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Dana Hunter
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On Earth Day, tens of thousands of scientists and science supporters marched in cities all over America and around the world. Their mission: to stand up for science in the face of the Trump administration, which has presented an unprecedented threat to American scientific endeavors. They sent a clear message: science is valuable, and we will protect it.

Now that the marches are over, what can you do to help?

In the coming months, I'll be sharing ways you can support scientists and science education. And it all starts today, with a postcard.

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Despite all our efforts, Betsy DeVos is the Secretary of Education. She's been on the job for several weeks now, and we've got a good idea of where she's taking America's public schools. In short: it's nowhere good.

So what has she been up to since she was confirmed?

She erased student debt protections against high fees charged to borrowers by guaranty agencies.

She installed a white woman as head of the department's Office for Civil Rights whose only real experience with civil rights law is 1) claiming she was discriminated against because she couldn't join a class section reserved for minorities and 2) writing an op-ed for the campus newspaper whining about affirmative action. Also, she apparently thinks women are only telling the truth about being sexually assaulted if they accuse a liberal man of attacking them.

She talked the talk about protecting trans students, but hasn't walked the walk. It's nice that she got language about LGBT students deserving protection from bullying, but it would've been nicer if she'd insisted they be allowed to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. (You can join Laverne Cox's postcard writing campaign here.)

She's a huge proponent of the voucher programs that pour public money into private religious schools (yes, even the ones that use a terrible curriculum like ACE) – and this after it's been shown that voucher students "have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools." Also, too, voucher programs are a great way to enable unscrupulous people to line their pockets with federal and state taxpayer money.

And so much more! Read all the ways at Rosetta Stones.

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This chapter has a lot of child abuse. So I'm going to put this right up front:

Content Note for severe physical abuse of a child.

In the Jessop household, showing any degree of spine to Barbara results in punishment. She thrives on it. So when all her sister wives do their best to keep things calm and peaceful after Merril's heart attack, it's only a few weeks before she escalates to get a rise out of them. She incites the children of the household to act up in hopes of provoking the wives to attack them, just so she'll have a reason to discipline them. Carolyn's turn comes when she calls some of the girls out for gossiping about a girl at their school who is being bullied. She snaps at them, calling them hypocrites for pretending to be shocked, considering the way they treat the wives.

She expects Barbara to come at her for it. But instead, Barbara attacks her son, Patrick.

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Carolyn's entire life now revolves around getting her boys strong enough to escape the FLDS cult. She knows that if they don't physically get away, her daughters will almost certainly be given to older and powerful men, condemned to loveless marriages and endless pregnancies before they're even out of their teens. Time is running out.

CN for: Child sickness, child abuse, religious abuse, homophobia, misogyny, gaslighting.

Fortunately, Bryson bounces back from his pneumonia and becomes a robustly healthy baby. With his port out, Harrison stops suffering endless infections. But he's still suffering painful spasms. Carolyn's desperate to help him. She turns to her own breast milk. She's heard it has benefits for the immune system and that its fats may help repair the myelin sheath damage her son has suffered. Since she's producing more milk than Bryson can drink, she decides it's worth a try. She starts expressing the extra milk and putting it into Harrison's feeding tube.

But she can't just rely on that: he needs to be able to eat. He doesn't even remember how to swallow. He screams when she tries to give him solid food. But then she starts bribing him with pizza, which he does love. It takes months, but Harrison learns to eat, and he loves it. With the substantial nutrition, his mood and his health both improve.

And all Carolyn can do is hide her joy. She can't let anyone see any changes, lest they suspect she's unlocking the cage. Can you imagine? Can you imagine not even being able to be visibly happy that your child is finally getting healthier?

One night several months later, Carolyn awakes in a panic, with that mother's instinct screaming something is wrong.

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April is Autism Awareness Month. The first thing you need to be aware of is that organizations like Autism Speaks aren't helping autistic people. They're harming them. We'll get to that in a minute. First, I'd like to make you aware of some things.

1. I don't have a formal diagnosis, but it's 99.998% certain your humble blogger is autistic. I've done a bunch of assessments for autism overall and how women (girls) present as autistic, and everything comes back as “Whelp, you're autistic as fuck. Congratulations!”
2. Note I say I am autistic. Not “I have autism.” Nor “I am a person with autism.” That's because it's not a disease or a disability (except insofar as the world isn't built to accommodate autistic people). It's the way my brain processes the world. Those personality quirks that make me the unique me that I am? The vast majority come from me being autistic AF.
3. I don't want to be cured. I like my autistic self just fine, thank you. So when you say you want to find a cure for autism, it sounds an awful lot like you're saying you want to erase me and my autistic friends.

That last one's pretty shocking, right? I mean, we all hear about how horrible and disabling autism is. Pitiable parents appear on television, blogs, and in glossy magazine articles talking about how their bright and beautiful babies suddenly became aloof aliens. No eye contact, no hugs, no words, no love! Meltdowns! Delays! My kid is a lemon and I want my money back! Oh, and it was probably because of vaccines. My abnormal psych book had a whole section devoted to how you could only maybe rescue an autistic kid from a life of certain complete dysfunction and probable institutionalization by devoting yourself full-time to rescuing them. Otherwise, they'd spend all their lives unable to even wipe themselves after taking a shit.

Who wouldn't want a cure for that terrible disease?

(PS: I assumed I wasn't autistic for over 40 years because my life wasn't the empathy-devoid wasteland these folks assured me it should be.)

Only it's not as bad as all that.

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When last we spoke on the subject of fool's gold, I introduced you to several famous people who'd mistaken it for real gold. Imagine how they'd feel if we yanked them out of their respective eras and showed them you actually can get gold out of pyrite. It's just that you need techniques that weren't developed until generations after they were dead. And the gold in it isn't exactly visible to the naked eye.

Even before we learned how to extract gold from it, we humans found pyrite pretty useful. It got its name because you can use it to create excellent sparks and even use it to start fires, which was nifty in the days before flint and steel. This sparking ability also turned out to be a pretty spiffy feature when wheellock firearms were invented. You can heap pyrite up and leach it, creating copperas, which folks use for everything from nutritional supplements to ink to dye and more. It's a good source of sulfur and has been mined for making sulfuric acid for a long time. And it's got many more direct uses, some of which may surprise you. So it's actually quite useful for many other things, not just fooling people into thinking it's gold. But it's one of the most abundant minerals on earth, occurring in every major rock group everywhere on the planet. So mining a bunch of it and shipping it across an ocean wasn't a bit economical.

We've also learned that pyrite's good for telling us where to pay attention in our search for potential riches.

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Content note for antisemitism, Trump, eliminationist rhetoric.

Once Hitler realized he'd need to dial back the antisemitic rhetoric in order win power, he began glorifying the Volk and calling Germans to unify instead. But of course Jews were not part of that Volk. He'd perfected the art of the dog whistle. Even a Jewish woman who went to one of his rallies heard "nothing even against the Jews."

But, like Trump, Hitler managed to speak for hours without saying much of anything at all. She could have been describing a Trump rally: "[He] put up sham accusations, only to refute them, used slogans by the hour, and said nothing else than praise of himself..." Yet his admirers ate it all up. It's so similar to Trump and his fans it's terrifying.

Many people tried to wave away Hitler's antisemitism, just like many people today try to pretend Trump and the Republicans aren't bigoted scumlords. But a quick glance at either party's platform quickly reveals the truth. The proof is in the planks. When your planks consist of racist, bigoted bullshit, your protestations that you're not a bigoted racist can only be believed by those who need to pretend they're not with you because of your most vile beliefs.

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Perfectly smart and famous people have been fooled by fool's gold, especially back before we had pocket gem and mineral guides that would help us tell the difference. Let's talk about some famous fools fooled by fool's gold for April Fools' Day! (You can use that phrase as today's tongue-twister, too!)

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Since the election, Republicans in Congress have launched a sustained attack on America's national parks and public lands. Starting in January, they wasted no time putting in place new rules and legislation that threaten the future of our national treasures. They launched their assault on their very first day in session, and haven't stopped.

A new rule passed in the House essentially values all public lands at $0, clearing the way for Republicans to put our national resources in corporate hands. Those lands include National Park Service-managed parks and programs that were valued at $92 billion, and pour billions of dollars into local economies.
Trump instituted a federal hiring freeze, preventing nearly 500 full-time National Park Service jobs from being filled and potentially impacting summer seasonal employment – which means your camping plans may have to be put off indefinitely.
Utah Republicans passed a resolution for the state's federal delegation to shrink Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and urged Trump to rescind the Obama order that created Bears Ears National Monument.

And that's not all! Find out the many other ways Republicans are attempting to destroy our private lands, plus ways you can stop them, at the link.

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Here are yet more delights I found for you whilst spelunking the USGS photo database. The May 18th and its aftermath presented us with some really spectacular photo opportunities, and we've a long way to go before we've enjoyed them all.

This is one of the more cheerful of the early maps drawn depicting the damage wot Mount St. Helens wrought.

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