In 2016, distracted driving claimed 3,450 lives — an 8% increase from 2014. Tragically, texting while driving has become especially problematic among millennials, particularly female drivers who have been more likely to be involved in a fatal crash every year since 2012.

Whether you are on the phone, texting, checking your hair, or reaching down for a burger and fries, you are robbing yourself of seconds that can be the difference between a close call and a deadly crash.

Regardless of the law in your state, you should be asking yourself, “What can I do? And how do I keep my family safe?”

Distracted Driving Awareness Month is a great time to reflect on the choices that you make while behind the wheel and to take action in your community to help stop distracted driving.

Join us on April 30 from 7 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. as we tweet every 30 minutes about the dangers of distracted driving. One conversation, one share, or one retweet could save the life of a loved one. Take the pledge to drive safely and talk to your friends and family about doing the same. Join us in our fight for safer roads.

Who: NHTSA and You!

What: #JustDrive Tweet Up

When: Monday, April 30, 7 a.m. – 11:59 p.m. ET

Where: http://www.twitter.com/NHTSAgov

How: Follow the conversation using #JustDrive. Feel free to mention @NHTSAgov in any of your tweets and we will return as many questions and comments as we can!





PIERRE, S.D. – Attorney General Marty Jackley confirms that South Dakota has joined a 20-state coalition in a motion seeking a preliminary injunction against the federal government’s Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“South Dakotan’s deserve more affordable health insurance than mandated Obamacare has provided. Compliance with the mandatory provisions of Obamacare has resulted in documented costs of over $28.7 for the State of South Dakota and additional insurance premiums for citizens,” said Jackley. “The original 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision was based not on healthcare but on Congress’ decision to tax us, and it is time to once and for all end this federal mandate to allow medical doctors more freedom to care for patients and private industry to compete for lower insurance premiums.”

The motion for a preliminary injunction against Obamacare is necessary to spare the states from the enormous financial burden caused by the individual mandate.

Before Obamacare, “the states allowed individuals to determine whether to buy health insurance, established high-risk insurance pools to help individuals in ill-health, enabled cost-sharing, and instituted many other policies that Obamacare now preempts or functionally preempts,” the coalition wrote.

Texas and Wisconsin are joined in the lawsuit against Obamacare by the attorneys general of Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia, along with the governors of Maine and Mississippi. View a copy of the motion seeking a preliminary injunction here: https://bit.ly/2HuVcNH


“Mike Pence is scheduled to speak at the NRA convention in Dallas on May 4. This is a slap in the face to Americans—from Parkland to Chicago to Nashville—hurting from gun violence. It’s also a signal to young people organizing historic actions that the NRA’s extremist agenda and donations are more valuable to Mike Pence than the lives lost. Sign now to demand Mike Pence pull out of the NRA convention.”

Despite some of the most shocking mass shootings in American history, Mike Pence thinks it’s a good idea to be a headliner at the NRA’s convention in Dallas on May 4. It’s scheduled to take place just days after police officers were critically wounded by a suspect at a Home Depot right there in Dallas.

It’s sad that Pence is so dismissive of the American lives lost in Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, and Parkland—not to mention the thousands of people killed every month by gun violence.

The majority of Americans want politicians to stop gun violence with common sense reforms. But rather than using his platform to advocate for peace and common sense safety, Mike Pence is rewarding extremists in the NRA.

Trump, Pence, Ryan, McConnell, and the rest of the GOP seem happy to continue making excuses for gun violence because the NRA throws millions of dollars at their party.

Enough! We must hold all politicians to basic standards of decency.

Tell Mike Pence to drop out of the NRA’s convention and stand with the majority of Americans who want real action to end gun violence.

The above link will take you to the moveon.org website.



File 20180424 175041 119ngi2.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Strong enough to do the job. Peretz Partensky/flickr, CC BY-SA

Lorraine Dowler
Pennsylvania State University

Five women graduated from New York City’s Fire Academy on April 18, bringing the number of women serving in the Fire Department of New York to 72 – the highest in its history.

The FDNY’s 2018 graduating class also includes the first son to follow his mother into the profession. She was one of the 41 women hired in 1982 after the department lost a gender discrimination lawsuit and was ordered to add qualified women to the force

Despite these milestones, women still make up less than 1 percent of New York’s 11,000 firefighters. The city trails Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle and Miami, where in recent years fire squads have been more than 10 percent female. The national average hovers around 5 percent.

Approximately 10,300 women nationwide worked as full-time firefighters in 2016, according to the most recent data available from the Department of Labor. In 1983, there were just 1,700.

These women are on the front lines, fighting fires, helping victims of natural disasters and combating terrorism.

I interviewed over 100 female firefighters for an academic study of women in traditionally male industries. My research reveals how women are changing firehouse culture and transforming how Americans see heroism.

Two centuries of service

Women have been putting out fires in the U.S. for 200 years.

In 1815 Molly Williams joined New York City’s Oceanus Engine Company No. 11. Williams was a black woman enslaved by a wealthy New York merchant who volunteered at the firehouse. Williams would accompany the merchant to the station to cook and clean for the all-white, all-male crew.

One evening, the alarm rang at Oceanus No. 11. The men were incapacitated by the flu, so Williams grabbed the hand-pumped hose and answered the call alone. Her strength so impressed the men that they offered her a job.

In 1926, 50-year-old Emma Vernell became New Jersey’s first female firefighter when her husband, Harry, a volunteer fireman in the town of Red Bank, died in the line of duty.

Many more women took their husbands’ places in America’s volunteer fire service during World War II. By the mid-1940s, two Illinois military fire departments were “manned” entirely by women.

But the profession really opened up to women after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which made it illegal for employers to discriminate against applicants based on sex, race, religion or nationality.

Strong, brave and invisible

Despite this history, I still hear claims that affirmative action for female firefighters is diluting standards and putting communities at risk.

Even my liberal colleagues have asked me whether women can really carry an unconscious victim out of a fire while wearing 100 pounds of gear.

The answer is yes.

In 2008, almost 70 percent of all aspiring female firefighters passed the national Candidate Physical Abilities Test, which tests for endurance, strength and cardiovascular health. The same year, 75 percent of male applicants passed.

Female success rates rise when departments offer specialized preparation programs for women to work out together, get hands-on experience with firefighting equipment, and follow individualized strength-training routines.

Critics have suggested to me that there aren’t more female firefighters because women are not interested in such a dangerous and “dirty” job.

Yet women are much better represented in fields that require a comparable level of strength and stamina, including drywall installation, logging and welding – though they remain minorities.

Women have also made more inroads in other historically male-dominated careers like aerospace engineering and medicine. Today, some 150 years after the first American woman entered medical school, in 1911, almost 35 percent of doctors are women.

Fear of change

So why are just 5 percent of firefighters female?

Based on research on gender integration in the U.S. military, I believe the main obstacle facing women in firefighting is its traditional culture.

Like soldiers, firefighters are viewed as proud warriors working on dangerous front lines. That image comes with powerful stereotypes about who’s best suited to do the work. Female soldiers and firefighters both challenge a cultural standard that men are heroes and women are onlookers, even victims.

The military first added women to its ranks in 1948. In December 2015, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter lifted the ban on women in combat roles – “as long as they qualify and meet the standards” – despite opposition from the Marines.

Today, women still account for just 15 percent of active military personnel.

Firefighting too is a traditional field. Over the past decade, numerous departments have been found guilty of discriminating against applicants of color and ordered to retool entrance testing that had a disparate impact based on race.

Women are in some ways even more disruptive newcomers to firefighting because they entirely upend societal gender norms.

Fire departments across the U.S. have been sued for discrimination against women and people of color. Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Workplace harassment

Interviewees have told me they face severe harassment on the job.

One found her oxygen tank drained. Another confided that her male colleagues are so hostile she fears they’ll leave her alone in a fire.

Female firefighters also contend with ill-fitting gear. The long fingers of male gloves affect their grip, they report. Boots and coats are too large. Oversized breathing masks push their loose helmets forward, blocking their vision during fires.

Station houses often lack of private spaces for women, including bathrooms, changing areas and dormitories.

In 2016, 34 years after women joined New York City’s fire department, the city boasted that all of its 214 active firehouses finally had gender-separated facilities. For three decades, some of New York’s bravest went to the bathroom in neighborhood diners.

Women winning

Female firefighters are succeeding anyway.

Several hundred have risen to the level of lieutenant or captain. Another 150 hold the highest rank, fire chief. That includes Chief JoAnne Hayes-White, whose historic 2004 hiring made San Francisco the world’s largest urban fire department led by a woman.

Meanwhile, these women are transforming how Americans imagine heroism.

One Wisconsin firefighter said people are surprised when her all-female crew pulls up to a blaze. But, she told me, “No one cares if you’re a woman when their house is on fire.”

A woman in San Francisco said she intentionally stands outside the station during down time so that neighborhood children realize that black women can be firefighters.

The Conversation“You have to see it to be it,” she said.

Lorraine Dowler, Associate Professor of Geography and Women’s Studies, Pennsylvania State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation.




Calvin K. Lai
Washington University in St Louis

A Starbucks manager in Philadelphia called the police on two black men on April 13, leading to their arrest. The two men, who had been waiting for a friend at the store, were released without being charged.

Starbucks has since apologized and announced it will close more than 8,000 of its stores in the United States to provide “racial bias” training for its 175,000 employees. Starbucks’ COO Roz Brewer said the sessions would focus on “unconscious bias training,” a form of diversity education that focuses on the hidden causes of everyday racial discrimination.

Unconscious bias training has become a popular approach to diversity education. The trainings often begin with demonstrations of how the mind operates in ways that are outside of conscious awareness or control. These demonstrations show that people make, and sometimes act on, snap judgments based on the other person’s race, without any conscious intention.

Research shows that this source of racial discrimination can be reduced in a number of ways. For example, setting objective criteria for decision-making could have made a difference in the Starbucks incident. As Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson described, the manager used personal judgment in calling the police. Formal rules that prevent the influence of racial bias in calling the police could have prevented the incident altogether.

Some unconscious bias trainings incorporate discussions of solutions such as these. But there is no standard format for trainings. Some involve little more than a series of narrated PowerPoint slides. Others involve expert instructors who hold small, intensive workshops that can last for days.

The novelty of unconscious bias training means there is little direct evidence about whether it works. To determine its potential, researchers have turned to clues from other types of training.

One study looked at older types of diversity trainings that focused on the negative legal consequences of discrimination. It found that such trainings can backfire when managers resent the possibility that they could be singled out for punishment.

By contrast, employees may be more open to unconscious bias training because it focuses on how bias is universal, rather than singling out a few “bad apples.”

However, other research shows that highlighting the prevalence of bias makes people more likely to express their bias.

The ConversationUnconscious bias training will not solve the whole problem. Discrimination has other causes that aren’t fully dealt with in this kind of training, such as explicit prejudice or policies that have disparate impacts on people of different races. Effective solutions will require multiple approaches to addressing discrimination, not just one.

Calvin K. Lai,
Assistant Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Washington University in St Louis


On behalf of the President of the United States and the American people, We offer best wishes and congratulations to all Israelis as you mark the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence on April 19.

The State of Israel has prevailed over every challenge it has faced over the past 70 years. In just a short time, the people of Israel have created a successful nation that has flourished and continues to thrive. The United States established our diplomatic presence in Jerusalem well before the State of Israel was born, over 170 years ago. This year, we look forward to opening the new Embassy of the United States in Jerusalem on May 14 which coincides with the 70th anniversary of President Truman recognizing the nascent State of Israel.

Israel and the United States have an unshakeable bond that has endured and grown even stronger over the past seven decades. As the President said in Jerusalem last May, “…let us never forget that the bond between our two nations is woven together in the hearts of our people – and their love of freedom, hope, and dignity for all.” The United States will continue to be a steadfast ally of Israel and will stand together with you today, and always.

Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach.

Papers of Benjamin Franklin Now Online


Collection Includes Copies of First Continental Congress Petition to King George III, Drafts of the Treaty of Paris, Diplomatic Correspondence, Notes on Electricity and Drawing of Bifocals

This print shows Benjamin Franklin seated at a desk, looking to his right at an electrical device. In his left hand are papers upon which he is taking notes, and visible through a window to his left is lightning striking a building. (Edward Fisher, engraver, after a painting by Mason Chamberlin, 1763. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress)

The papers of American scientist, statesman and diplomat Benjamin Franklin have been digitized and are now available online for the first time from the Library of Congress. The Library announced the digitization today in remembrance of the anniversary of Franklin’s death on April 17, 1790.

The Franklin papers consist of approximately 8,000 items mostly dating from the 1770s and 1780s. These include the petition that the First Continental Congress sent to Franklin, then a colonial diplomat in London, to deliver to King George III; letterbooks Franklin kept as he negotiated the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War; drafts of the treaty; notes documenting his scientific observations, and correspondence with fellow scientists.

The collection is online at: loc.gov/collections/benjamin-franklin-papers/about-this-collection.

“Benjamin Franklin made history and won respect around the world as a diplomat, publisher, scientist and scholar,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “We are thrilled to make this collection of documents by one of the nation’s founding fathers available to highlight his unique role in American history.”

Highlights of the Franklin papers include:

  • Two copies of the petition the First Continental Congress sent to Franklin to present to King George III in 1774 “to lay our grievances before the throne.”
  • Franklin’s scientific speculation on the speed of ships in 1775 while on board a vessel returning from England to America just before the Revolutionary War.
  • Correspondence with John Adams, King George III, Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington, among others.
  • Franklin’s Craven Street letterbook, one of the few pre-Revolutionary letterbooks from Franklin to survive, documenting his life as a colonial diplomat in London.
  • Letters exchanged with his wife, Deborah Read Franklin, and his son, loyalist William Franklin, before their estrangement.
  • Franklin’s drawing of bifocal glasses, which he is credited with inventing.
  • Franklin’s letter explaining the effects of lightning on a church steeple.

The Franklin papers have been at the Library of Congress for more than 100 years but had a turbulent history. Many of Franklin’s early papers were scattered and damaged, though he accumulated many more. When he died in 1790, Franklin left his papers to his grandson, William Temple Franklin, who published some of them as the “Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin” in 1817-1818. Some of the papers Temple Franklin published were later found cut up in a London tailor shop. The papers were eventually returned to the U.S., purchased by the U.S. government and kept at the U.S. State Department until the early 20thcentury, when they were transferred to the Library of Congress.

Additional Franklin papers are held by the American Philosophical Society and the University of Pennsylvania, both of which Franklin founded in Philadelphia.

The digitization of the Franklin papers is part of a larger effort to make historical materials available online. Other newly digitized collections include the papers of U.S. Presidents James Buchanan, Ulysses S. Grant, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James K. Polk, and the papers of Alexander Hamilton, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.



File 20180409 114128 1i5qiz9.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
What role did you play? Composite of Christos Georghiou and sdecoret/Shutterstock.com, CC BY-ND

Sarah Igo, Vanderbilt University

As Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress, he’s likely wondering how his company got to the point where he must submit to public questioning. It’s worth pondering how we, the Facebook-using public, got here too.

The scandal in which Cambridge Analytica harvested data from millions of Facebook users to craft and target advertising for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has provoked broad outrage. More helpfully, it has exposed the powerful yet perilous role of data in U.S. society.

Repugnant as its methods were, Cambridge Analytica did not create this crisis on its own. As I argue in my forthcoming book, “The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America,” big corporations (in this case, Facebook) and political interests (in this case, right-wing parties and campaigns) but also ordinary Americans (social media users, and thus likely you and me) all had a hand in it.

The allure of aggregate data

Businesses and governments have led the way. As long ago as the 1840s, credit-lending firms understood the profits to be made from customers’ financial reputations. These precursors of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion eventually became enormous clearinghouses of personal data.

For its part, the federal government, from the earliest census in 1790 to the creation of New Deal social welfare programs, has long relied on aggregate as well as individual data to distribute resources and administer benefits. For example, a person’s individual Social Security payments depend in part on changes in the overall cost of living across the country.

Police forces and national security analysts, too, gathered fingerprints and other data in the name of social control. Today, they employ some of the same methods as commercial data miners to profile criminals or terrorists, crafting ever-tighter nets of detection. State-of-the-art public safety tools include access to social media accounts, online photographs, geolocation information and cell tower data.

Probing the personal

The search for better data in the 20th century often meant delving into individuals’ most personal, intimate lives. To that end, marketers, strategists and behavioral researchers conducted increasingly sophisticated surveys, polls and focus groups. They identified effective ways to reach specific customers and voters – and often, to influence their behaviors.

In the middle of the last century, for example, motivational researchers sought psychological knowledge about consumers in the hopes of subconsciously influencing them through subliminal advertising. Those probes into consumers’ personalities and desires foreshadowed Cambridge Analytica’s pitch to commercial and political clients – using data, as its website proudly proclaims, “to change audience behavior.”

Citizens were not just unwitting victims of these schemes. People have regularly, and willingly, revealed details about themselves in the name of security, convenience, health, social connection and self-knowledge. Despite rising public concerns about privacy and data insecurity, large numbers of Americans still find benefits in releasing their data to government and commercial enterprises, whether through E-ZPasses, Fitbits or Instagram posts.

Revealing ourselves

It is perhaps particularly appropriate that the Facebook scandal bloomed from a personality test app, “This is your digital life.” For decades, human relations departments and popular magazines have urged Americans to yield private details, and harness the power of aggregate data, to better understand themselves. But in most situations, people weren’t consciously trading privacy for that knowledge.

In the linked and data-hungry internet age, however, those volunteered pieces of information take on lives of their own. Individual responses from 270,000 people on this particular test became a gateway to more data, including that belonging to another 87 million of their friends.

Today, data mining corporations, political operatives and others seek data everywhere, hoping to turn that information to their own advantage. As Cambridge Analytica’s actions revealed, those groups will use data for startling purposes – such as targeting very specific groups of voters with highly customized messages – even if it means violating the policies and professed intentions of one of the most powerful corporations on the planet.

The benefits of aggregate data help explain why it has been so difficult to enact rigorous privacy laws in the U.S. As government and corporate data-gathering efforts swelled over the last century, citizens largely accepted, without much discussion or protest, that their society would be fueled by the collection of personal information. In this sense, we have all – regular individuals, government agencies and corporations like Facebook – collaborated to create the present crisis around private data.

The ConversationBut as Zuckerberg’s summons to Washington suggests, people are beginning to grasp that Facebook’s enormous profits exploit the value of their information and come at the price of their privacy. By making the risks of this arrangement clear, Cambridge Analytica may have done some good after all.

Sarah Igo, Associate Professor of History; Associate Professor of Political Science; Associate Professor of Sociology; Associate Professor of Law, Vanderbilt University

This article was originally published on The Conversation.


Washington, D.C. – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with other Trump Administration cabinet secretaries and leaders of federal agencies, committing to following the President’s One Federal Decision framework for processing environmental reviews and permits for major infrastructure projects. Under the direction of President Donald J. Trump, One Federal Decision will drive infrastructure projects to meet environmental standards, but complete the review and permitting process in a reasonable amount of time.

“This MOU will eliminate the potential for conflicting decisions, so that project sponsors don’t get one answer from agency and another answer from another agency. In agriculture, we’ve gotten some of those mixed signals before, and they’re very frustrating,” Secretary Perdue said. “President Trump is making good on his promise to free our economy from needless regulations and bureaucratic delays, and One Federal Decision is another example.”

Many of the major projects the U.S. Department of Agriculture is involved in can be very complex and require input and decisions from many other federal agencies. Projects like the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, which require extensive research and inter-agency coordination, are challenging under the old system. Those challenges force agencies to wait extended periods for multiple redundant reviews before making decisions which, in some cases, are unrelated to the information being gathered, causing costly project delays, confusion about who is responsible for making decisions, and conflicting outcomes from multiple agency decisions.

President Trump established the policy of One Federal Decision for the federal government’s processing of environmental reviews and permits for major infrastructure projects in Executive Order 13807. Under One Federal Decision, Executive Order 13807 requires that each major infrastructure project have a lead federal agency that is responsible for navigating the project through the process, all Federal agencies to sign one “Record of Decision” (for purposes of complying with the National Environmental Policy Act), and relevant Federal agencies to issue the necessary permits for the project within 90 days of the signing of the Record of Decision. Executive Order 13807 established a 2-year goal for the completion of the environmental review and permitting processes for the signature of the Record of Decision and issuance of the necessary permits.

In signing the MOU, Perdue joined Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Secretary of the Army Mark Esper. Additional signatories to the MOU including the Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the Acting Executive Director of the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council. These officials signed the MOU pursuant to a joint memorandum issued by Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Mary Neumayr, the Acting Chair of Wilbur Ross the Council on Environmental Quality.

Under the MOU, the agencies commit to working together to make the necessary environmental and permitting decisions for major infrastructure projects with a goal to complete the entire process within 2 years. In general, the MOU commits agencies to processing their reviews in accordance with the following 4 principles:

  1. Establish a Lead Federal Agency for the Complete Process. Under the current process, project sponsors are responsible for navigating the decision-making processes of multiple Federal agencies. Under the MOU, Federal agencies agree to establish one Lead Federal Agency that will navigate the Federal environmental review and permitting process.
  2. Commitment to Meeting the Lead Federal Agency’s Permitting Timetable. Under the current process, agencies are not generally required to follow a comprehensive permitting timetable. Under the MOU, Federal agencies agree to follow the permitting timetables established by the Lead Federal Agency with the goal of completing the process to 2 years.
  3. Commitment to Conduct the Necessary Review Processes Concurrently. Under the current process, agencies may conduct their own environmental review and permitting processes sequentially resulting in unnecessary delay, redundant analysis, and revisiting of decisions. Under the MOU, Federal agencies agree to conducting their processes at the same time and relying on the analysis prepared by the Lead Federal Agency to the maximum extent possible.
  4. Automatic Elevation of Interagency Disputes. Under the current process, interagency disputes sometimes linger for years in agency field offices before being elevated and resolved. Under the MOU, Federal agencies agree that interagency disputes will be automatically elevated and expeditiously resolved.