August 15, 2017

Violence and White Supremacy in Charlottesville, EPA Suing, The President’s Wall, A History of Hate, Disney’s Lesbian Moms

On Saturday, white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville to protest the decision to remove a statue of a Confederate general (see 1). A large number of counterdemonstrations were planned as a reaction to this protest. Violence broke out; three people were killed and dozens were injured. This count includes the death resulting from a car driving into a crowd of anti-racist protesters. The 20 year-old suspect was “very big into Nazism” and “really had a fondness for Adolf Hitler” according to one high school teacher. In his initial statement, President Trump condemned violence on “many sides”. Writer Ian Simpson noted “Trump declined to single out any political ideology by name.” On Sunday, the White House claimed that Trump “said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred, and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi, and all extremist groups.”

This month, after being sued by 15 states, the EPA went back on their decision to halt the implementation of rules from former President Barack Obama’s term (see 2). The goal of the rules is to reduce ground-level ozone in order to avoid breathing problems and premature death in people that are sensitive to pollutants. Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), claims that the decision to go back on his original plan demonstrates the EPA’s dedication to collaborating with states. According to reporter Michael Biesecker, “a dozen public health and environmental groups” also sued the EPA. New York’s attorney general comments that this reversal “is an important win for the health and safety of … over 115 million Americans directly impacted by smog pouring into their communities.”

Further information regarding the environmental and human health came to light early this month with an announcement from the Trump administration (see 3). According to writer Chris D’Angelo, The Department of Homeland Security is able to “exempt itself from all legal requirements it determines necessary to construct barriers and roads under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 199.” The Trump administration will “bypass 37 environmental and other laws to expedite construction” of one section of President Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall. As early as 2014, there was a study conducted that show that security barriers “were restricting the movements of native species like pumas and coatis, a raccoon-like creature, thus limiting their access to food, water and habitat.” The study states that these changes could lead to a “possible collapse” of these vulnerable populations.

This month A.C. Thompson, an investigative journalist, examined the persecution that many Sikhs face in the United States (see 4). The monotheistic faith “with a heavy emphasis on social justice” advocates for treating everyone equally but Sikhs do not always receive this same respect in return. Two of Thompson’s interviewees were Iderjit Singh Mukker and Harpreet Singh Sain. Mukker recounts one attack that left him unconscious with a broken cheekbone and badly damaged eyes. His attacker screamed “Bin Laden, go back to your own country!” The Sikh Coalition formed in order to “collect reports of hate crimes against Sikhs and aid the abused.” Harismran Kaur, the Legal Director, states that there are “spikes of hate violence after other terrorist attacks [and after politicians make] xenophobic or Islamophobic statements in the press.” Kaur goes on to state, “it’s absolutely imperative that as a society we take a stand against hate violence.”

Earlier this month, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation confirmed that two lesbian entertainers, Wanda Skyes and Portia de Rossi, would voice the mothers of a two-mom family on an episode of “Doc McStuffins” (see 5). Jude Dry reports that this show is the first LGBTQIA+ inclusive show on Disney Junior, and the second for Disney as a whole. Doc McStuffins portrays a young African American girl who wants to emulate her mom and become a doctor. The show is created and executive produced by Chris Nee, an out lesbian who has said:  “I always envision Doc McStuffins as a show about what it means to accept everyone as part of our communities. As part of a two-mom family, I’m proud to have an episode that reflects my son’s world, and shows everyone that love is love in McStuffinsville.”

Written By: Faith Lewis, LLS Contributor

1) Violence and White Supremacy in Charlottesville

2) Trump neglects environmental standards for building the wall

3) EPA backs off after being sued

4) A History of Hate

5) Wanda Sykes and Portia de Rossi to Voice Lesbian Moms on Disney’s ‘Doc McStuffins’

Written By: Faith Lewis, LLS Contributor


August 8, 2017

Extreme Weather, Soccer for Kids in Need, Activism and Gay-Straight Alliances, and Increased Minority Participation in Computer Science

This past week, a study published in The Lancet Planetary Health reported that, “weather-related disasters could affect about two-thirds of the European population annually by the year 2100” (see 1). That number is equal to about 152,000 people a year, which is “50 times the number of fatalities occurring annually.” The authors, Dr. Giovanni Forzieri, Alessandro Cescatti, Filipe Batista e Silva, and Luc Feyen, include in their study an interpretation of the data. Forzieri et. al state that adaptation measures must be taken, or the costs of these disasters will simply keep increasing. The authors also argue that the “unequal burden of effects on human beings” should be addressed by shifting regional investments. Adaptation and mitigation steps are rapidly rising in necessity as increasing numbers of studies are published that explain why we will, by the end of this century, likely experience a global temperature increase greater than or equal to 2°C. Beyond this point, scientists believe that “life on our planet will change as we know it,” and for the worse – including “rising seas, mass extinctions, super droughts, increased wildfires, intense hurricanes, decreased crops and fresh water and the melting of the Arctic.”

Last week, Leslie Berestein Rojas of National Public Radio reported that on the field of a Westminster middle school, roughly 24 children play soccer every Tuesday morning. This summer activity is special in that most of the kids playing are refugees. One child, Neegina, recounted her relationship with soccer back home: “We were playing soccer in the home, not outside, because there are bad people, and they say they will kill you. That is why we were just at home, all the time.” World Relief, a refugee resettlement agency, has been able to provide this free weekly activity. Jose Serrano, a staff member of World Relief, started an art program for these kids. He comments on the necessity of these activities: “There was a need, and that need was to provide these kids with the opportunity to simply be kids,” Serrano said. “A lot of the kids came from war-torn countries, where they went to school and the next day, the school wasn't there anymore.”

This summer, Robt Seda-Schreiber was awarded the Social Justice Activist Award from the National Education Association. Seda-Schreiber created, after much pushback, a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at his school – the first GSA established in a New Jersey middle school. He also works with other schools to help them establish their own GSAs. Jake Nisse reports, “[Seda-Schreiber’s] belief in equality for all fueled Seda-Schreiber decision to try to launch a GSA at his school to create a safe, inclusive space for students of all backgrounds.” Seda-Schreiber comment on the needs of students, “They need to feel like they’re loved, in their schools, in their homes, in their communities, no matter who they are, who they love, what they represent, how they identify.” GLSEN has been a nonprofit for LGBTQIA+ students since 1990. A 2015 GLSEN National School Climate survey has shown that “students who attended schools with a GSA were much more likely to report that their classmates were accepting of LGBTQ people.” The survey also found, “students in schools with GSAs were almost twice as likely to describe their peers as accepting compared to students in schools without a GSA.”

Last week, Anya Kamantez of National Public Radio reported an increase in the number of minorities who took an AP Computer Science (CS) exam (see 5). In fact, Kamantez states, “from 2016 to 2017 the number… nearly tripled.” Unfortunately, there were still vastly disproportionately fewer underrepresented minorities and women taking AP CS last year. But, even these numbers are enormous increases from just ten years ago. is a nonprofit that is one of eight providers authorized to provide curriculum for AP CSP. reports that the participation of female students from AP CS since 2007 has multiplied more than 11 times over, and has increased 135% since 2016. This increased participation is not fortuitous. Hadi Partovi is the co-creator of Partovi states, “The entire reason the new exam and course were created was to broaden participation in computer science.” The significance of this intention is that it will change the face of the workplace in the computer science industry. 70% of students taking’s AP CSP indicate wanting to “pursue computer science after graduation.” is optimistic that the progress “will have a downstream impact on diversity in tech at the university and workforce level.”

Written By: Faith Lewis, LLS Contributor


(1) European Extreme Weather


(2) Soccer for Kids in Need


(3) Activism and Gay-Straight Alliances


(4) Increased Minority Participation in Computer Science


Written By: Faith Lewis, LLS Contributor