POLITICS

Virginia Could Become the First Southern State to Pass Anti-Discrimination Laws

This is a major step towards fairer treatment of the LGBTQ+ community.

Virginia just made history in the name of equality.

The state just passed the Virginia Values Act, effectively becoming the first Southern state to pass a bill that protects the lives and rights of people in the LGBTQ+ community. The bill outlines anti-discrimination protections for queer folks on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Though it must still go through more procedural votes before going to the governor, a victory on this bill is feasible based on the results of the 2019 midterm elections. If passed, the Virginia Values Act will make the commonwealth the first state in the South to have non-discrimination policies related to sexual orientation.

"Today, history was made in Virginia, and LGBTQ Virginians are one step closer to being protected from discrimination. No one should be discriminated against simply because of who they are or whom they love," said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "This day would not have been possible without the years and years of tireless work from advocates across the commonwealth, or the voters in Virginia that filled the halls of the General Assembly with pro-equality champions who fulfilled their promises. HRC is proud to have worked to elect pro-equality lawmakers across Virginia in 2019, and we are thrilled to see that effort culminate in this important victory today."

Based on previous presidential campaigns, Virginia has been considered a "swing state," and more left-leaning bills like the Virginia Values Act could indicate how the state votes in this year's presidential election. So far, fifteen states and Washington, D.C. have passed laws that include protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. For the rest, it's time to catch up.

ISSUES

Meet Clearview AI, a Terrifying New Facial Recognition Software

The company claims over 600 law enforcement agencies use their app, but in the wrong hands, it could pose extreme dangers. Here's an explainer.

Imagine you're at a bar and you see a person you find attractive.

You sneakily take a photo of them, and use that photo in an app that pulls up every public photo of that person available online. Links to each photo are also provided, meaning you can find out this person's name, workplace, hometown, friends, and more, without even talking to them. An app called Clearview AI has made the potential for this situation a reality.

Recently, New York Times reporter Kashmir Hill investigated the tiny start-up that's taking revolutionary steps in facial recognition technology. Clearview AI was developed by Hoan Ton-That, a San Francisco techie by way of Australia, who marketed the app as a tool for law enforcement to hunt down their victims. Clearview's database contains over three billion images scraped from millions of websites; the premise is, when you take a photo of a person, you can upload it and see public photos of that person and access links to where those photos are from.

Facial Crowd Recognition Technology Getty Images

Though this sounds like a remarkable tool for law enforcement, Clearview poses severe threats to privacy if placed in the wrong hands. As Hill described in her appearance on Times podcast The Daily this week, someone with malicious intent could theoretically take a photo of a stranger, upload it to Clearview, and uncover personal information like that person's name, where they work, where they live, and who their family members are. In short: the concept is so risky that companies who were able to do the same thing first, like Google, refused to.

Still, Clearview claims that over 600 law enforcement agencies have been using the app, although they've kept their list of customers private. Clearview's investors have cited the app's crime-solving capabilities as a means to back it; Clearview has already helped track down suspects on numerous accounts. But, as Hill's reports found, the app isn't always perfect and might not be fully unbiased; "After the company realized I was asking officers to run my photo through the app, my face was flagged by Clearview's systems and for a while showed no matches," Hill wrote. "When asked about this, Mr. Ton-That laughed and called it a 'software bug.'" Later, when Ton-That ran another photo of Hill through the app, it pulled up a decade's worth of photos—many of which Hill didn't even realize were public.

"Our belief is that this is the best use of the technology," Ton-That told Hill. But is Clearview's usefulness in law enforcement worth leaving our privacy behind every time we leave the house?

POLITICS

Trump Becomes the First President to Attend March for Life

The president attended the annual anti-abortion event in Washington, D.C.

Today, Donald Trump became the first-ever president to attend the March for Life.

The March for Life—not to be confused with the very different March for our Lives—is an annual gathering with an ultimate mission to end abortion in the United States. At the national march in Washington, D.C. this morning, Trump expressed that he was honored to be the first president in attendance.

Trump delivered his speech in a very characteristic manner, claiming the venue had maxed capacity, bragging about his contributions to the anti-abortion movement, and describing himself and his presidency with hyperbolic statements: "Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House," he assured the crowd.

"When it comes to abortion...Democrats have embraced the most radical and extreme positions," Trump added.

March for Life's official website says they "celebrate life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death, and every moment in between," a sentiment underlined in Trump's speech. "We are fighting for those who have no voice," he added. "[The women at the march] just make it your life's mission to spread God's grace." But of course, Trump's words and his actions haven't always aligned: just last November, the Associated Press reported that nearly 70,000 migrant children were held in U.S. government custody over the past year. While Trump may care about the fate of unborn children (or at least pretend to to gain the support of evangelical christians) he has made it extremely clear how little he cares about living children.

WORLD

Steve Irwin's Family Has Helped 90,000 Animals

Many of the Australia Zoo's most recent patients came from the severe bushfire.

According to CBS, nearly half a billion animals have died in the bushfires that are currently terrorizing Australia.

Australia is home to expansive, unique wildlife, as well as plenty of residents who are fighting to keep the beauty of their country intact. One famed family, the Irwins—of the late Steve Irwin—is taking major steps to help.

Terri, Steve's widow, took over the Australia Zoo after his death in 2006. Since then, she and the two Irwin children, Bindi and Robert, have continued their shared passion for wildlife conservation and environmentalism, which has only been amplified in the wake of the fires.

"With so many devastating fires within Australia, my heart breaks for the people and wildlife who have lost so much," Bindi wrote on Instagram, ensuring fans that the Zoo and the Irwin's home would be safe. "Our Wildlife Hospital is busier than ever though, having officially treated over 90,000 patients."

Below, check out some of the recent patients at the Australia Zoo that the Irwins have helped.











If you want to provide aid from the fires that have damaged over 12 million acres in Australia, donate to Australian Red Cross Disaster Recovery and Relief, Salvation Army Disaster Appeal, or the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

POLITICS

11 State Laws Going into Effect in 2020

From gun laws to Internet privacy, here are new state laws you need to know about.

As we ring in the new year, states across the country are also ringing in new laws.

We've rounded up the most interesting new statutes that you need to know, from hot topic issues like marijuana and gun reform to other concerns like Internet privacy. Check our your new rights (and restrictions) below:

Higher minimum wages

The federal minimum wage has remained $7.25 since 2009, but 24 states and 48 cities and counties are taking matters into their own hands. Many of these—mostly in California, raising minimum rage to $12.00 an hour—went into effect New Year's Day, with the rest raising minimum wage later in the year.

Legal recreational marijuana in Illinois

Now, Illinoisans 21 and older can buy recreational marijuana. Additionally, individuals with nonviolent marijuana convictions for up to 30 grams of weed are pardoned by the law.

No more discrimination against natural hair in California

There have been far too many cases of black students and employees being discriminated against for their natural hair. Thanks to the Crown Act, that's now illegal in California. Hairstyles like afros, dreadlocks, and braids can no longer be targeted by dress code policies.

More freedom for sexual abuse survivors

In California, sexual assault victims of all ages have three years to sue, as of January 1. Victims of childhood sexual abuse now have until age 40 to file lawsuits (up from age 26).

Illinois lifted their 10-year statute of limitations entirely, meaning victims of all ages can press charges whenever they're ready, regardless of time.

Changing gun laws

President Trump has called for "red flag" laws in the wake of recent mass shootings. These laws, which have taken effect in 17 states and Washington, DC, enable those who have seen warning signs to seek a court order that would temporarily prevent someone in crisis from accessing a firearm.

However, Tennessee is loosening their laws, allowing its residents to take an online course to obtain a concealed carry permit. The course is 90 minutes and the permit costs $65.

Looser traffic laws for cyclists

Portland, Oregon has long been considered one of the country's most bike-friendly cities, and things are about to get a little speedier for two-wheeled travelers. Oregon now allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yields instead of having to abide by the same traffic laws as motor vehicles, making for a much less annoying ride.

More plastic bag bans

While bringing reusable bags should be part of everyone's grocery shopping routine, Oregon is the latest state to ban plastic bags entirely. You might have to pay a small fee for paper ones.

Albuquerque, New Mexico has also banned plastic bags.

Stricter laws for kids' car seats

Washington is tightening their laws on child car seats. Once they've reached the manufacturer-set weight and height limits on their forward-facing restraint system, children under 4 feet 9 inches tall need to use a booster seat. That means booster seats for some sixth-graders.

No more cash bail in New York

New York has ended the money bail system for nearly all misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges. Exceptions include cases involving sex crimes and domestic violence.

Privacy for Internet users

Californians will be able to opt out of the sale of their personal information online and can sue companies that fail to implement reasonable security practices. To be clear, your data can still be collected—this law just means they must disclose what they're collecting when you ask.

Fewer surprise medical bills

Texas is taking action against ridiculously high surprise medical bills with a list of rules implemented by the Texas Department of Insurance.

"Patients should never be asked to sign away their protections and pay a much higher price when they have no realistic alternative and incomplete information," said Stacey Pogue, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin.