situation were reversed.
Trump Will Make Bank Off This Issue.President Trump can always count on the media and the Left to lose their minds over everything he does, to the point that their tactics backfire in spectacular fashion on them. This issue is no different. Trump overstepped by suggesting from the White House bully pulpit that NFL owners should fire players who protest the Anthem — that’s a particularly egregious position to take when the Trump administration is actively and rightly fighting for the rights of religious business owners to run their own businesses as they see fit. But that doesn’t matter. By turning the Anthem protests from a settled issue into a referendum on him, Trump pushed the Left’s buttons — and the Left responded in the stupidest possible fashion, by suggesting that everyone kneel for the Anthem. The Left thinks they’re protesting Trump’s overreach. The image that will hit the newspapers, however, is Leftists supporting protesting the Anthem itself, which is deeply and properly unpopular. If the Left believes they’re going to win hearts and minds by kneeling for the National Anthem, they’re insane. Even the New England Patriots were booed for protesting the Anthem on Sunday. The biggest winner of the day was Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who bucked his team’s boycott of the Anthem to appear and stand for the Anthem (his jersey sales skyrocketed). The biggest loser was Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy, who stretched during the Anthem. Trump may have stepped in crap, but he’s the one who will come out smelling like a rose politically.
Democrats Will Make Bank Off This Issue.It’s not just Trump who will do well with this issue. Democrats will do well with their base, even if they suffer with the middle of the country. They may not win back the Rust Belt based on this issue — they’ll almost certainly push a lot of those people into Trump’s camp — but they’ll raise enormous sums of cash from celebrity backers, and increase their cultural dominance and cache. Trump may win Ohio, but Democrats will still be the cool kids hanging out with Steph Curry, LeBron James, and Stevie Wonder. That seems to matter to them.
Our Cultural Fabric Is Eroding. Quickly.In February 2017, I wrote a column titled, “Can The Super Bowl Save America?” The basis for the column was simple: America needs to take a breath from politics every so often. Football is one of those breaths. As I wrote:
Hollywood and pop culture would do well to remind themselves that if they don’t want to alienate half their audience and exacerbate our differences, they can allow us room to breathe. The Super Bowl did that this year. For that, we should be just a little grateful, even if it didn’t solve any true underlying problems. Those will require a bit more time and a bit more space.
So much for that rosy notion. The NFL has become ground zero for the culture wars. Which means that we can’t see movies anymore, watch TV shows anymore, or even watch sports anymore without feeling that we’re being judged. That means our common spaces are disappearing. And we have so little political common space already that cultural common space was our last relic of togetherness.
The NFL Will Lose Most From This Nonsense. They Deserve To.The NFL will be destroyed by this. Thousands of Americans were already tuning out due to concussion coverage and domestic abuse issues. Now that will accelerate. That’s due in large measure to the NFL’s utterly inconsistent stance with regard to political posturing. When St. Louis Rams players engaged in “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” protests in 2014, the league did nothing; when Dallas Cowboys players wanted to wear Dallas police decals to honor the department after a massacre of officers by a black radical, the NFL turned them down flat. When Kaepernick knelt for the Anthem, and other players followed, the NFL did nothing; when some players wanted to wear cleats on September 11, 2016 honoring the fallen, the NFL threatened fines. Is it any wonder that fans feel like the NFL took a side here?
Here’s the bottom line: this conflict isn’t good for the country. We need our shared symbols, and we need our shared spaces. Both of those elements are being destroyed for political and ratings gain. If that doesn’t stop, we’re not going to have anything at all in common anymore.
Travelling by plane has become an everyday activity – but our bodies and brains are still affected by it.
With the tiny screen bouncing around in front of us, tinny sound quality and frequent interruptions, watching a movie during a flight is hardly an immersive experience.
Yet, frequent fliers may have found themselves – or at least witnessed others – welling up at the most innocuous of films while on a long airline journey. Even lighthearted comedies such as Bee Movie, Bridesmaids and The Simpsons can trigger the water works in passengers who would normally remain dry-eyed if watching these on the ground.
One major airline has gone as far as issuing “emotional health warnings” before inflight entertainment that might upset its customers.
There are many theories about why flying might leave passengers more vulnerable to crying – sadness at leaving loved ones, excitement about the trip ahead, homesickness. But there is also some evidence that flying itself may also be responsible.
An emerging body of research is suggesting that soaring 35,000ft (10km) above the ground inside a sealed metal tube can do strange things to our minds, altering our mood, changing how our senses work and even making us itch more.
“There hasn’t been much research done on this in the past as for healthy people these do not pose much of a problem,” says Jochen Hinkelbein, president of the German Society of Aerospace Medicine and assistant medical director for emergency medicine at the University of Cologne. “But as air travel has become cheaper and more popular, older and less fit people are travelling by air. This is leading to more interest in the field.”
Hinkelbein is one of a handful of researchers who are now examining how the conditions we experience on flights can affect the human body and mind.
The humidity is lower than in some of the world’s driest deserts
There can be no doubt that aircraft cabins are peculiar places for humans to be. They are a weird environment where the air pressure is similar to that atop an 8,000ft-high (2.4km) mountain. The humidity is lower than in some of the world’s driest deserts while the air pumped into the cabin is cooled as low as 10°C (50F) to whisk away the excess heat generated by all the bodies and electronics onboard.
The reduced air pressure on airline flights can reduce the amount of oxygen in passengers’ blood between 6 and 25%, a drop that in hospital would lead many doctors to administer supplementary oxygen. For healthy passengers, this shouldn’t pose many issues, although in the elderly and people with breathing difficulties, the impact can be higher.
There are some studies, however, that show even relatively mild levels of hypoxia (deficiency in oxygen) can alter our ability to think clearly. At oxygen levels equivalent to altitudes above 12,000ft (3.6km), healthy adults can start to show measurable changes in their memory, their ability to perform calculations and make decisions. This is why the aviation regulations insist that pilots must wear supplementary oxygen if the cabin air pressure is greater than 12,500ft.
But there is some research that shows there can also be small decreases in cognitive performance and reasoning at oxygen levels found at 8,000ft (2.4km) – the same as those found in airline cabins. For most of us, this is unlikely to cloud our thinking much though.
Flying also plays havoc with our other senses too
“A healthy person like a pilot or passenger should not have cognitive problems at this altitude,” says Hinkelbein. “When you have unfit people, or someone with the flu or pre-existing problems, then hypoxia can decrease oxygen saturation further so cognitive deficits become noticeable.”
But Hinkelbein says the mild hypoxia we experience during flights can have other, more easily recognised effects on our brains – it makes us tired. Studies in hypobaric chambers and on non-acclimatised military personnel arriving in mountainous regions have shown short-term exposure to altitudes of at least 10,000ft (3km) can increase fatigue, but the effects could start at lower altitudes in some people.
“Whenever I am sitting in a plane after take-off, I become tired and find it easy to fall asleep,” explains Hinkelbein. “This is not the lack of oxygen causing me to lose conciousness, but the hypoxia is a contributing factor.”
Should you manage to keep your eyes open for long enough to see the crew dim the cabin, however, then you may experience another effect of the lower air pressure. Human night vision can deteriorate by 5-10% at altitudes of just 5,000ft (1.5km). This is because the photoreceptor cells in the retina needed to see in the dark are extremely oxygen-hungry and can struggle to get all they need at a high altitude, causing them to work less effectively.
The dry air can also rob us of much of our sense of smell, leaving food tasting bland. It is why many airlines add extra seasoning to the food they serve to make it palatable during a flight. It is perhaps fortunate that our sense of smell is diminished during flights, however, as the change in air pressure can also lead to passengers breaking wind moreoften.
And if the prospect of breathing in the bodily gases of your fellow passengers doesn’t make you feel awkward enough, it seems reductions in air pressure can also make passengers feel less comfortable. A study in 2007 showed that after about three hours at the altitudes found in airline cabins, people start to complain about feeling uncomfortable.
Combine this with the low humidity and it is little wonder we find it hard to sit still for long periods on flights. A study by Austrian researchers has shown that a long-distance flight can dry out our skin by up to 37%, and may lead to increased itchiness.
For those who are already nervous fliers, there is perhaps some more bad news.
“We have shown that some aspects of mood can be altered by exposure to cabin pressures equivalent to altitudes of 6,000-8000ft,” says Stephen Legg, professor of ergonomics at Massey Univeristy in New Zealand, who is studying the impact of mild hypoxia on people. This may go some way towards explaining why passengers often find themselves crying at films more mid-flight, but most effects in scientific studies seem to only occur at altitudes above those that commercial airline cabins are set to. Recently Legg also showed the mild dehydration that might be expected on a flight can also influence mood.
“We know very little about the effect of exposure to multiple mild stressors on complex cognition and mood,” he adds. “But we do know that there is a general ‘fatigue’ associated with long distance air travel, so I guess it is probably the combined effects of these concurrent multiple mild exposures that give rise to ‘flight fatigue’.
But Stephen Groening, a professor of cinema and media at the University of Washington, believes this happiness may also manifest itself as tears. The boredom on a flight and relief given by an inflight movie, combined with the privacy of the small screen and headphones used to watch one, could lead to tears of joy, not sadness, he says.
“The configuration of inflight entertainment apparatus produce an affect of intimacy that might lead to heightened emotional responses,” says Groening. “Crying on airplanes actually consists of tears of relief, not tears of sadness.”
But Hinkelbein has uncovered another strange change in the human body that could also be messing the way our bodies normally work. A new study he conducted with colleagues at the University of Cologne, but yet to be published, has shown even 30 minutes in similar conditions to those experienced on a commercial airliner can alter the balance of molecules associated with the immune system in the blood of volunteers. It suggests the lower air pressure may cause a change in the way our immune systems work.
If flights do alter our immune systems it could not only leave us more vulnerable to picking up infections, but it could alter our mood too
“People used to think they got a cold or flu when travelling due to changes in the climate,” says Hinkelbein. “But it could be because their immune response changes while on a flight. It is something we need to research in more detail.”
If flights do alter our immune systems it could not only leave us more vulnerable to picking up infections, but it could alter our mood too. Increases in inflammation triggered by the immune system are thought to be linked to depression.
“A one off inflammatory challenge from a vaccine can produce a mood dip that resolves in about 48 hours,” says Ed Bullmore, head of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge and who studies how the immune system influences mood disorders. “It would be interesting if a 12-hour flight to the other side of the world caused something similar.”
Leslie Van Houten may have been a teenager, her mind “arguably muddled by drug use” and by “the hold that Charles Manson and his cult-like ‘family’ exerted over her” when she was sentenced to death (later commuted) for her role in the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders.
But the editors of the Los Angeles Times say she should not be set free, as a parole board has recommended. (California Gov. Jerry Brown makes the final decision.) “It was a particularly gruesome and horrific murder, but it was also an act of terrorism,” they note: “Manson intended to wage a race war” and “destabilize society.”
And while retribution “should be balanced with mercy,” it “does have a role.”
Increasingly, companies are “trying to cut off the financial livelihoods of organizations that the SPLC has branded as haters because their policy positions don’t accord with whatever the SPLC deems politically correct.” Vanco Payment Solutions, a credit-card processor, “abruptly canceled its services to the nonprofit Ruth Institute”: The SPLC claims the group’s “focus on heterosexual marriage” is a cover for a campaign “against LGBT people in general.”
Meanwhile, Apple, JP Morgan, Bank of America, Pfizer, Lyft and Newman’s Own have all become SPLC donors – even as the group has parked $69 million “in offshore hedge funds, a common tax dodge.”
“But what is surprising is that they no longer even bother to hide their distaste.” He’s referring to last week’s Senate confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic woman up for a federal judgeship, who was told by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), “The dogma lives loudly within you.”
Asks Carr: “Is it even remotely possible that Feinstein would have asked a Muslim if he believed any of the more militant, shall we say, passages in the Koran?” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) actually asked Barrett if she considers herself “an orthodox Catholic.”
And e-mails last year showed Hillary Clinton’s aides sneering at “severely backward” devout Catholics.
Bad enough, says Peter D’Abrosca, that “displaying American pride on campus has become stigmatized.” But this has now extended to commemorating the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Last month, Southern Methodist University moved its 9/11 memorial from a “place of prominence in the center of campus” to a more remote location, in order to “avoid messages that are triggering, harmful or harassing.” (It was moved back after a public outcry.)
Last year, 9/11 displays were vandalized at two campuses, and Sewanee College’s Republican club was suspended after ignoring a directive not to host a “9/11: Never Forget Project.” Anyone who is “triggered” by a 9/11 memorial, says D’Abrosca, lacks “the emotional maturity” to attend college.
Protesters this year have marched on Washington, D.C. for many reasons.
Now, here come the Juggalos.
Followers of the hip-hop group Insane Clown Posse — aka Juggalos — are holding a march Saturday on the National Mall, alleging discrimination after the FBI labeled the group a gang in a 2011 report.
The band, consisting of the duo Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, said the gang accusation “has resulted in hundreds if not thousands of people subjected to various forms of discrimination, harassment, and profiling simply for identifying as a Juggalo.” In a video on the their website, the hip-hop artists claim their fans have lost jobs, custody of their children and been denied access to the military for their Juggalo affiliation.
Juggalos are known for displaying the band’s symbol, a man running with a hatchet, and the signature white-and-black face paint. The FBI placed Juggalos on the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment following reports of crimes committed by people who wear Juggalo tattoos and clothing. Federal officials state there are more than one million Juggalos in the United States.
The band and the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Juggalos in 2014, claiming they had been targeted by police. A federal judge tossed the lawsuit later that year, saying the FBI isn’t responsible for how the report is used by local law enforcement agenies. The group, on the march’s website, said their case was again dismissed, prompting the march.
The group calls the gang label untrue. Juggalos, the website said, are a family “united by a shared love of music and fellowship.”
The event begins at 2 p.m. Saturday in front of the Lincoln Memorial and ends with an Insane Clown Posse performance. The group has told its followers not to destroy property or come intoxicated.