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Elections around the world are facing an evolving threat from foreign actors, one that involves artificial intelligence.

Countries trying to influence each other’s elections entered a new era in 2016, when the Russians launched a series of social media disinformation campaigns targeting the U.S. presidential election. Over the next seven years, a number of countries – most prominently China and Iran – used social media to influence foreign elections, both in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. There’s no reason to expect 2023 and 2024 to be any different.

But there is a new element: generative AI and large language models. These have the ability to quickly and easily produce endless reams of text on any topic in any tone from any perspective. As a security expert[1], I believe it’s a tool uniquely suited to internet-era propaganda.

This is all very new. ChatGPT was introduced in November 2022. The more powerful GPT-4 was released in March 2023. Other language and image production AIs are around the same age. It’s not clear how these technologies will change disinformation, how effective they will be or what effects they will have. But we are about to find out.

A conjunction of elections

Election season will soon be in full swing[2] in much of the democratic world. Seventy-one percent of people living in democracies will vote in a national election between now and the end of next year. Among them: Argentina and Poland in October, Taiwan in January, Indonesia in February, India in April, the European Union and Mexico in June and the U.S. in November. Nine African democracies, including South Africa, will have elections in 2024. Australia and the U.K. don’t have fixed dates, but elections are likely to occur in 2024.

Many of those elections matter a lot to the countries that have run social media influence operations in the past. China cares a great deal about Taiwan[3], Indonesia[4], India[5] and many African countries[6]. Russia cares about the U.K., Poland, Germany and the EU in general[7]. Everyone cares about the United States.

AI image, text and video generators are already beginning to inject disinformation into elections.

And that’s only considering the largest players. Every U.S. national election from 2016 has brought with it an additional country attempting to influence the outcome. First it was just Russia, then Russia and China, and most recently those two plus Iran. As the financial cost of foreign influence decreases, more countries can get in on the action. Tools like ChatGPT significantly reduce the price of producing and distributing propaganda, bringing that capability within the budget of many more countries.

Election interference

A couple of months ago, I attended a conference with representatives from all of the cybersecurity agencies in the U.S. They talked about their expectations regarding election interference in 2024. They expected the usual players – Russia, China and Iran – and a significant new one: “domestic actors.” That is a direct result of this reduced cost.

Of course, there’s a lot more to running a disinformation campaign than generating content. The hard part is distribution. A propagandist needs a series of fake accounts on which to post, and others to boost it into the mainstream where it can go viral. Companies like Meta have gotten much better at identifying these accounts and taking them down. Just last month, Meta announced[8] that it had removed 7,704 Facebook accounts, 954 Facebook pages, 15 Facebook groups and 15 Instagram accounts associated with a Chinese influence campaign, and identified hundreds more accounts on TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), LiveJournal and Blogspot. But that was a campaign that began four years ago, producing pre-AI disinformation.

Russia has a long history of engaging in foreign disinformation campaigns.

Disinformation is an arms race. Both the attackers and defenders have improved, but also the world of social media is different. Four years ago, Twitter was a direct line to the media, and propaganda on that platform was a way to tilt the political narrative. A Columbia Journalism Review study found that most major news outlets used Russian tweets[9] as sources for partisan opinion. That Twitter, with virtually every news editor reading it and everyone who was anyone posting there, is no more.

Many propaganda outlets moved from Facebook to messaging platforms such as Telegram and WhatsApp, which makes them harder to identify and remove. TikTok is a newer platform that is controlled by China and more suitable for short, provocative videos – ones that AI makes much easier to produce. And the current crop of generative AIs are being connected to tools[10] that will make content distribution easier as well.

Generative AI tools also allow for new techniques of production and distribution, such as low-level propaganda at scale. Imagine a new AI-powered personal account on social media. For the most part, it behaves normally. It posts about its fake everyday life, joins interest groups and comments on others’ posts, and generally behaves like a normal user. And once in a while, not very often, it says – or amplifies – something political. These persona bots[11], as computer scientist Latanya Sweeney calls them, have negligible influence on their own. But replicated by the thousands or millions, they would have a lot more.

Disinformation on AI steroids

That’s just one scenario. The military officers in Russia, China and elsewhere in charge of election interference are likely to have their best people thinking of others. And their tactics are likely to be much more sophisticated than they were in 2016.

Countries like Russia and China have a history of testing both cyberattacks and information operations on smaller countries before rolling them out at scale. When that happens, it’s important to be able to fingerprint these tactics. Countering new disinformation campaigns requires being able to recognize them, and recognizing them requires looking for and cataloging them now.

Even before the rise of generative AI, Russian disinformation campaigns have made sophisticated use of social media.

In the computer security world, researchers recognize that sharing methods of attack and their effectiveness is the only way to build strong defensive systems. The same kind of thinking also applies to these information campaigns: The more that researchers study what techniques are being employed in distant countries, the better they can defend their own countries.

Disinformation campaigns in the AI era are likely to be much more sophisticated than they were in 2016. I believe the U.S. needs to have efforts in place to fingerprint and identify AI-produced propaganda in Taiwan[12], where a presidential candidate claims a deepfake audio recording has defamed him, and other places. Otherwise, we’re not going to see them when they arrive here. Unfortunately, researchers are instead being targeted[13] and harassed[14].

Maybe this will all turn out OK. There have been some important democratic elections in the generative AI era with no significant disinformation issues: primaries in Argentina, first-round elections in Ecuador and national elections in Thailand, Turkey, Spain and Greece. But the sooner we know what to expect, the better we can deal with what comes.

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Parents send their children to school to learn, and they don’t want to worry about whether the air is clean, whether there are insect problems or whether the school’s cleaning supplies could cause an asthma attack.

But a research collaborative, of which I’m a member, has found that schools might not be ready[1] to protect students from environmental contaminants.

I’m an extension specialist[2] focused on pest management. I’m working with a cross-disciplinary team to improve compliance with environmental health standards, and we’ve found that schools across the nation need updates[3] in order to meet minimum code requirements.

Everything from a school’s air and water quality to the safety of the pesticides and cleaning chemicals used there determine the safety of the learning environment. Environmental health standards can help a school community ensure each potential hazard is accounted for.

Air, water and food quality

So, what aspects of the school environment and student health need attention? For one, the air students and teachers breathe every day.

Understanding and controlling common pollutants indoors[4] can improve the indoor air quality and reduce the risk of health concerns[5]. Even small things like dust and dander, dead insects[6] and artificial scents[7] used to cover up smells like mold and mildew can trigger asthma[8] and allergies.

Improving ventilation, as well as a school’s air flow and filtration, can help protect building occupants from respiratory infections and maintain a healthy indoor environment. Ventilation systems[9] bring fresh, outdoor air into rooms, filter or disinfect the air in the room and improve how often air flows in and out of a room.

Upgrading ventilation in school buildings can improve air quality and reduce potential contaminants, including viral particles, in indoor spaces.

A white ceiling with a flourescent light and a large, rectangular vent.
Proper ventilation in schools can reduce pathogen spread and common allergy triggers. Penpak Ngamsathain/Moment[10]

It may seem like maintaining proper food safety and drinking-water quality would be common practices. But many schools do have some level of lead contamination[11] in their food and water.

In 1991, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a regulation, known as the lead and copper rule[12], to minimize lead and copper in drinking water. The EPA’s 2021 revised lead and copper rule[13] aims to reduce the risks of childhood lead exposure by focusing on schools and child care facilities and conducting outreach.

But in December 2022, a team of scientists published a report on lead and copper levels in drinking water[14], and they found evidence that lead is still showing up in drinking water in Massachusetts schools. No amount of lead[15] is safe to have in the water.

To combat contamination and ensure safe food and water, the Food and Drug Administration overhauled the Food Safety Modernization Act[16] in 2016. This act has transformed the nation’s food safety system by shifting the focus from responding to foodborne illnesses to preventing them. It gives local health officials more authority to oversee and enforce supply chain safety.

Per these new regulations[17], every school cafeteria must be inspected by the local registered sanitarian at least twice a year to meet the minimum standards for their state and federal guidelines.

These inspections now include looking for entry points that might allow mice or rats to come in, finding areas with moisture buildup where flies, roaches or other insects can breed, and determining whether storage rooms are properly sanitized.

Integrated pest management

Even if a school has clean air, water and food, it still may not meet all the required health standards[18]. Many schools have insect infestations, and many combat these pest problems with harsh chemicals when there’s a simpler solution.

Integrated pest management[19] is an environmentally sensitive approach[20] to pest management. Known as IPM, it combines commonsense practices like keeping doors and windows closed and making sure no food is left in classrooms overnight with other ways to help prevent pests from coming in.

IPM programs consider the pests’ life cycles and their larger environment, as well as all the available pest control methods, to manage pest infestations economically and scientifically.

Common pests in schools[21] include ants, cockroaches and bedbugs. Ants enter looking for food, and cockroaches can travel in with backpacks or enter through small openings under doors or cracks in the seals around a window. Mice, cockroaches and ants can come into a kitchen or bathroom from plumbing pipes that aren’t properly sealed.

A cockroach standing on a white door trim facing downwards.
Cockroaches can lurk in custodial closets and near drains at schools. Narakhon Somsavangwong/iStock[22]

In the fall, cockroaches reside in custodial closets, kitchens and other areas where floor drains might be. These bugs use the sewer drains to move about, so an IPM approach might include making sure the drains have plenty of water flooding through them and clearing out organic matter that the cockroaches might feed on.

Green cleaning

School administrators also determine what products to use for pest control and cleaning. With the intent to prioritize the safety of both the people inside the building and the environment, some schools have adopted a “green cleaning[23]” approach.

Green cleaning[24] uses safer – or less harsh – chemical and pesticide products, since studies have found[25] that the repeated use of harsh chemicals indoors can lead to chronic health effects later in life for anyone directly exposed.

Products that contain ingredients like hydrogen peroxide[26], citric acid[27] and isopropyl alcohol[28] are generally safer than products that contain chlorine[29] or ammonia[30].

But the school’s job isn’t done, even after the infestation has been dealt with. Schools need a plan to manage their pollutants long term – these pollutants might be cleaning chemicals and pesticides or chemicals used in science classes. Preserving the school’s air quality requires a plan for storage and disposal of these materials. But finding the funds to correctly dispose of legacy chemicals can challenge already thin budgets.

Over the past decade, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has worked with a variety of groups to develop the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child[31] initiative. This approach pulls together professionals, community leaders, parents and others to support evidence-based policies and practices.

The initiative has also led some states to develop school health advisory councils[32] that work with state departments of education and health to assist their local school districts with managing the indoor environment and student health.

When the school building is safe, students and educators are more able to get down to the business of learning, undistracted.

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I’ve been primarily an experimental chemist – the kind of person who goes into the laboratory and mixes and stirs chemicals – since the beginning of my career in 1965. Today, and for the past 15 years, I’m a full-time historian of chemistry[1].

Every October, when the announcements are made of that year’s Nobel laureates[2], I examine the results as a chemist. And all too often, I share the same response as many of my fellow chemists: “Who are they? And what did they do?”

One reason for that bewilderment – and disappointment – is that in many recent years, none of my “favorites” or those of my fellow chemists will travel to Stockholm. I am not suggesting that these Nobel laureates[3] are undeserving – quite the opposite. Rather, I am questioning whether some of these awards belong within the discipline of chemistry.

Consider some recent Nobel Prizes. In 2020, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna received the Nobel Prize “for the development of a method for genome editing[4].” In 2018, Frances H. Arnold received the Nobel Prize “for the directed evolution of enzymes[5],” which she shared with George P. Smith and Sir Gregory P. Winter “for the phage display of peptides and antibodies[6].” In 2015, Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar received the Nobel Prize “for mechanistic studies of DNA repair[7].”

All of them received Nobel Prizes in chemistry – not the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine[8], even though these achievements seem very clearly situated within the disciplines of medicine and the life sciences. There are many other similar examples.

woman and man in formal dress at awards ceremony
2018 co-laureate Frances Arnold receives her Nobel Prize in chemistry from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. Henrik Montgomery/AFP via Getty Images[9]

These recent mismatches are even clearer when you look further back in time. Consider the 1962 Nobel Prize awarded to Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids[10] and its significance for information transfer in living material.” DNA[11], of course, is the most famous nucleic acid, and these three scientists were honored for deciphering how its atoms are bonded together and arranged in their three-dimensional double-helix shape.

While the “structure of DNA” most certainly is an achievement in chemistry, the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine to Watson, Crick and Wilkins. Clearly, their Nobel achievements have had great consequences in the life sciences, genetics and medicine. Thus awarding them the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine is quite appropriate.

metal model of structure of DNA molecule double helix
A model of a DNA molecule using some of Watson and Crick’s original metal plates. Science & Society Picture Library via Getty Images[12]

But note the disconnect. The Nobel Prizes in chemistry in 2020, 2018 and 2015 are more life-science- and medicine-oriented than Watson, Crick and Wilkins’ for the structure of DNA. Yet the former were awarded in chemistry, while the latter was in physiology and medicine.

What is going on? What does this trend reveal about the Nobel Foundation and its award strategies in response to the growth of science?

A gradual evolution in the Nobel Prizes

Several years ago, chemist-historian-applied mathematician Guillermo Restrepo[13] and I collaborated to study the relationship of scientific discipline to the Nobel Prize.

Each year, the Nobel Committee for chemistry studies the nominations[14] and proposes the recipients[15] of the Nobel Prize in chemistry to its parent organization, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which ultimately selects the Nobel laureates in chemistry (and physics).

We found a strong correlation between the disciplines of the members of the committee and the disciplines of the awardees themselves. Over the lifetime of the Nobel Prizes, there has been a continuous increase – from about 10% in the 1910s to 50% into the 2000s – in the percentage of committee members whose research is best identified within the life sciences.

Restrepo and I concluded[16]: As go the expertise, interests and the disciplines of the committee members, so go the disciplines honored by the Nobel Prizes in chemistry. We also concluded that the academy has intentionally included more and more life scientists on their selection committee for chemistry.

Now some perceptive readers might ask, “Is not the discipline of biochemistry just a subdiscipline of chemistry?” The underlying question is, “How does one define the disciplines in science?”

Restrepo and I reasoned that what we term “intellectual territory” defines the boundaries of a discipline. Intellectual territory can be assessed by bibliographic analysis of the scientific literature. We examined the references, often called citations, that are found in scientific publications. These references are where authors of journal articles cite the related research that’s previously been published – often the research they have relied and built on. We chose to study two journals[17]: a chemistry journal named Angewandte Chemie and a life science journal named, rather aptly, Biochemistry.

We found that the articles in Angewandte Chemie mostly cite articles published in other chemistry journals, and the articles in Biochemistry mostly cite articles in biochemistry and life sciences journals. We also found that the reverse is true: Scientific publications that cite Angewandte Chemie articles are mostly in chemistry journals, and publications that cite Biochemistry articles are mostly in biochemistry and life science journals. In other words, chemistry and the life sciences/biochemistry reside in vastly different intellectual territories that don’t tend to overlap much.

Not letting labels be limiting

But now, perhaps a shocker. Many scientists don’t really care how they are classified by others. Scientists care about science.

As I’ve heard Dudley Herschbach, recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize in chemistry[18], respond to the oft-asked question of whether he’s an experimental chemist or a theoretical chemist: “The molecules don’t know, nor do they care, do they?”

But scientists, like all human beings, do care about recognition and awards. And so, chemists do mind that the Nobel Prize in chemistry has morphed into the Nobel Prize in chemistry and the life sciences.

black and white head shot of man in early 20th C attire
Jacobus Henricus van ‘t Hoff received the first Nobel Prize in chemistry for 'discovery of the laws of chemical dynamics and osmotic pressure in solutions.’ Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images[19]

Since the Nobel Prizes were first awarded in 1901, the community of scientists and the number of scientific disciplines have grown tremendously. Even today, new disciplines are being created. New journals are appearing. Science is becoming more multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary. Even chemistry as a discipline has grown dramatically, pushing outward its own scholarly boundaries, and chemistry’s achievements continue to be astounding.

The Nobel Prize hasn’t evolved sufficiently with the times[20]. And there just are not enough Nobel Prizes to go around to all the deserving.

I can imagine an additional Nobel Prize for the life sciences. The number of awardees could expand from the current three-per-prize maximum to whatever fits the accomplishment. Nobel Prizes could be awarded posthumously[21] to make up for past serious omissions, an option that was used by the Nobel Foundation for several years and then discontinued.

In truth, the Nobel Foundation has evolved the prizes, but very deliberately and without the major transformations that I think will certainly be required in the future. It will, I believe, eventually break free, figuratively and literally, from the mire of Alfred Nobel’s will and more than a century of distinguished tradition.

When Nobel designed the prizes[22] named after him in the late 1800s and early 1900s, he couldn’t have known that his gift would become a perpetual endowment and have such lasting – indeed, even increasing – significance. Nobel also could not have anticipated the growth of science, nor the fact that over time, some disciplines would fade in importance and new disciplines would evolve.

So far, the extremely competent and highly dedicated scholars at the Nobel Foundation and their partner organizations – and I acknowledge with real appreciation their selfless devotion to the cause – haven’t responded adequately to the growth of the sciences or to the inequities and even incompleteness of past award years. But I have confidence: In time, they will do so.

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Stock investors punish companies caught doing something unethical a lot more when when these businesses also have a record of portraying themselves as virtuous. This hypocrisy penalty is the main finding of a study we recently published in the Journal of Management.

Read more …Hypocrisy penalty: Investors especially hate companies that say they’re good then behave badly –...

After a recent meeting between U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and officials in Beijing, China released a statement demanding “practical action” over the issue of sanctions. The implication was that the punitive measures – imposed by the U.S. government on hundreds of Chinese individuals and entities over the past few years – impede any alleviation of the strained relations between the two economic giants.

Read more …Here’s how China is responding to US sanctions – with blocking laws and other countermeasures

British Columbia, Canada. (June 30, 2023): In this photo by Tech. Sgt. Betty R. Chevalier, U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Michael Harbeck, 824th Base Defense Squadron fire team member, discusses Puma Unmanned Aerial System operations with members of the Royal Canadian Navy during exercise Agile Blizzard-Unified Vision 2023. Both the U.S. and Canadian Air Forces operate the Puma UAS and the exercise gave technicians a chance to share techniques and tactics.


Bridgeport, California. (July 6, 2023): This quote from America’s most famous author accurately describes the relationship between man and mule.


Arabian Gulf. (July 5, 2023):The Iranian Navy tried a little bullying this week, only to flee at the sight of the USS McFaul, a guided missile destroyer patrolling international waters near the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait is a narrow waterway between the Persian Gulf and Oman through which flows a third of the world's liquefied natural gas and almost 25% of total global oil consumption. It is one of the most important commercial choke points in the world.


Jada Pinkett Smith’s new Netflix documentary series on Cleopatra aims to spotlight powerful African queens. “We don’t often get to see or hear stories about Black queens, and that was really important for me, as well as for my daughter, and just for my community to be able to know those stories because there are tons of them,” the Hollywood star and producer told a Netflix interviewer.

The show casts a biracial Black British actress as the famed queen, whose race has stirred debate for decades. Cleopatra descended from an ancient Greek-Macedonian ruling dynasty known as the Ptolemies, but some speculate that her mother may have been an Indigenous Egyptian. In the trailer, Black classics scholar Shelley Haley recalls her grandmother telling her, “I don’t care what they tell you in school, Cleopatra was Black.”

These ideas provoked commentary and even outrage in Egypt, Cleopatra’s birthplace. Some of the reactions have been unabashedly racist, mocking the actress’s curly hair and skin color.

Egyptian archaeologists like Monica Hanna have criticized this racism. Yet they also caution that projecting modern American racial categories onto Egypt’s ancient past is inaccurate. At worst, critics argue, U.S. discussions about Cleopatra’s identity overlook Egyptians entirely.

In Western media, she is commonly depicted as white – most famously, perhaps, by screen icon Elizabeth Taylor. Yet claims by American Afrocentrists that current-day Egyptians are descendants of “Arab invaders” also ignore the complicated histories that characterize this diverse part of the world.

A stone engraving depicts a woman standing with her arms raised.
A relief depicting the Nubian Kandake Amanitore in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. Sven-Steffen Arndt/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Some U.S. scholars counter that ultimately what matters is to “recognize Cleopatra as culturally Black,” representing a long history of oppressing Black women. Portraying Cleopatra with a Black actress was a “political act,” as the show’s director put it.

Ironically, however, the show misses an opportunity to educate both American and Egyptian audiences about the unambiguously Black queens of ancient Nubia, a civilization whose history is intertwined with Egypt’s. As an anthropologist of Egypt who has Nubian heritage, I research how the stories of these queens continue to inspire Nubians, who creatively retell them for new generations today.

The one-eyed queen

Nubians in modern Egypt once lived mainly along the Nile but lost their villages when the Aswan High Dam was built in the 1960s. Today, members of the minority group live alongside other Egyptians all over the country, as well as in a resettlement district near the southern city of Aswan.

Growing up in Cairo’s Nubian community, we children didn’t hear about Cleopatra, but about Amanirenas: a warrior queen who ruled the Kingdom of Kush during the first century B.C.E. Queens in that ancient kingdom, encompassing what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan, were referred to as “kandake” – the root of the English name “Candace.”

A comic book cover showing a Black woman in brilliant blue robes and gold jewelry in front of pyramids.
A comic inspired by the story of Amanirenas. Chris Walker, Creative Director, Lymari Media/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Like Cleopatra, Amanirenas knew Roman generals up close. But while Cleopatra romanced them – strategically – Amanirenas fought them. She led an army up the Nile about 25 B.C.E. to wage battle against Roman conquerors encroaching on her kingdom.

My own favorite part of this story of Indigenous struggle against foreign imperialism involves what can only be characterized as a power move. After beating back the invading Romans, Queen Amanirenas brought back the bronze head of a statue of the emperor Augustus and had it buried under a temple doorway. Each time they entered the temple, her people could literally walk over a symbol of Roman power.

That colorful tidbit illustrates those queens’ determination to defend their autonomy and territory. Amanirenas personally engaged in combat and earned the moniker “the one-eyed queen,” according to an ancient chronicler of the Roman Empire named Strabo. The kandakes were also spiritual leaders and patrons of the arts, and they supported the construction of grand monuments and temples, including pyramids.


Interwoven cultures and histories

When people today say “Nubia,” they are often referring to the Kingdom of Kush, one of several empires that emerged in ancient Nubia. Archaeologists have recently started to bring Kush to broader public attention, arguing that its achievements deserve as much attention as ancient Egypt’s.

Indeed, those two civilizations are entwined. Kushite royals adapted many Egyptian cultural and religious practices to their own ends. What’s more, a Kushite dynasty ruled Egypt itself for close to a century.

Contemporary Nubian heritage reflects that historical complexity and richness. While their traditions and languages remain distinctive, Nubians have been intermarrying with other communities in Egypt for generations. Nubians like my mother are proudly Egyptian, yet hurtful stereotypes persist.

Two women with their heads covered and colorful robes sit on a blanket, holding a laptop and an open notebook.
Hafsa Amberkab, right, and Fatma Addar, Nubian Egyptian women who compiled a dictionary, show off a Nubian lexical chart near Aswan in upper Egypt. Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images

Today, some Black Americans embrace Cleopatra as a powerful symbol of Black pride. But the idea of ancient Nubia as a powerful African civilization also plays a symbolic role in contemporary Black culture, inspiring images in everything from cosmetics to comics.

Egyptian voices

Researchers do argue about Cleopatra’s heritage. U.S. conversations about her, however, sometimes reveal more about Western racial politics than about Egyptian history.

In the 19th century, for example, Western interest in ancient Egypt took off amid colonization – a fascination called “Egyptomania.” Americans’ fixation with the ancient civilization reflected their own culture’s anxieties about race in the decades after slavery was abolished, as scholar Scott Trafton has argued.

A century later, a 1990s advertisement for a pale-colored doll of queen Nefertiti sparked debate in the U.S. about how to represent her race.

Nefertiti’s bust – one of the most famous artifacts from ancient Egypt – is on display at a German museum. Egypt has called for the artifact’s return for close to a hundred years, to no avail. Even Hitler took a personal interest in the bust, declaring that he “will not renounce the queen’s head,” according to archaeologist Joyce Tyldesley.

Even today, contemporary Egyptian perspectives are almost absent in Western depictions of ancient Egypt. Only one Egyptian scholar is interviewed in the new Netflix series’ four episodes, as he himself notes, and he is employed not by an Egyptian university, but by a British one.

For many Egyptians, this lack of representation rehashes troubling colonial dynamics about who is considered an “expert” about their past. The Netflix series “was made and produced without the involvement of the owners of this history,” argues the Egyptian journalist Sara Khorshed in a review of the series.

To be sure, there is anti-Black bias in Egyptian culture, and some of the social media reaction has been slur-filled and racist. Educating people about the stories of Nubian queens like Amarinenas might be a way to encourage a more inclusive understanding of who is Egyptian.

Yet I believe Egyptians’ frustrations about portrayals of Cleopatra also reflect long-standing concerns that their own understandings of their past are not taken seriously.

That includes Black Egyptians, like my mother. When I asked her if she planned to see the Cleopatra series, she shrugged. She already knows that queen’s story well from its many portrayals on screen, whether in Hollywood films or Egyptian ones.

“I will wait for the series on Amanirenas,” she said.The Conversation

Yasmin Moll, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Michigan

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The song “Be Healthy” from the 2000 album by hip-hop duo dead prez, “Let’s Get Free,” is a rare rap anthem dedicated to diet, exercise and temperance:

Read more …Hip-hop and health – why so many rap artists die young

Adults and kids love Bluey. This Australian animated show – hugely popular in the U.S. as well – focuses on a family of blue heeler dogs living in Brisbane. The seven-minute episodes feature 6-year-old Bluey; her 4-year-old sister, Bingo; her mom, Chilli; and her dad, Bandit. They depict the beauty of childhood and portray the realities of being a parent in our current age.

Read more …Bluey teaches children and parents alike about how play supports creativity – and other life lessons

Political campaign ads and donor solicitations have long been deceptive. In 2004, for example, U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry, a Democrat, aired an ad stating that Republican opponent George W. Bush “says sending jobs overseas ‘makes sense’ for America.”

Read more …6 ways AI can make political campaigns more deceptive than ever

(The Center Square) – Nine months into fiscal 2023, more known or suspected terrorists have been apprehended at the northern and southwest borders than in all of fiscal 2022.

Read more …525 known, suspected terrorists apprehended attempting to illegally enter U.S. in 9 months

The federal trial for former President Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents is scheduled to start on May 20, 2024, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon announced on July 21, 2023.

This trial date should be entered into calendars with a pencil, because Cannon’s order leaves open the possibility that the trial could be delayed. Reasons for such a delay could involve either the defense or prosecution filing various requests that draw the process out.

Federal prosecutors wanted the trial to begin as early as December 2023. Trump’s legal team had pushed to delay his trial until after the election. Cannon took a middle ground by setting the May 2024 trial date. The trial is scheduled to happen after most of the Republican primaries are held, but before the November 2024 presidential election.

Critics have scrutinized Cannon, whom Trump appointed to the bench in 2020, questioning whether her previous rulings and nature of her appointment indicate bias in favor of Trump. These observers called for Cannon to remove herself from the Justice Department’s case against Trump.

I am a scholar of legal ethics and trials. The fact that Trump appointed Cannon to the bench is not a good enough reason for her to recuse herself from the case.

A shadow over the trial

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 37 felony counts related to the mishandling of national security information and obstruction of justice. This case was randomly assigned to Cannon in June 2023, not because anyone personally selected her for the job.

Some argue that Trump’s appointment of Cannon – and a ruling Cannon made in Trump’s favor in earlier stages of the case – are reasons to remove her from the case. Legal experts have said that her previous rulings “cast a shadow over the proceedings,” especially since they fall “well outside of the judicial norm.”

In an earlier ruling, Cannon stopped the FBI in September 2022 from reviewing documents seized from Mar-a-Lago until after a special master, whom she appointed, reviewed them. This was a very unusual decision, and the court of appeals quickly reversed her order, finding that Cannon exceeded her authority.

Still, federal law states that mandatory recusal, or disqualification of a judge, is required only under limited circumstances in which “the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” Impartiality is required so that every person will receive a fair trial, free from bias.

Judges have stepped away from cases in circumstances in which they had personal knowledge of disputed facts or had a potential financial interest in the matter. For example, Mark Walker, the federal judge in Florida originally assigned to Disney’s case against Gov. Ron DeSantis, recused himself in June 2023 when he learned that a relative owned stock in Disney.

Little outside interference

Federal judges generally decide for themselves whether to step down from a case or not.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, for example, did not take part in cases decided in the lower court by his brother, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer.

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh recused himself in 2022 from a case in which the Supreme Court gave a US$2 billion verdict in favor of women who claimed they developed ovarian cancer from using Johnson & Johnson talc products. Kavanaugh’s father had headed a trade association that lobbied against warning labels on talc products.

There are also many cases of judges not recusing themselves despite calls to do so.

If either the defense or prosecution does not think that a particular judge can be fair, they can file a motion before the trial begins to have the judge disqualified. The judge in question usually decides the motion, and, if the judge does not voluntarily step down, the petitioner may appeal the decision to the court of appeals. The court of appeals rarely second-guesses the trial judge’s decision to stay on a case over a party’s objection.The Conversation

Peter A. Joy, Professor of law, Washington University in St Louis

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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On Sept. 3, 1973, a fire swept through the baghouse of the Bunker Hill mine in Idaho’s Silver Valley. The building was designed to filter pollutants produced by smelting, the melting of rocks that separates metal from its ore. The gases produced in this process carried poisons, including lead.

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Canada’s seemingly endless wildfires in 2023 introduced millions of people across North America to the health hazards of wildfire smoke. While Western states have contended with smoky fire seasons for years, the air quality alerts across the U.S. Midwest and Northeast this summer reached levels never seen there before.

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Hurricane Idalia inundated parts of Tarpon Springs, Fla., and other coastal communities on Aug. 30, 2023. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

As questions loom over the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s ability to fund disaster recovery efforts, people whose homes were damaged or destroyed by recent wildfires and storms are trying to make their way through the difficult process of securing financial aid.

Residents in communities hit by Hurricane Idalia, the Maui fires or other recent disasters have a long, tough journey ahead. Early estimates suggest Idalia caused US$12 billion to $20 billion in losses, primarily in property damage, acccording to Moody’s Analytics. And rebuilding Lahaina, Hawaii, has been forecast at over $5.5 billion.

How well the initial disaster response meets residents’ needs has far-reaching consequences for community resilience, especially for vulnerable residents, as we saw after Hurricanes Katrina and Maria.

I am a law professor who focuses on disaster recovery and preparedness and has created several legal clinics to assist survivors. Here’s what anyone facing losses after a federally declared disaster needs to know.

Declaring a disaster

The road to recovery starts with state and federal governments identifying damages – both property damage and economic damage. These assessments will shape the scope of federal assistance and how resources are allocated for each community and survivor. The level of damage will determine whether the president approves a major disaster declaration or simply an emergency declaration.

FEMA created a survey tool, released in May 2023, to make these assessments more consistent. It is now used by officials to collect information about damage to residences, whether owners or renters live there, and the amount of insurance coverage, among other details. That information is then used to determine the extent of the disaster, its impact on infrastructure and the type of aid needed in the request for a federal disaster declaration.

A man wearing a T-shirt with the state seal of Hawaii speaks with reporters, standing next to a woman with 'FEMA' on her cap and shirt.
Hawaii Gov. Josh Green (center) and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell (right) speak to reporters in Lahaina on Aug. 12, 2023, while surveying the wildfire damage there. AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Once the federal government issues an emergency or major disaster declaration, individuals can apply for disaster recovery funding.

Documenting the damage

Step 2 is determining individual damages.

Amid the grief and the rush to find temporary housing and rebuild lives, it can be hard to focus on meticulously documenting what was lost and dealing with insurance. But federal aid has relatively short deadlines – people have 30 days from the formal disaster declaration to apply for disaster unemployment assistance and 60 days for individual and household assistance, such as aid for housing, though that deadline is often extended.

As soon as possible, disaster survivors should take photos of the damage and record every affected area of their property. That includes capturing details of damage to structures, personal belongings, vehicles and any medical equipment. This documentation will help provide the evidence for insurance claims, requests for government assistance and potential tax savings.

A woman wearing shorts, a T-shirt and face mask uses a pitch fork to dig through the ash of a home in Lahaina, Hawaii.
Even when everything is gone, as many homeowners discovered in Maui after the fires, there are ways to document the losses. AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

The Internal Revenue Service has a helpful guide for reconstructing records after catastrophic disasters that destroy everything. Government agencies can recover lost driving records, mortgage records, wills and vehicle sales records. Most of the costs for these searches can be waived after a disaster.

There are other sources, too. Title companies, property tax assessors and real estate brokers will have many documents related to a home’s value and possibly photos. Insurance policies typically list major assets. Credit card companies may have statements showing major purchases. Mobile phones, friends and social media accounts may have more photos of the property.

Keeping records such as repair invoices, receipts, leases, canceled checks and money orders can also help provide an overview of the losses. FEMA recently amended its policy to also allow affidavits to prove ownership of homes passed down through generations, known as heirship property.

Finding disaster aid

People generally have four options for aid: insurance coverage, FEMA benefits, community or nonprofit funding, and private funding, including loans. Navigating this complex landscape can be hard.

Start with your insurance – homeowners insurance, renters insurance and insurance for vehicles, as well as medical, dental and health. Disaster survivors must apply for their relevant insurance payouts before FEMA will pay benefits. President Joe Biden made an exception to this rule to offer a one-time $700 payment for Maui residents to assist with critical needs, including shelter and transportation.

In cases where insurance coverage is denied or the person doesn’t have insurance, FEMA can become a lifeline.

FEMA’s Individual Assistance program offers benefits that include coverage for temporary lodging, home repair, transportation and medical needs. The agency provides up to $41,000 for housing assistance after emergencies or disaster declarations. FEMA’s disaster relief fund is close to depleted, however, after several multibillion-dollar disasters. Without additional funding from Congress soon, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said some recovery funding may be delayed to the next fiscal year, which starts in October.

A man looks out a door that is blocked at the bottom. A sump pump is running next to it. The water is nearly up to the windows.
A store owner uses a sump pump to try to keep Hurricane Idalia’s rain and storm surge from flooding the building in Tarpon Springs, Fla., on Aug. 30, 2023. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

To cover the costs that go beyond FEMA’s limits, survivors may need to secure private loans or disaster loans, such as Small Business Administration disaster loans, to bridge the gap. Homeowners can apply for SBA loans to replace or repair their primary residence or personal property, including cars, furniture and other items. Additionally, SBA loans can also cover business losses.

For those unwilling or unable to resort to loans, state and local governments often create housing recovery centers using Community Development Block Grants. These grants can help survivors reestablish housing, but the funding also takes much longer to arrive. A CBDG grant in Baton Rouge provided funding for rebuilding housing and to mitigate future flood damage in housing and rental programs after the area flooded in 2016.

Community partnerships are crucial

Amid the complexities of disaster recovery, the importance of community planning and collaboration cannot be overstated.

A coordinated approach that involves local governments, relief organizations and community leaders serves as a catalyst for effective recovery and also makes it easier to identify vulnerable populations and ensure the equitable distribution of resources so no one is left behind.

Communities often set up centers where residents can find and speak to advisers from insurance companies, FEMA and other sources of support. These disaster recovery centers can be the cornerstone for long-term recovery groups that help a community both recover and build resilience.

Five years after Hurricane Maria, community groups were still on the ground in Puerto Rico providing aid and resources to the local community. Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, local housing groups were still providing support to New Orleans residents, especially those employed in the hospitality industry.

In the midst of this formidable journey to recovery, the indomitable spirit of communities banding together, combined with the concerted efforts of government agencies and organizations, can be uplifting. Each step forward represents a collective stride toward healing, renewal and a future marked by greater unity.

This articled was updated Sept. 1, 2023, with early damage estimates.

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01 October 2023