Posts tagged with "government"

Farmers Protest illustration created by Rumnik Ghuman from 360 Magazine for use by 360 Magazine

India’s Food Soldiers

By: Rumnik K Ghuman

Exactly a year ago, Narendra Modi’s government with little public or parliamentary debate, passed three farmer bills. According to them, these bills are a gift to the farmers, but in reality, the bills are a gift for the rich agribusinesses in India. The majority of the population in Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan are farmers, they make their entire income based on their produce. Some call the farmers ‘India’s Food Soldiers’ and many people have shown support to the farmers. 

The first bill that was released was The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce(Promotion and Facilitation) Act. This act allows the farmers to produce and have free trade outside the physical premises of the specific markets under the APMC Act (Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee law). Under this act, the specific markets that the government has listed are agribusiness typhoons. These businesses are only going to set the price at a low rate so it’s cheaper for them. This act is in their favor because the farmers will not be able to go somewhere else to sell so they have to agree to the price the agribusiness sets. This puts the farmers in a low position to control their own products. 

The second bill that was passed was the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act that made the decision to remove some items such as cereals and pulses from the list of essential commodities. This act was passed to attract foreign direct investment to the sector. This bill is limiting the number of items farmers can produce and sell. Certain states can only produce certain items based on the weather and the field the farmers have. This puts the farmers at a disadvantage when producing and won’t make as much money as they would normally. 

The third bill was regarding the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act. This bill states to have a nationwide price limitation on all produces. This act doesn’t give farmers any empowerment over their produces which is putting them at a disadvantage. Combining all of these acts together, puts all farmers at a disadvantage, to not have a free trade market for them, price points that are lower than normal, and limited items to sell. The agribusinesses have connections in the government which is why the agribusinesses have more control over the price and are the only buyers that the farmers can sell to. 

In August 2020, many farmers from the States of Punjab and Haryana gather to protest in the capital, Delhi. The farmers had seen that one bill was passed and they needed to stop for more to be released as in Haryana, these laws were issued as of August. September was when the government passed the Farmers Produce Trade and Commission Act, which put more fire into the farmers to get justice by removing these bills. Many farmers across the country were angry and had to show it somehow as the news was not covering the farmers’ protest in the capital because the news channels were owned by the agribusinesses or the government. So some farmers set their own fields on fire, marched to government offices, or protested at the capital. 

At first, the crowd of farmers was much smaller, so the government brushed it aside. It wasn’t until on November 23, 2020, when protesters march from around India toward Delhi. Once they reached the edge of the city on November 26, the protesters met a large group of police officers who used tear gas, water cannons, and physical force to keep them from entering the city. Over the entire year, over 1000 deaths have happened whether that be by the cold weather or by protestors hanging themselves. A majority of the population were elder men that have been farming for all of their life and don’t know another way to provide an income for their families. In Punjab, farmers have always had a hard time making an income as they don’t have much money to afford the necessities to run the field correctly. They take big loans to buy a tractor, but later can pay it off and then hang themselves. 

There have been big protests, but 360 Magazine feels the number of people from different religions, states, ages, and genders who came out to support the frontlines of the capital is unbelievable. The men were already fighting for their rights, but the women have been standing like hard rock with them. The women at the border are providing food and protesting as well. It’s amazing to see all come together to roll back new agricultural laws. Multiple women and kids have been injured during the violent behavior of the police but they still come back or stay to support. 

As many people from Punjab and Haryana reside in England, the United States, and Canada, the protestors sitting in the cold, were getting worldwide support. Even though these supporters are not in India to help physically, they showed their support by organizing protests in their cities, doing marches to bring more awareness, sharing on social media about what’s going on, and donating or sending money to their families back home to go provide food for the protestors as it was freezing at the start of the protest. Many other industry workers in India went on strike as well to show they are with the farmers. 

Punjab is known for its music and their music really reaches a higher population. It was the only way to show to the world this is the reality of the protest which the news channels were not recording nor reporting to the world. So many Punjabi singers came together to make a ‘Kisaan Anthem’(Kisaan means farmers in Punjabi) that tells and shows every detail of the protest with live footage. Multiple Punjabi singers personally came and served the protestors, sat with the protesters, and tried their hardest to talk to official officers to get these laws rolled away. 

As we are speaking about the Farmers’ Protest, it is still going on and it’s been exactly a year since it started. The government has been pressured to speak about the bills in the parliament and hopefully will take the bills back. No Farmers No Food.

Illustration by Alex Bogdan for use by 360 Magazine

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo Resignation

By: Emily Bunn

Amidst searing scandal, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has resigned. Many have supported this decision after Cuomo’s many scandals came to light. First there were sexual harassment allegations, then a report exposed the Governor’s use of state resources to aid in the writing of his memoir. Cuomo was also pinned for undercounted nursing home related deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. After that, tragically, even more sexual harassment charges against Cuomo were reported. The investigation in these charges has now been concluded to determine that he did sexual harass multiple women, violating state and federal law. Politically ostracized and facing the grim reality of impeachment, Gov. Cuomo decided to resign on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio remarked on Cuomo’s circumstance in a statement: “It is beyond clear that Andrew Cuomo is not fit to hold office and can no longer serve as Governor. He must resign, and if he continues to resist and attack the investigators who did their jobs, he should be impeached immediately.” Many politicos in New York have also agreed with Cuomo’s departure. Hakeem Jeffries, Gregory Meeks and Tom Suozzi issued a joint statement saying, “the time is right” for Cuomo to resign.

After this statement was issues, each of New York’s 19 congressional Democrats called for their governor to resign. A lawyer for two of Cuomo’s sexual harassment accusers, Alyssa McGrath and Virginia Limmiatis, added: “My clients feel both vindicated and relieved that Cuomo will no longer be in a position of power over anyone. Taking things a step further, some Democratic lawmakers are requesting for Cuomo to be impeached. The governor is currently the subject of an impeach inquiry in the state assembly, reports The Hill.

Taking this place is current lieutenant governor and Buffalo native, Dem. Kathy Hochul. In 2011, Hochul ran for a congressional seat in a special election, in a Republican leaning district between Buffalo and Rochester, NY. Hochul ran against Rep. Jane Corwin at the time and won by 47% of the vote. She held the seat until 2012. In 2015, she became the lieutenant governor and before that, spent more than a decade on the Hamburgh Town Board. Now, Hochul looks to set up into the political arena. Hochul, 62,  is set to become the first female governor of the state of New York.

Image of Telescope via Gabrielle Archulleta for Use by 360 Magazine

New Report Underlines Importance of Science and Tech Funding

Investments in science and technology research are vital to the United States’ economic growth and global leadership, according to a new report from Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

The Biden administration has made science and technology (S&T) a centerpiece of its early policy agenda with ambitious targets for federal investments in research and development (R&D). There are also growing concerns in Congress about the United States’ global leadership in S&T-focused industries, especially in relation to China.

“As the high technology sector (e.g., advanced computing and communications, social media platforms and other web-based services) becomes an increasingly large part of the overall U.S. economy, federal funding for early stage R&D, which has been at the root of much of the technological progress of this past century, is more important than ever,” wrote the Baker Institute’s Kenneth Evans, a scholar in science and technology policy, and Kirstin Matthews, a fellow in science and technology policy.

While President Biden’s first budget proposal aims to authorize historic increases to federal R&D agencies, the authors argue that significant challenges remain to ensure long-term, international competitiveness across scientific disciplines and advanced technologies.

According to their report, shifting priorities between administrations, changes to the ideology of Congress and broader economic conditions in the U.S. at large have resulted in inconsistent funding for R&D. 

“Traditionally, federal funding for R&D receives bipartisan support in Congress, particularly for health and defense-related research activities,” the authors wrote. “However, since the mid-1990s, government spending on basic research has declined or stagnated as a share of the U.S. GDP, in part due to the intrinsic uncertainties about the ultimate impacts of basic research.”

Science and technology R&D is essential to creating new knowledge and tools, the authors argue, because it ensures the development of new products and technologies that can drive domestic and global economies. Economists estimate innovations stemming from S&T accounted for more than 60% of economic growth over the last century. 

Yet scientists have placed relatively little value on evaluating and communicating the broader societal impacts of basic research to the public and especially to policymakers, the authors argue. The authors encourage researchers, especially academic scientists driven to action by anti-science rhetoric during the Trump administration, to continue to engage in public outreach during the Biden presidency. 

“Universities should encourage and incentivize avenues for public engagement through increased support of existing programs or funding new activities for interested faculty, postdocs, graduate students and research staff,” they wrote. 

“Building public support for R&D, strengthening trust in scientific institutions and expertise, and increasing scientists’ participation in decision-making related to S&T issues are critical to ensuring that scientific discoveries and innovation benefit the broader public and that increased investment in R&D serves the public interest,” they continued.

The report was a collaboration with two Rice undergraduate students and research interns in the science and technology policy program—Gabriella Hazan and Spoorthi Kamepalli.

Breaking News illustration by Samantha Miduri for use by 360 magazine

FTC Votes to Reinstate Fabric Care Labels

The Federal Trade Commission voted in an open Commission meeting to retain the FTC Care Labeling Rule to ensure American consumers continue to get accurate information on how to take care of their fabrics and extend the life of their clothes. In a statement, the Commission also indicated that it will continue to consider ways to improve the Rule to the benefit of families and businesses.

The Care Labeling Rule has been in effect since 1971 and requires manufacturers and importers to attach labels with care instructions for garments and certain piece goods, providing instructions for dry cleaning or washing, bleaching, drying and ironing clothing. Public comments solicited by the FTC over the past decade show the Care Labeling Rule continues to provide valuable guidance and serve as an important tool for consumers, manufacturers, retailers, designers and dry cleaners alike.

In July 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, the Commission voted 3-2 to propose repealing this consumer protection altogether. Following that action, the FTC received more than 200 comments, with an overwhelming majority opposed to the repeal of the rule.

“The Federal Trade Commission first promulgated the Care Labeling Rule in 1971, with the goal of ensuring buyers were provided clear and accurate information on how to take care of their fabrics. Since then, the agency periodically has reviewed the rule, seeking public comments to ensure the rule is keeping pace with new developments and still providing buyers with relevant information,” said FTC Chair Lina Khan in the open Commission meeting. “After careful consideration, I believe the record supports retaining the Care Labeling Rule and that it should not be rescinded.”

Submissions to the most recent public comment period led the Commission to conclude that repealing the rule would not be in the public interest. Many individuals and small businesses opposed the repeal, emphasizing that buyers rely on labels to help extend the life of their clothes.

Other comments the FTC received from the apparel manufacturing and cleaning industries indicated that removing the labels would increase the likelihood that their customers’ items might be damaged in the wash and, as a result, expose their businesses to unnecessary liability, the Commission noted.

The Commission voted 5-0 to issue a statement to notify the public that it will not repeal the Care Labeling Rule, as previously proposed.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and to protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and report scams, fraud, and bad business practices online HERE.

Heather Skovlund computer illustration for use by 360 Magazine

Global Commitment to Cybersecurity

According to a recent study by the Atlas VPN team, the United States, United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia lead in commitment to cybersecurity.

As technologies continue to evolve, governments around the world must face the reality of cyber threats and adapt their security practices. A study reports on countries’ scores on the Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI), varying cybersecurity training and practices, and additional statistics which help to create a fuller picture of the global relationship to cybersecurity.

A GCI score is given by evaluating each country’s commitment to legal, technical, organizational, capacity development, and cooperation indicators. The United States earned a perfect score of 100, getting all 20 points in each GCI indicator. However, while the US has the most cybersecurity resources, the latest cyberattacks on Americans have shown room for improvement.

The United Kingdom follows behind, scoring 99.54 points in GCI. The score indicates that the UK has to employ more computer incident response teams, enabling a country to respond to incidents at the national level using a centralized contact point and promote quick and systematic action.

Saudi Arabia shares second place, getting the same score of 99.54 as the UK. While being one of the fastest developing countries, Saudi Arabia has placed great importance on cybersecurity.

Estonia takes the fourth slot as they scored 99.48, losing just half a point in the capacity development indicator. Estonia has become one of the heavyweights in cybersecurity with a high-functioning central system for monitoring, reporting, and resolving incidents.

The Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Spain all share fifth place, scoring 98.52 points. 

Cybersecurity writer and researcher at Atlas VPN William Sword shares his thoughts on the current cybersecurity landscape, “Beyond co-operating within countries, Global Cybersecurity Index leaders could help less developed countries address cybersecurity challenges. For example, creating a strategy or sharing good cyber practices can help reach more balanced and robust security against cyber threats.”

Lack of cybersecurity training 

One of the reasons why cyber attacks continue to increase is a lack of cybersecurity education and training.

Just 46% of countries provided specific cybersecurity training for the public sector and government officials. Employees in these fields usually work with a lot of sensitive or confidential information, which is why education on cybersecurity is essential. 

Meanwhile, 41% of countries provided cybersecurity training to small and medium enterprises or private companies. Businesses often become targets for hackers as the latter can easily profit off of stolen data or ransomware attacks. While more prominent private companies can afford cybersecurity experts, smaller businesses do not have such luxury.

Law enforcement agents received educational cybersecurity programs in only 37% of countries, while only 31% of countries provide training to judicial and legal actors. This training may help officers and executors of the law understand how hackers think, identify the tools that hackers use to commit attacks, and ultimately prevent and protect from future cybercrime.

Beyond co-operating within countries, Global Cybersecurity Index leaders could help less developed countries address cybersecurity challenges. Creating a strategy or sharing good cyber practices can help reach more balanced and robust security against cyber threats.

Art by Mina Tocalini for use by 360 Magazine

An Interview with Vax Force

By: Matthew Anthenelli

VAX Force is a team of all-black women from Springfield, Massachusetts who are bringing vaccine awareness and accessibility to their community. Beginning earlier this spring, the COVID-19 vaccination began its rollout to non-essential workers all across the globe. Whether it be from misinformation or lack of access, many people both in the United States and worldwide have not yet been vaccinated. Studies show that many marginalized communities are lacking access to vaccination sites and other resources. There’s also a concerning percentage of the population that are receiving and spreading misinformation about the science behind the vaccine.

VAX Force is a group of amazing and inspiring black women from Springfield, Massachusetts who have taken these matters into their own hands. We were lucky enough to be able to ask VAX Force a few questions about their mission in their community. Read what they had to say below.

The initiative to spread vaccine awareness amidst an age of misinformation is such a dire and important action to take. What inspired you to form the Vax Force and take matters in your own hands?  

Springfield, MA is the largest city in Western Mass and the third largest in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts yet much of the attention and resources were being given to Boston and the Eastern part of the state so Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris and Mayor Domenic J. Sarno took action and formed this committee so that the members could serve as direct resources for the citizens in Springfield, especially those living in vulnerable communities.  

Who are the members of the Vax force? How did you come together for this amazing and inspiring cause? 

There are wonderful leaders in public health, medicine, faith, research and diversity that are a part of Commissioner Caulton-Harris’s network .  The Mayor and the Commissioner extended invitations to join Springfield Vax Force to select individuals and they were excited to volunteer and lend their expertise, and in some cases roll their sleeves up and join our community outreach efforts.  

What groups or communities are being neglected from vaccine access the most? 

When we formed Springfield Vax Force Latinx, African-American, Caribbean, African, Vietnamese and immigrant communities did not have convenient access to the vaccine.  The vaccine was being distributed in suburban areas.  Fortunately, through the great work of Springfield Vax Force we now have access to the vaccine in all of the neighborhoods in the city.  Vaccine clinics are accessible within 1.5 miles of any neighborhood in Springfield.  

Why do you think misinformation is being spread about the vaccine? Anti-vax rhetoric was popular in the early 2000s, why do you think it returned ? 

There are anti-vaxxers using the digital platforms to spread misinformation and there are algorithms in place that widely circulate this disinformation wrapped in what looks like reputable sources, so folks are often seduced into sharing that information as if its factual – and it spreads like wildfire.  Aside from that, there is mistrust in the medical community by marginalized groups, and when those concerns that are often valid are not addressed, it provides an opportunity for anti-vaxxers to attach falsehoods to legitimate claims.  

How do you suggest that the average reader can convince loved ones or friends who may fear the side effects of the vaccine or the vaccine itself? 

The beautiful thing about social media is that is rich with narratives penned by people who have been vaccinated that are very open about their experiences and even those who have experienced the worst side effects were absolutely fine within 24 hours.  We also are over a year in and as time passes the studies become more longitudinal, so there is now evidence that supports the safety of the vaccine.  

You are making PSAs in order to inform and educate the youth on the significance of the vaccine. Do you think that the younger generation is the largest demographic of people spreading anti-vaccine misinformation or that the problem has more prevalence in older generations ? 

Older generations very quickly analyze risk versus reward when it comes to getting vaccinated and for them COVID-19 poses a far greater risk than the vaccine, and they were able to see that in real time with the death rate being more prominent in older individuals.  Additionally, older individuals have been around long enough to see the positive effects of vaccines throughout the decades and the eradication of viruses like measles, chicken pox, rubella and polio.  Individuals 45 and under are often the group spreading anti-vaccine misinformation.   

A big part of the Vax Force’s initiative had to do with the Faith and Science vaccination clinic. Do you think misinformation surrounding vaccinations is more prevalent in religious communities? 

Our research has shown that it is not. In fact, in our community, the faith leaders have been outstanding in sharing safety messages related to the COVID-19 vaccines.  

How can the average person who is already vaccinated help aid your cause? 

It’s important that we continue to be diligent with safety protocol. Being vaccinated does not mean that you are 100% protected against spreading COVID-19 or testing positive.  Although mandates are being removed, safety practices are still an individual’s right so we urge vaccinated people to remain cautious.  It also helps when vaccinated people share how seamless the process is from check in to receiving the shot, to observation.  

Where can people find out more about Vax Force and their mission? 

All the information you could possibly need can be found at the City of Springfield website

The Faith and Science event was a major success. What do you have planned next in Vax Force’s future? 

We are now targeting the young people in the City of Springfield ages 16-25. We have a young men’s and women’s basketball tournament coming up called Shot for Shot where young people who attend the tournament, receive promotional gifts and most importantly get vaccinated on site.  

The all-black VAX Force Team of Springfield, Massachusetts
Biden Harris illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Biden × Harris

Kamala Harris Will be First Vice President to be Immortalized by Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

Madame Tussauds New York Releases Clay Head Sculpture Images of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in Honor of Their 100th Day in Office

Kamala Harris made history when she was sworn in on January 20th becoming the first woman, first Black person and first Asian American vice president. Madame Tussauds New York is adding another first to Harris’ list of achievements by creating a wax figure in her likeness; an honor that has never-before been extended to a vice president. It’s tradition for Madame Tussauds to create a wax figure of each U.S. president. President Joe Biden’s figure was announced following the 2020 presidential election.

Madame Tussauds shared the news by releasing work-in-progress images of Biden and Harris, just ahead of their 100th day in office. The clay heads were created by a team of studio artists based in London and represent meticulous detail captured by researching hundreds of images to achieve an exact likeness of the famous U.S. leader’s faces. The heads took six weeks to sculpt, and the figures will take between four to six months to complete. “We’re honored to create a figure for Vice President Harris and reflect this significant moment in U.S. history for guests inside Madame Tussauds New York,” said Brittany Williams, spokesperson for Madame Tussauds.

President Biden and Vice President Harris’ figures will be wearing replicas of the outfits worn at the 46th presidential inauguration ceremony. President Biden’s figure will be dressed in a midnight blue Ralph Lauren suit, white dress shirt with a French cuff and a lavender tie. Madame Tussauds designers also included small, yet noteworthy details including navy and gold cufflinks with the words ‘U.S. Senator’ and a United States flag lapel pin.

The outfit for Vice President Harris’ figure was created custom for Madame Tussauds New York by Christopher John Rogers, the designer of the symbolic and elegant purple coat and dress worn at the inauguration. The look created for the figure is a replica of the blazer and dress worn by Vice President Harris on Inauguration Day for her indoor appearance and swearing in of the senators. Her gold and pearl necklace, pearl earrings, bracelets and rings will also be replicated to complete the authentic look.

Madame Tussauds plans to unveil the figures later this year and place them in the “Oval Office” experience at Madame Tussauds New York where guests can make their own history posing with Biden and Harris up close. 

The Nation cover illustration by Heather Skovlund (Original cover art Illustration by Barry Blitt) for 360 Magazine

Elie Mystal × The Nation

Can Biden Fix the Courts That Trump Broke?

There is no progressive future without a serious fight to reclaim the judiciary from the grips of conservative judges.

In The Nation’s latest cover story, justice correspondent Elie Mystal explains:

“While previous Republican administrations tried to break government, Donald Trump tried to break democracy. He did this boldly and brazenly, by attacking elections, and he did it less boldly but no less brazenly, by working alongside Mitch McConnell to take over the unelected branch of government that sets the rules for all the others: the federal judiciary. That branch is now stuffed with conservative ideologues masquerading as jurists.”

Making the case that there is no progressive future without a serious fight to reclaim the judiciary from the grips of conservative judges, Mystal evaluates whether Biden can fix the courts that Trump broke: Happily, there is a solution, and that solution is to expand the lower courts.

Congress has used its constitutional authority throughout history to expand the federal judiciary. Historically, these lower court expansions were bipartisan: As the country grows in population, so does the number of lawsuits. Adding judges is just a thing we used to do to keep the judiciary running smoothly. But since 1990, when the last judgeship bill was passed, the US population has grown by a third; the number of district court cases has grown by 38 percent; and the number of cases involving a felony defendant has grown by 60 percent. The number of judges has not changed.

“I absolutely believe that if Trump had won reelection and McConnell had hung onto the Senate, Republicans would be working on court expansion right now,” writes Mystal. “There just aren’t a lot of vacancies left in the federal judiciary. Republicans can always find some casus belli for stacking the courts with conservative judges. The only question is whether Democrats will ever realize there’s a war, and they’re losing it.”

“To balance out decades of inequity, Biden’s judicial appointments shouldn’t ‘look like America;’ they should overrepresent the kinds of Americans routinely excluded by Republican administrations,” he continues. “You can’t balance a seesaw by standing in the middle when an elephant is sitting on one side.”

Read the full cover story here. Mystal, who covers the courts, the criminal justice system, and politics for The Nation, has also recently reported:

Biden’s Supreme Court Commission Is Designed to Fail

Biden’s recently announced commission to study court reform isn’t designed to offer solutions—it’s designed to be an excuse to do nothing.

How the Supreme Court Gave Cops a License to Kill

Derek Chauvin’s defense team is hoping that the 1989 Graham v. Connor ruling will be his ticket to acquittal.

The Blue Wall of Silence Is Crumbling Around Derek Chauvin

For one of the first times in memory, police are testifying against one of their own. But will it lead to an actual conviction?

ABOUT Elie Mystal

Elie Mystal is The Nation’s justice correspondent—covering the courts, the criminal justice system, and politics—and the force behind the magazine’s monthly column, “Objection!” He is also an Alfred Knobler Fellow at the Type Media Center. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Mystal was previously the executive editor of Above the Law and a former associate at Debevoise & Plimpton. He’s a frequent guest on MSNBC and Sirius XM. 

Founded by abolitionists in 1865, The Nation has chronicled the breadth and depth of political and cultural life from the debut of the telegraph to the rise of Twitter, serving as a critical, independent, and progressive voice in American journalism.

Digital Divide illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Digitally Disconnected

DIGITALLY DISCONNECTED

13 TIPS FOR HELPING BRIDGE THE DIGITAL DIVIDE FOR CHILDREN DURING COVID-19

While social, racial, and economic disparities have always existed within the educational system, the COVID-19 pandemic is exasperating these inequities and widening gaps between students at a drastic rate. For families who can’t afford home computers, laptops, or high-speed internet access, remote learning is nearly impossible, and for students who already found themselves struggling before the pandemic, the prospect of more than a year of lost classroom time is a devastating blow. However, there are steps parents can take to shrink this digital divide, and there are resources available via schools, non-profits, and government initiatives that can help children access the technological tools they need to succeed. Indeed, Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra, President and Founder of Children and Screens, notes that “the inclusion of 17.2 billion dollars for closing the ‘homework gap’ in the recently passed American Rescue Plan is a watershed moment for digital equity.”   
 
Several of the leading figures in the fields of public health, education, psychology, and parenting have weighed in with their suggestions on the best ways to combat the digital divide, and many will participate in an interdisciplinary conversation and Q&A hosted by Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development on Wednesday, March 24, at 12pm ET via Zoom. Moderated by the Director of Internet and Technology Research at the Pew Research Center Lee Rainie, the panel will engage in an in-depth discussion about the digital divide and actionable steps we can all take to bridge the gap. RSVP here.
 
1. DON’T WAIT, ADVOCATE 

While schools across the country are doing everything they can to make sure that children have access to the technology and connectivity they need for remote learning, the unfortunate reality is that many families still lack adequate resources. If your family is among them, says author and MIT Assistant Professor of Digital Media Justin Reich, know that you’re not alone and that there are steps you can take to advocate for what your children need. “Start with your school staff,” Reich recommends. “They’re often overwhelmed during this challenging time but be polite and persistent. If you run into a dead-end with your school system, consider reaching out to school libraries and youth organizations like The Boys and Girls Club or the YMCA to see what kind of support they might be able to offer.”
 
2. SCALE DOWN 

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Professor Dr. Wayne Journell agrees, pointing out that sometimes, despite their best efforts, teachers and administrators may not always know which students are struggling with connectivity issues. “Let teachers know if you have slow internet at home,” says Journell. “Sometimes detailed graphics and animations that look cute but have little relevance to the actual lessons being delivered can cause problems for students with unreliable internet. If teachers are aware, then they can scale down the ‘frilly’ stuff and still get the important content across.”
 
3. STAND UP FOR YOURSELF  

While it’s important for parents to speak up on behalf of their children, RAND Senior Policy Researcher Julia Kaufman, Ph.D., highlights the importance of encouraging children to express their needs, as well. “If your child does not have access to technology at home and is falling behind, make sure your child’s teacher knows the obstacles they’re facing and ask what accommodations will make it easier for your child to do assignments offline,” says Rand. “At the same time, help your child feel comfortable expressing any technology concerns or confusion to their teachers, including cases where they have the technology but cannot use it well.”
 
4. CHECK YOUR ASSUMPTIONS 

One critical step that educators and policymakers can take in addressing the digital divide is to check their assumptions. They cannot – and should not – assume that students do or do not have access based solely on demographics such as family income level. “In addition, they cannot assume that providing access alone creates equity,” adds Dr. Beth Holland, a Partner at The Learning Accelerator (TLA) and Digital Equity Advisor to the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN). “This is a complex and nuanced challenge that needs both a technical and a human solution to ensure that students not only have access to sufficient high-speed internet and devices but also accessible systems and structures to support their learning.”

5. SURVEY AND MODIFY  

For teachers who are on the ground and in the classroom, checking your assumptions can be as simple as asking a few basic questions at the start of the term. “Survey students to determine the percentage of your population that doesn’t have home Internet access,” recommends former AAP President Dr. Colleen A. Kraft, MD, MBA, FAAP. “Once you know the divide, you can address it,” adding, “When planning 1:1 projects and choosing devices, for example, you can consider a device’s capacity for offline use. For those without Wi-Fi, a public library in the child’s neighborhood can also be an excellent resource.”

6. VOTE FOR CHANGE 

That parents and teachers need to worry about the digital divide at all is a failure on the part of our elected leaders, says Bates College Associate Professor of Education Mara Casey Tieken. “Contact your elected officials—local, state, and federal—and complain,” she suggests. “Write letters, call their offices, attend their legislative sessions, and make your voice heard. Join with other families whose children are impacted by this divide to amplify your message and use your vote to support lawmakers who understand the impacts of this divide, have a clear plan to address it and are willing to take action.”
 
7. MAKE BROADBAND A UTILITY  

Reich agrees, reminding those families who already have their needs met that they share in the responsibility to advocate for the less fortunate. “It’s our job as citizens to demand that we as a society give families and children the tools and resources that they need for remote learning now and in the future,” says Reich. “We need to advocate for a society where broadband is treated as a utility rather than a luxury good, and young people enrolled in schools and educational programs have access to computers for learning.”

8. CONCRETE INITIATIVES  

Angela Siefer, Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, advocates four concrete initiatives. “Establish a permanent broadband benefit, increase access to affordable computers, digital literacy and technical support, improve broadband mapping (including residential cost data), and support local and state digital inclusion planning.” By implementing these changes, Siefer says, policymakers can start to mitigate the digital divide. 

9. USE TECH FOR GOOD 

There are many reasons to consider equitable solutions along a “digital continuum” rather than the “digital divide;” a binary description leaves less room for nuanced and customized interventions. It may be imperative to fortify existing institutions, implement new governance structures and promulgate policies to confront disparities regarding working families. Antwuan Wallace, Managing Director at National Innovation Service, suggests that legislators consider a Safety and Thriving framework to increase family efficacy to support children with protective factors against the “homework gap” by utilizing technology to train critical skills for executive functioning, including planning, working memory, and prioritization. 
 
10. LEVEL THE FIELD 

Emma Garcia of the Economic Policy Institute emphasizes that guided technology education will be of great value after the pandemic. She says, “it will need be instituted as part of a very broad agenda that uses well-designed diagnostic tests to know where children are and what they need (in terms of knowledge, socioemotional development, and wellbeing), ensures the right number of highly credentialed professionals to teach and support students, and offers an array of targeted investments that will address the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on children’s learning and development, especially for those who were most hit by the pandemic.”
 
11. APPLY FOR LIFELINE 

Research also shows that the digital divide disproportionately affects Latino, Black, and Native American students, with the expensive price of internet access serving as one of the main obstacles to families in these communities. “Eligible parents can apply for the Lifeline Program, which is a federal program that can reduce their monthly phone and internet cost,” suggests Greenlining Institute fellow Gissela Moya. “Parents can also ask their child’s school to support them by providing hotspots and computer devices to ensure their child has the tools they need to succeed.”
 
12. GET INVOLVED 

Learning remotely can be difficult for kids, even if they have access to all the technological tools they need. Research shows that parental encouragement is also an important aspect of learning for children, notes London School of Economics professor and author Sonia Livingstone. “Perhaps sit with them, and gently explain what’s required or work it out together.” She adds that working together is a great way that parents with fewer economic or digital resources can support their children. “And if you don’t know much about computers, your child can probably teach you something too!”
 
13. NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL 

When it comes to encouraging your children, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. “Reflect on the more nuanced ways your children learn and leverage accessible resources (digital and non-digital) to inspire their continued curiosity,” says University of Redlands Assistant Professor Nicol Howard. Leaning into your child’s strengths and interests will help them make the most of this challenging time.
 
While the move to remote learning may seem like an insurmountable obstacle for families that can’t afford reliable internet or dedicated devices for their kids, there are a variety of ways that parents can help connect their children with the tools they need. For those privileged enough to already have access to the necessary physical resources, it’s important to remember that emotional support is also an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to children’s educational success, especially during days as challenging as these. Lastly, it falls on all of us to use our time, energy, and voices to work towards a more just world where the educational playing field is level and all children have the same opportunity to thrive and succeed, regardless of their social, racial, or financial background.
 
About Children and Screens
Since its inception in 2013, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, has become one of the nation’s leading non-profit organizations dedicated to advancing and supporting interdisciplinary scientific research, enhancing human capital in the field, informing and educating the public, and advocating for sound public policy for child health and wellness. For more information, visit Children and Screens website or contact by email here.
 
The views and opinions that are expressed in this article belong to the experts to whom they are attributed, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, or its staff. 

Healthy Eating illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Food Insecurity

Michelle Obama‘s New Show Addresses Food Insecurity,

Recent Survey Findings Validate the Crisis Behind it

Six in 10 Americans have faced “food insecurity” at some point in their lives, and of those, 73% experienced it for the first time since the start of the pandemic, according to this new research. The ongoing issue of food insecuritycontinues to receive more attention from celebrities and programming, like Michelle Obama’s new Waffles and Mochi show, which is directed at children to learn how to eat and prepare healthy meals. 

To understand the true impact and severity of the food insecurity crisis, recent findings from a new study launched yesterday from Feed the Children, a nonprofit dedicated to ending child hunger around the world, and Herbalife Nutrition, not only validate the crisis that’s happening today, but also shows how the U.S. compares to the rest of the world

The global survey of 9,000 respondents in 21 countries touches on families experiencing food insecurity for the first time, how they are managing to keep their families fed, along with some of their biggest concerns.


Below are a few of the U.S. stats that have come out of the survey: 

  • 73% of Americans surveyed experience food insecurity for the first time during the pandemic.
  • 31% of which have said their family has had to skip meals
  • 59% of parents are concerned their children will have lasting health effects as a result of food insecurity
  • 78% of parents rely on their child’s school meals to ensure their kids receive healthy meals
  • 63% of parents feel the government should promote flexible working hours to parents, so they can ensure their kids are eating balanced meals