Trending

When Will We Know the Results of the 2020 Presidential Election?

Here's everything you need to know about Election Day 2020.

For many of us, it's been a very long, divisive four years. Finally, the end (for better or for worse) is in sight.

Today, November 3rd 2020, all remaining votes for the president of the United States of America will be cast. Most years we know who will be the next president by the end of election night, but like many things in 2020, this election will likely be different.

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WORLD

What's Happening in Nigeria and How You Can Help #EndSARSNow

Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.

Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."

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Debunking Trump Tweets: Can Trump Delay the Election?

Trump's latest tweet has sparked questions across the nation.

Of all the senseless tweets we've had to make sense of since Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in 2016, one of the most alarming went out on July 30th.

The tweet reads: "With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"

For obvious reasons, many people around the world reacted strongly to the suggestion that Trump may try to delay the election. It's long been speculated that President Trump will dispute election results should he lose in November 2020, and this tweet seems to support the idea that Trump is priming his followers to question the validity of the results.

Does Trump have the power to delay the election?

Luckily, Trump does not actually have the power to delay the election, and it's incredibly unlikely that Congress would allow a delay.

By law, the presidential election is held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. For that date to be changed, both houses of Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate) would need to approve the delay. The constitution is very clear on the matter of election date change, and Congress would have to undertake the arduous process of amending the constitution in order to change the date.

As The New York Times points out, "Article II of the Constitution empowers Congress to choose the timing of the general election. An 1845 federal law fixed the date as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. It would take a change in federal law to move that date. That would mean legislation enacted by Congress, signed by the president and subject to challenge in the courts."

Prominent law experts have also spoken out and confirmed that Trump doesn't have the power to move the election, including Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias.


Is universal mail-In voting a bad idea?

Not at all. In fact, mail-in voting has been a major part of elections since the Civil War when soldiers voted by mail from the battle field. Voter fraud is extremely rare in any case.

According to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice, incident rates of voter fraud in mail-in situations are between .0003% and .0025% nationwide. Oregon, the first state to institute universal mail in voting in 2000, have only documented about a dozen cases of proven fraud in the last two decades. According to The New York Times, "Numerous studies have shown that all forms of voting fraud are very rare in the United States. A panel that Mr. Trump established to investigate election corruption was disbanded in 2018 after it found no real evidence of fraud. Experts have said that voting by mail is less secure than voting in person, but it is still extremely rare to see broad cases of voter fraud."

Does mail-in voting disproportionately benefit the Democratic party?

It's unlikely. As the Brooking Institute points out, "The first state to adopt a universal mail-in ballot program was Oregon in 2000. Shortly after it was enacted, Adam J. Berinsky, Nancy Burns, and Michael W. Traugott sought to explore the impact of the new law. They found that voting by mail did not bring substantial numbers of new voters into electorate, nor did it have any effect on whether the electorate was more Democratic or more Republican. The only effect they found was that it helped keep regular voters in the electorate."

A Stanford study on the subject found: "(1) vote-by-mail does not appear to affect either party's share of turnout; (2) vote-by-mail does not appear to increase either party's vote share; and (3) vote-by-mail modestly increases overall average turnout rates, in line with previous estimates. All three conclusions support the conventional wisdom of election administration experts and contradict many popular claims in the media."

In summary, it is incredibly unlikely that Donald Trump will be successful in delaying the election, and he is incorrect about mail-in voting being subject to widespread voter fraud.

Check out this helpful graphic for more information:


ISSUES

How to Recycle Correctly in New York City

If you aren't recycling the right way, then you might as well not be recycling.

Everyone knows recycling is important, but how much of the waste in your recycling bin actually ends up being recycled?

Unfortunately, New York City only recycles about one fifth of its garbage: around 8 percent of trash from homes and about 25 percent from businesses, according to the city's Department of Sanitation. While those numbers are discouraging, this makes it all the more important to correctly recycle the things that can actually be recycled. If you've always been a person who just throws anything you think may vaguely be made of paper and plastic into the recycling bin, it's time to step it up.

The below information on recycling correctly is taken from NYC.gov.

Paper and Corrugated Cardboard

"Rules for Recycling Paper

Place mixed paper, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, and phone books out for recycling collection using any one of the following methods:

  • Tie with twine into bundles no taller than 18 inches
  • Place in clear, untinted plastic bags between 13 and 55 gallons
  • Place in bins 32 gallons or less with green labels on both sides and the lid.

The bag or container must weigh no more than 60 pounds when placed out for collection. Bins must be secured with a tight-fitting lid.

The City does not give away green recycling bins.

Rules for Recycling Corrugated Cardboard

Only corrugated cardboard boxes may be recycled as corrugated cardboard. Heavily-soiled or greasy cardboard should be disposed of with regular trash.

Corrugated cardboard must be flattened and tied with sturdy twine into bundles 18 inches tall or smaller. Bundles must not be placed in containers or clear bags unless broken into small pieces.

In buildings with mechanized collection, cardboard must be collapsed and placed into designated dumpsters.

Key Takeaways:

  • You need to tie your cardboard into bundles.
  • Greasy or food covered cardboard or paper should go in the regular trash.
  • Paper needs to be put in a clear bag or tied together with twine.
  • Always fold up your cardboard


Plastic

"Rules for Recycling Plastic

  • Rinse plastic containers, beverage cartons, and drink boxes before recycling
  • Plastic can be mixed with metal and glass recyclables, but never with paper recyclables.
  • Place plastic items in clear, untinted bags or blue-labeled recycling bins with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Clear, untinted bags must be between 13 and 55 gallons in size and weigh no more than 60 pounds when placed out for collection.
  • Containers must be 32 gallons or less and have blue labels on both sides and the lid. Containers must weigh no more than 60 pounds when placed out for collection.

To dispose of a plastic recycling or trash container, all receptacles should be clearly labeled as trash and put at the curb on the proper recycling collection day so that the Department of Sanitation will know that they should be collected.

Plastic Items That Can Be Recycled

  • Plastic bottles, cups, jars, and jugs (regardless of recycling number on container bottom)
  • Beverage cartons and drink boxes (juice cartons, juice boxes)
  • Milk cartons
  • Plastic cutlery (spoons, forks, knives)
  • Plastic plates
  • Plastic hangers
  • Rigid plastic caps and lids
  • Rigid plastic food containers (tupperware, yogurt, deli, hummus, dairy tubs, cookie tray inserts, "clamshell" containers, and other plastic takeout containers)
  • Rigid plastic nonfood containers
  • Rigid plastic packaging ("blisterpak" and "clamshell" consumer packaging, acetate boxes)
  • Rigid plastic housewares (flower pots, mixing bowls, plastic appliances, etc.)
  • Bulk plastic (crates, buckets, pails, furniture, large toys, large appliances, etc.)
  • Plastic appliances
  • CDs, DVDs, disks, vinyl records, CD and DVD cases
  • Satellite dishes
  • Telephones

Plastic Items That Can't Be Recycled

  • Styrofoam/plastic foam items (foam cups, foam egg cartons, foam trays, foam packing peanuts, foam sporting equipment, etc.)
  • Plastic bags, wrappers, shower curtains, and all kinds of plastic "film"
  • Plastic rings from soda and beer cans
  • Cell phones
  • Cassettes, VHS tapes
  • Sports balls (basketballs, bowling balls, soccer balls, footballs, yoga balls, etc.)
  • Plastic tubes (toothpaste, lotion, and cosmetics, etc.)
  • Single-serve food and drink squeezable pouches (juice pouches, baby food squeeze pouches, yogurt-to-go pouches, etc.)
  • Garden hoses
  • PVC pipes (must be no longer than 4 feet and placed out as bulk trash)
  • Containers that held dangerous or corrosive chemicals
  • Pens and markers
  • 3-ring binders (if separate, the metal rings can be recycled)
  • Umbrellas
  • Lighters
  • Luggage"
Key Takeaways:
  • Plastic food containers must be rinsed well.
  • Plastic must be separated from paper recyclables, though it can be mixed with glass.
  • Use a blue bin for plastics.

Metal

"Rules for Recycling Metal

  • Metal can be mixed with plastic and glass recyclables, but never with paper recyclables.
  • Place metal items in clear, untinted bags or blue-labeled recycling bins with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Clear, untinted bags must be between 13 and 55 gallons in size and weigh no more than 60 pounds when placed out for collection.
  • Containers must be 32 gallons or less and have blue labels on both sides and the lid. Containers must weigh no more than 60 pounds when placed out for collection.

Large metal items, such as appliances, must be placed at curbside next to the recycling container. For appliances containing CFC gas, a CFC and Freon Removal appointment must be made prior to disposal.

To dispose of a metal recycling or trash container, all receptacles should be clearly labeled as refuse and put at the curb on the proper recycling collection day so that the Department of Sanitation will know that they should be collected.

Metal Items That Can Be Recycled

  • Aerosol cans (empty)
  • Aluminum foil wrap and trays
  • Clean metallic car parts
  • Dried-out paint cans (metal lid may be recycled separately)
  • Faucets
  • Food cans (empty and clean)
  • Household metal (wire hangers with paper removed)
  • Irons
  • Knife blades (Blades of sharp metal knives (such as carving or chef's knives) should be wrapped in cardboard, taped, labeled "CAUTION: SHARP" and placed out with metal/glass/plastic recyclables)
  • Lighting fixtures
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Metal utensils (including forks, spoons, and knives)
  • Metal caps
  • Pots and pans
  • Satellite dish
  • Small appliances that are mostly metal"
Key Takeaways:
  • Do not mix your metal recyclables with paper recyclables.
  • Clearly mark large metal items you intend to recycle.

Bulky Metal Items

Large items that are all metal or mostly metal are recyclable as bulk items. If an item exceeds the listed weight, height, or amount requirements, you must hire a private carter for disposal.

Large items that are all metal or mostly metal and are recyclable as bulk items include:

  • Air conditioners
  • Auto parts (containing no hazardous materials or chemicals)
  • Aluminum lawn furniture with plastic webbing
  • Barbecue grills
  • Bedsprings/Metal bed frames
  • Bicycles
  • Boilers
  • Cabinets and appliances
  • Clothes dryers
  • Dishwashers
  • Furniture
  • Generators (less than 100 pounds)
  • Lawnmower (empty fuel to be used in new lawnmower or bring to SAFE disposal event)
  • Ovens
  • Pipes (no longer than 4 feet)
  • Porcelain coated metal bathtubs and sinks
  • Radiators
  • Snow blowers (less than 100 pounds)
  • Washing machines
  • Water heaters (50 gallons or less)

Metal Compressed Gas Tanks

You can put fire extinguishers and helium tanks out for collection or take them back to where you bought them.

If you put them out, first empty them and remove the head. To empty an extinguisher, spray it into a damp paper bag.

Sanitation does not collect used compressed gas tanks such as propane, oxygen, and acetylene because they can explode in the garbage truck. You must take these tanks back to where you bought them.

Glass

"Rules for Recycling Glass

  • Only glass bottles and jars may be recycled as glass.
  • Rinse the glass before you recycle it.
  • Glass can be mixed with metal and plastic recyclables, but never with paper recyclables.
  • Place glass in clear, untinted bags or blue-labeled recycling bins secured with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Clear, untinted bags must be between 13 and 55 gallons in size and weigh no more than 60 pounds when placed out for collection.
  • Containers must be 32 gallons or less and have blue labels on both sides and the lid. Containers must weigh no more than 60 pounds when placed out for collection.

Glass Items That Can't Be Recycled

  • Drinking glasses and glassware
  • Eyeglasses
  • Glass tables
  • Glass windows
  • Light bulbs
  • Mirrors

Broken Glass

To avoid bag punctures, broken glass should be placed into a cardboard box labeled "broken glass." The box should be sealed with tape and placed into a trash can or securely tied trash bag. Small containers of broken glass may be placed directly into a trash can or bag.

Larger, properly sealed, and labeled cardboard boxes that contain broken glass can be placed out for collection next to regular refuse containers/bags.

The broken ends of smaller single pieces of broken glass can sometimes be protected with several pages of newspaper taped around the broken end before being placed into a trash can or bag."

Key Takeaways:

  • Only glass bottles and jars may be recycled as glass.
  • Rinse all glass recyclables
  • If recycling broken glass mark it clearly.
  • Do not mix glass recyclables with paper recyclables.
ISSUES

Coronavirus Updates: Can Asymptomatic Carriers SpreadCOVID-19?

New evidence suggests asymptomatic transmission is less likely than previously thought.

On Monday, a representative from the World Health Organization called asymptomatic transmissions of the coronavirus "very rare." This was quickly bolstered by conservative lawmakers to call for the end of social distancing guidelines and the mandatory wearing of face masks. Many health experts and scientists questioned WHO's statement, citing a lack of evidence.

Today, WHO has walked back their original statement, clarifying that the observation "was based on a relatively small set of studies," and, "Evidence suggests people with symptoms are most infectious, but the disease can be passed on before they develop."

So What Happened?

Essentially, the original statement was referring to a small set of data from various countries in instances where an asymptomatic case had been followed up and secondary infections among the asymptomatic person's contact had been sought out. This data suggested that infections among the people the asymptomatic person had come in contact with were "very rare."

The WHO emphasized today that there is no way of knowing if this trend is true on a global scale.

According to the BBC, the Director of the WHO's health emergencies program, Dr Michael Ryan, said he was "absolutely convinced" asymptomatic transmission was occurring, but "the question is how much."

What Exactly Does Asymptomatic Mean, Anyway?

According Dr Van Kerkhove, the WHO's head of emerging diseases, there are three categories within the designation of "asymptomatic."

  • People who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic)
  • People who test positive when they don't yet have symptoms - but go on to develop them (pre-symptomatic)
  • People with very mild or atypical symptoms who do not realise they have coronavirus
So, while people who never develop symptoms are unlikely to pass on the virus, it's impossible to know if someone who has tested positive is truly asymptomatic or merely pre-symptomatic. If they are pre-symptomatic, then they are more likely to pass on the virus.

Should I Continue to Social Distance and Wear a Mask?

Yes. There is still so much that experts don't know about the spread of COVID-19, so while some evidence may suggest the virus isn't as easily passed on by as many people as previously thought, that doesn't mean you won't contract the virus if you aren't careful.

ISSUES

Candace Owens Refuses to Socially Isolate

COVID-19 should not be a partisan issue.

Candace Owens, a right wing activist well-known for speaking out against anything any democrat does, took to Twitter today to share that she is actively spreading COVID-19.

Owens' tirade was triggered by an experience in Whole Foods in which her and her husband were asked to put on medical masks or otherwise cover their mouths. Apparently, Owens was unaware of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's April 8 mandate requiring customers to "wear a mask or mouth covering" when shopping. According to Owens, this polite request to do her part in stopping the spread of a deadly virus is an indication that the country is "spiraling into tyranny."


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ISSUES

Do I Qualify For Unemployment If I've Been Furloughed Because of the Coronavirus?

Plus, how to apply for unemployment.

A record number of Americans have applied for unemployment benefits in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. So many, in fact, that there has been a 3000% jump in jobless claims since early March. Unfortunately, the situation is likely to only get worse. According to Citi economist Andrew Hollenhorst, "Further job loss expected in coming weeks is very likely to push unemployment above 10%, even taking account of a potential steep decline in the labor force participation rate, as some displaced workers are neither furloughed nor looking for work."

Of course, if you've been outright fired from your job, you can at least take comfort in the fact that you face a relatively straightforward process for applying for unemployment. But what if you've been furloughed? What do you do now?

What is a furlough?

Furlough's have become increasingly common as the pandemic has continued to devastate the American job market. In short, a furlough is when an employee is put on an unpaid leave from work for an indefinite amount of time. According to the Office for Personnel Management, there are two types of furlough:

"An administrative furlough is a planned event by an agency which is designed to absorb reductions necessitated by downsizing, reduced funding, lack of work, or any budget situation other than a lapse in appropriations. Furloughs that would potentially result from sequestration would generally be considered administrative furloughs."

"A shutdown furlough (also called an emergency furlough) occurs when there is a lapse in appropriations, and can occur at the beginning of a fiscal year, if no funds have been appropriated for that year, or upon expiration of a continuing resolution, if a new continuing resolution or appropriations law is not passed. In a shutdown furlough, an affected agency would have to shut down any activities funded by annual appropriations that are not excepted by law. Typically, an agency will have very little to no lead time to plan and implement a shutdown furlough."

A furlough is, by its nature, temporary, but that doesn't mean that you can count on getting your job back. Many private and public companies have furloughed employees as a cost saving measure in hopes of weathering the economic turmoil of COVID-19 and hiring back furloughed employees as soon as possible, but as economies grind to a halt across the world, it becomes more and more likely that furlough will turn to permanent termination for many workers. As Jie Feng, an assistant professor in the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations told the Society for Human Resource Management, "Unlike layoffs, furloughs reduce labor costs without adding new costs such as severance packages and outplacement services." That means that, unfortunately, your company may just be putting off termination in order to avoid the costs associated with it.

While you likely still have healthcare as a furloughed employee, its not a guarantee, so its worth verifying with your specific company what benefits you retain during your leave.

Do I qualify for unemployment if I've been furloughed?

While you wait to see how long your furlough lasts, you can at least take comfort knowing that you probably qualify for unemployment benefits, particularly as they've been expanded under the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. Usually, it wouldn't be a guarantee that furloughed workers would qualify for unemployment (it depends on the state you live in) but thanks to the new relief packaged, anyone who was furloughed due to the coronavirus outbreak qualifies for unemployment insurance. Additionally, unlike filing for unemployment because you've lost your job, furloughed employees do not have to prove they lost their jobs. Keep in mind that if you're on paid leave or are able to work from home, you won't qualify for the updated unemployment benefits.

According to CNET, you are likely eligible for additional unemployment under the new package if: "you're a part-time or self-employed worker, as well as if you're already unemployed or can't work because of COVID-19."

You are also eligible if:

  • You were set to start a new job and can't because of the outbreak
  • You collect veteran or Social Security benefits
  • Your job closed due to the coronavirus (for instance, restaurants or businesses deemed "nonessential")
  • You're not working because you have to care for children or other family members who would otherwise attend school or another facility

So, how much money will I get?

While the total sum of the unemployment money you receive will depend on your state's unemployment plan, the new federal relief package will give you an extra $600 a week on top of whatever you get through your state. It will also cover you for an extra 13 weeks in addition to whatever amount of time your state unemployment program covers. Most states unemployment benefits are upwards of 26 weeks, meaning you're likely to be covered for around 39 weeks. How much money you'll receive is entirely dependent on your state, for example, California residents get $450 a week so the extra $600 would put their weekly benefits at more than $1,000, but Florida residents get a max of $275 per week, putting their total unemployment at a maximum amount of $875.

How do I apply?

There is no way to apply for unemployment via the federal government, so you'll have to find the specific process for your state. Luckily, you can apply immediately. You used to have to wait at least a week to receive benefits, but thanks to the stimulus package you can now expect a more immediate turnaround time. While some states have waived the waiting period, others might still have one implemented. To find out what your state's unemployment program looks like, refer to the table on this site or select your state on this page.



WORLD

What Is Hantavirus and Should We Be Worried About a New Pandemic?

Here are the facts about #hantavirus.

One of the most searched terms on the Internet right now is "hantavirus." This comes in the wake of reports out of China that a man who died on a bus Monday tested positive for something called hantavirus. Global Times, an English-language Chinese news outlet, tweeted, "He was tested positive for #hantavirus. Other 32 people on bus were tested." The tweet has now been shared more than 15,000 times.

This immediately sparked rumors of a new pandemic poised to sweep the world before we even have a chance to get the coronavirus (COVID-19) under control, and #hantavirus soon began trending on Twitter. Luckily, there is accurate information out there about hantavirus. Here's what you need to know.

What is a Hantavirus?

By this time, everyone knows that the novel coronavirus that has caused international turmoil since originating in Wuhan, China, jumped from an animal host to humans. A coronavirus is any virus that originated in animals. Similarly, hantaviruses are a family of virus that spread through rodents. But there are key differences: According to the CDC, hantaviruses spread to humans as a result of close contact with rodent urine, droppings, or saliva, and scientists and doctors have been aware of them since the 1950s. According to the CDC, "Hantaviruses in the Americas are known as 'New World' hantaviruses and may cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Other hantaviruses, known as 'Old World' hantaviruses, are found mostly in Europe and Asia and may cause hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS)."

The CDC goes on to specify, "The hantaviruses that cause human illness in the United States cannot be transmitted from one person to another." Not only that, but hantavirus infections are exceedingly rare.

What are the Symptoms of Hantavirus?

Symptoms of HPS include,"Fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups—thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders. These symptoms are universal. There may also be headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. About half of all HPS patients experience these symptoms."

The CDC informational page on the virus goes on to say, "Four to 10 days after the initial phase of illness, the late symptoms of HPS appear. These include coughing and shortness of breath, with the sensation of, as one survivor put it, a '…tight band around my chest and a pillow over my face' as the lungs fill with fluid."

In contrast, HFRS is characterized by, "Symptoms [that] begin suddenly and include intense headaches, back and abdominal pain, fever, chills, nausea, and blurred vision. Individuals may have flushing of the face, inflammation or redness of the eyes, or a rash. Later symptoms can include low blood pressure, acute shock, vascular leakage, and acute kidney failure, which can cause severe fluid overload."

Is the Disease Fatal?

HFRS has a fatality rate of 5-15% while HPS has a fatality rate of 38%.

Could Hantavirus Turn Into a Pandemic Like Coronavirus?

The answer is, simply, almost definitely not. Human to human transmission of hantavirus is exceedingly rare, particularly in the United States where it is unheard of. In fact, the CDC specifies, "To date, no cases of HPS have been reported in the United States in which the virus was transmitted from one person to another." Meanwhile, it is possible for HFRS to be transmitted from person to person, but it is extremely rare and unlikely. So much so that it is essentially impossible for the virus to travel between people at such a rate as to cause a global pandemic.

How Can I Avoid Getting Hantavirus?

According to the CDC, to get infected with HFRS, one must be exposed to, "Aerosolized urine, droppings, or saliva of infected rodents or after exposure to dust from their nests. Transmission may also occur when infected urine or these other materials are directly introduced into broken skin or onto the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, or mouth. In addition, individuals who work with live rodents can be exposed to hantaviruses through rodent bites from infected animals." Transmission of HFRS from one person to another is extremely rare.

Meanwhile, if you live in the United States, you have even less to worry about as HPS cannot be passed between humans. The majority of cases of HPS in the USA are caused by deer mice (with some cases caused by cotton rats, and rice rats in the southeastern states, and the white-footed mouse in the Northeast). The virus can be contracted through the air when fresh rodent urine, droppings, or nesting materials are disturbed or otherwise stirred up, which can cause tiny droplets containing the virus to become airborne. It can also, more rarely, be contracted through rodent bites, food contaminated by rodent waste or saliva, and possibly by touching something contaminated and then touching your face. But just because you may have come in contact with a rodent nest does not mean you will contract the virus, as HPS infections are still very rare and not all rodents carry the virus.

Should I Worry About Hantavirus?

No, unless you're someone who frequently consumes or comes in contact with the kinds of rodents who may carry the virus, you have nothing to worry about. Even if you think you may have come into contact with a rodent nest recently, it is unlikely that you have contracted this virus. Additionally, HFRS (the version of the virus the man who died in China Monday likely had) rarely jumps between people, and there is no evidence that the infected man transmitted the virus to anyone else. Of course, if you have been around an infected person or rodents and have fever, deep muscle aches, and severe shortness of breath, see your doctor as soon as possible.

ISSUES

Myth or Fact: Ibuprofen Can Make COVID-19 Symptoms Worse

Don't listen to everything you read on the Internet.

There is a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 spreading across the Internet, and as the pandemic worsens, its more important than ever to keep yourself informed. Recently, France's Health Minister, Olivier Veran, tweeted that "taking anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, cortisone…) could be an aggravating factor of the infection".

While there is reportedly very little clinical evidence to support this, medical professionals said that ibuprofen is still not recommended for managing coronavirus symptoms. Of course, those already taking ibuprofen for other conditions should not stop without consulting a doctor.

The UK's National Health Service recently updated their website to say, "there is currently no strong evidence that ibuprofen can make coronavirus (Covid-19) worse... until we have more information, take paracetamol to treat the symptoms of coronavirus, unless your doctor has told you paracetamol is not suitable for you."

So, while we wait for more information, it is best to avoid Ibuprofen for the treatment of coronavirus symptoms and to instead opt for paracetamol (also called acetaminophen). So, stock up on Tylenol and keep washing your hands, but most of all, always consult with your doctor about what's best for you.


ISSUES

How to Improve America's Broken Prison System: Create a World Without Free Will and Moral Responsibility

How responsible are you for your actions?

The debate over free will, and whether we as humans possess such a thing, has been ongoing since Aristotelian times. When discussing free will, philosophers commonly mean the kind that means humans are ultimately responsible for their actions. The assumption of this kind of free will's existence, and the kind of ultimate responsibility that is inherent in it, is the basis of many religions, justice systems, and cultural structures. As philosopher's continue to debate whether free will exists, another question arises: what are the implications if we let go of the concept of free will and the kind of moral responsibility that accompanies it? How would our institutions, behaviors, and individual operations change if we allowed the idea of a causally determined universe without free will to become a part of public consciousness? Based on the work, of Samuel Harris, Daniel Dennet, Robert Kane and Bruce Waller, one can conclude that the world would be a more productive, compassionate place if society were to generally let go of this concept and embrace a hard determinist viewpoint.

First, it is vital that we elucidate what hard determinism looks like in the context of other philosophical viewpoints regarding free will. At present, the debate regarding the existence of free will revolves around the idea of determinism, it's validity as a concept, and, if valid, how that affects free will and responsibility. Determinism is the idea that everything that occurs and will ever occur is an inevitable product of all that has occurred before.

Or as Robert Kane puts it in his book Free Will, "…we say that a determined event is inevitable or necessary, (it cannot but occur), given the determining conditions." (Kane, 6) This idea calls into question the validity of the concept of free will. In this debate, when referring to "free will," one means the kind of freedom that goes beyond surface freedoms (choosing what to eat, where to travel etc.) and extends to the power to control why one desires what they desire and chooses what they choose. Kane refers to this deeper kind of free will as, "…the ultimate power over what it is that we willed." (Kane, 2) Another way to think about it is the power to be the author of one's own character.

Today, for the purpose of this article, the debate can be reasonably divided into two large categories: compatibilism and incompatibilism. The first group is made up of those who believe free will is compatible with the idea of determinism, that is, that free will can exist, on some level, in a causally determined world. The classical compatibilist believes that, "…our natural belief in the incompatibility of free will and determinism rests on confusions of two kinds—confusions about the nature of freedom and confusions about the nature of determinism." (Kane, 21) In brief, classical compatibilists believe that the kind of free will worth having is essentially merely an accumulation of exercising surface freedoms, something very possible in a causally determined world.


Contrastingly, incompatibilists are those people who believe that free will and determinism can't both be true. This leaves incompatibilists with the burden of proving that free will and determinism cannot exist simultaneously, which once accomplished, leaves them to decide which of the two (determinism and free will) is then true. Meaning this group is much more starkly divided than the compatibilists.

The first group in this division, libertarians, are as Kane puts it, those "…who affirm free will and deny determinism…" (Kane, 32) This leaves the libertarian to prove how free will can exist in an indeterminist world, which creates arguments that rely largely on luck or other vague, metaphysical concepts that critics argue, even if true, won't necessarily make a person more free. This view agrees the most with the intuitive sense of free will many common "folk" have, but is not accepted by the majority of philosophers of merit.

The other view an incompatibilist can reasonably take is that of hard determinism, the belief that because determinism is true, free will cannot exist. As Kane puts it, those who hold this view, "…believe that if you look more deeply into the psychological and other springs of action, you will see that all of us are determined to do what we do, whether it be good or evil; and so none of us is ultimately responsible." (Kane, 68) It is this view, as we will explore, that removes the burden of free will and moral responsibility from the world, and creates space for a more compassionate, productive world. Essentially, if we were always going to do what we do because of a combination of our experiences and biology, how can our actions truly be our fault?

According to Kane, "Hard Determinism is defined by three theses: (1) Free will is incompatible with determinism and (2) free will does not exist because (3) determinism is true." (Kane, 70) The basic argument, that philosopher Galen Strawson lays out, seems to make this thesis appear logically sound. The argument is made up of five parts that are as follows: (1) Nothing can be causa sui - nothing can be the cause of itself. (2) In order to be truly morally responsible for one's actions one would have to be causa sui, at least in certain crucial mental respects. (3) Therefore nothing can be truly morally responsible (Strawson,1) This seems to be a difficult argument to reason ones way out of, as at every step one is tempted to refer to an earlier moment of self-authorship, only to be foiled by Strawson's unavoidable logic that such a moment simply cannot have existed.


Those who oppose this view, argue that though we may be affected by our environment and biology, we still have the power to decide to change who we are. (Kane, 73) To this, Kane says that Strawson argues that, "…neither compatibilists nor libertarians give us an adequate account of how we could change our characters that accounts for true responsibility. If the way we change ourselves later in life is determined by how we already are, as compatibilists allow, then that kind of change would not amount to true responsibility. But if the way we change ourselves later in life is undetermined, as libertarians require, then it would amount to mere luck or chance and that would not be true responsibility either."(Kane, 73) Of course, it is important to note, as Sam Harris does in his book Free Will, "There is a distinction between voluntary and involuntary actions, of course, but it does nothing to support the common idea of free will (nor does it depend upon it). A voluntary action is accompanied by the felt intention to carry it out, whereas an involuntary action isn't." (Harris, 12) Meaning that just because we do not act with free will, does not mean we do not act voluntarily, it is merely the motivation behind our voluntary actions over which we have no control. Essentially, hard determinist's argue that the only two things that influence what a person does are biology and circumstance, and if an individual doesn't have control over either of these things from their first moments on earth, how can they be held responsible for their actions? Indeed, when considering these arguments, hard determinism begins to feel inescapable.



This brings up the question: How would internalizing a hard determinist viewpoint shape the way individuals view themselves? Hard determinism may at first appear to be a callous view, as one may assume that the absence of free will means that humans are veritable slaves to determinism, nothing but metaphorical puppets tied to the merciless hands of luck. But, just because ultimate moral responsibility is not an option, that does not mean individual responsibility is also invalid. In fact, Bruce Waller argues in his paramount work, Against Moral Responsibility, the absence of moral responsibility, "…would leave ample room for take charge responsibility and increase the likelihood of exercising it well, and when we look closely (and distinguish take charge from moral responsibility), take charge responsibility is the responsibility most of us really want. It enables us to exercise effective control, make our own decisions and choices, reflect carefully on what we deeply value, and manage our own lives." (Waller, 278) Waller maintains the optimistic viewpoint that, essentially, the idea that we are not causes unto ourselves, should be an idea that motivates and empowers individuals to consider what it is they desire and why, and begin to make choices that leads them in this direction. The elimination of free will and moral responsibility as valid concepts leaves room for people to inspect why they are the way they are, and use that as the motivating force to change their path. Indeed, the very knowledge that none of us are responsible for who we are could be a positive factor that shapes us unavoidably, "…it would promote stronger self control and nurture genuine self-respect." (Waller, 278)

We see now that it is in fact very possible that the loss of moral responsibility could actually positively affect an individual, but what of an individual's view of others? Here is where hard determinism most obviously improves the world. As Harris points out, "Once we recognize that even the most terrifying predators are, in a very real sense, unlucky to be who they are, the logic of hating (as opposed to fearing) them begins to unravel." (Harris, 53) An interesting way to think of this problem is with the following thought experiment: if you were to take the place of a murderer, moments before he commits the heinous act, and arrive in his body with his exact brain and past experiences, could you possibly say you would put down the knife and decide not to murder? Of course not. The things that led him to that place, his biology and experiences, are what have made him into who he is. He is not evil because he has decided to be evil, he does not have the impulse to kill because some deep part of him chose it, and there is no scrap of you that would be transferred to his body that is deeper or more in control of decision making than the murderers nervous system. So how can we hate him? Instead, it makes sense that instead of condemning the murderer as evil, we should seek to understand the factors that led him to murder, in order to create a society in which fewer people are led to act as such. As Waller puts it, "…the most salient feature of a world without moral responsibility is its openness to inquiry: its openness to recognizing and reporting and dealing with problems and flaws and mistakes." (Waller, 285)

This does lead to an obvious question: what is to be done with the murderer? As Harris states, "Certain criminals must be incarcerated to prevent them from harming other people. The moral justification for this is entirely straightforward: Everyone else will be better off this way. Dispensing with the illusion of free will allows us to focus on the things that matter—assessing risk, protecting innocent people, deterring crime, etc.." (Harris, 53) This idea, that incarceration would still be justified without free will, the same way quarantining sick people is justified, is known as the quarantine model. Kane cites philosopher Derek Pereboom, who argues that an upside of this idea, "…is that punishments would not be more severe than is needed to protect society and deter future crime, just as quarantine of the sick should not be more restrictive than is needed to protect society from diseases." (Kane, 75)

Additionally, without moral responsibility, the criminal justice system can be made to reform instead of punish. Waller cites Michael Cavadino and James Dignan, who point out that the American criminal justice system blames the individual instead of at least partially blaming the various factors that contributed to an individuals criminality, "…Crime is likewise seen as entirely the responsibility of the offending individual. The social soil is fertile ground for a harsh "law and order ideology." (Cavadino and Dignan in Waller, 285) But Waller points out that retributive law and order is not effective, in fact, in America's retributive system, a person going to jail once, raises their likelihood of doing so again. Waller goes on that, in some countries justice systems, "…when genuine efforts were made to develop effective rehabilitation programs, some achieved considerable success; it also became clear that those negative influences that shaped violent antisocial character." (Waller, 294) This positive effect does not just extend to criminal law, without moral responsibility fostering individual blaming; systems (such as medical teams, air traffic control, factories etc.) can be improved to work better and with less mistakes, as individuals will be more likely to admit their mistakes, and people will be more likely to analyze how systems can be redesigned to ensure less mistakes. Summarily, "The second positive feature of a world without moral responsibility is that it shifts the focus to systems and away from individuals." (Waller, 285)



This argument, that a world free of free will and moral responsibility would be a better world, can perhaps be deepened when one acknowledges that perhaps it is not an argument merely confined to hard determinist thinking. To illustrate this, lets investigate Daniel Dennet's response to Sam Harris' Free Will. It is important to note that Daniel Dennet is a compatibilist.

Waller's argument, that a world free of moral responsibility and the idea of free will is a better world, feel pretty sound and, at surface, Harris appears to agree with Waller. However, upon further inspection, one can find quite a few flaws within Harris' argument. Daniel Dennet helpfully illuminates these in his paper, "Reflections on Free Will." Dennet's major criticism of Harris focuses on the idea that Harris assumed an incompatibilist view (libertarian even). Harris argues that because free will requires that we somehow step outside the causally determined universe and such stepping is impossible, no one can have free will. Dennet asks us to look carefully at this kind of argument and realize that just because the world is causally determined, doesn't mean our choices, "come out of the darkness" (Harris, 34). Instead, Dennet argues, "Freedom involves the ability to have one's choices influenced by changes in the world that matter under the circumstances. Not a perfect ability, but a reliable ability." (Dennet, 14) Additionally, Dennet criticizes Harris' tendency in his work to define the kind of free will worth having as that which "common folk" feel they possess, "…he thinks 'free will' has to be given the incoherent sense that emerges from uncritical reflection by everyday folk. He sees quite well that compatibilism is "the only philosophically respectable way to endorse free will" (p16) but adds: However, the "'free will' that compatibilists defend is not the free will that most people feel they have. (p16)" (Dennet, 4) Dennet argues that just because the compatibilists version of free will is not the kind most people feel they have, does not mean it is invalid. Harris' biggest mistake is assuming that because we cannot be authors of ourselves, we cannot have any degree of free will at all. Interestingly, both Waller and Dennet disagree with him, despite supposedly maintaining radically different views.

Dennet argues that compatibilists, "…think we can articulate and defend a more sophisticated model of free will that is not only consistent with neuroscience and introspection but also grounds a (modified, toned-down, non-Absolute) variety of responsibility that justifies both praise and blame, reward and punishment. We don't think this variety of free will is an illusion at all, but rather a robust feature of our psychology and a reliable part of the foundations of morality, law and society." (Dennet, 1) The kind of free will Dennet allows for, is not Harris' kind (ultimate authorship) but rather what Waller might call, "take charge responsibility" (Waller, 278). Waller describes this kind of free will as, "It enables us to exercise effective control, make our own decisions and choices, reflect carefully on what we deeply value, and manage our own lives." (Waller, 278) It appears that the only thing that truly differs between the two men's view points is what they mean when they say "free will." They both assert that the power to respond differentially to stimuli in the environment exists. However, Waller does not see this as free will, and instead means ultimate authorship over ones character when referring to free will. Meanwhile, Dennet thinks ultimate authorship is an incoherent idea, and believes free will is this smaller thing mentioned above, and therefore compatible with determinism. What is important though, is that neither man believes that we have the kind of free will that requires ultimate responsibility for ones actions. This means that a hypothetical world improved by dispelling of free will and moral responsibility is a world possible as a compatibilist and hard determinist.

When inspected carefully, it becomes clear that ultimate free will is not seen as possible by either the compatibilists or the incompatibilists, and it is only the libertarians who believe such a free will exists. In conclusion, moral responsibility is an incoherent idea because individuals are merely the product of a causal world, and therefore their actions are a product of this world as well. Embracing this idea would create a more compassionate and effective world because it would be a world open to inquiry into people's behavior, additionally such a world helpfully shifts focus to systems and away from individuals. Indeed, Waller says, "In the absence of moral responsibility, it is possible to look more deeply at the influences of social systems and situation and to move away from both the fundamental attribution error and the individualistic blindness that hides the forces that shaped our qualities of character." (Waller, 286)

Sources

The Impossibility of Moral Responsibility Author(s): Galen Strawson Reviewed work(s): Source: Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition, Vol. 75, No. 1/2, Free Will, Determinism, and Moral Responsibility (Aug., 1994), pp. 5-24

Kane, Robert. Free Will. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2009. Print.

Harris, Sam. Free Will. London: Simon & Schuster, 2012. Print.

Dennet, Daniel. "Reflections on Free Will." (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 1 May 2017.

Waller, Bruce N. Against Moral Responsibility. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2011. Print.