Sandra Day O’Connor announces likely Alzheimer’s diagnosis
By JESSICA GRESKO
Tuesday, October 23
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court, announced Tuesday that she has the beginning stages of dementia, “probably Alzheimer’s disease.”
The 88-year-old said in a public letter that her diagnosis was made some time ago and that as her condition has progressed she is “no longer able to participate in public life.”
“While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings in my life,” she wrote. She added: “As a young cowgirl from the Arizona desert, I never could have imagined that one day I would become the first woman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.”
O’Connor’s announcement of her diagnosis came a day after a story by The Associated Press that she had stepped back from public life and in which her son Jay O’Connor said that his mother had begun to have challenges with her short term memory. He also said that hip issues have meant she now primarily uses a wheelchair and stays close to her home in Phoenix. O’Connor last spoke in public more than two years ago.
O’Connor was a state court judge before being nominated to the Supreme Court in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan, who fulfilled a campaign promise by nominating a woman to the Supreme Court. O’Connor had graduated third in her class from Stanford Law School and was the first woman to lead the Arizona state senate. She was 51 when she was unanimously confirmed to the high court. On the Supreme Court, her votes were key in cases about abortion, affirmative action and campaign finance as well as the Bush v. Gore decision effectively settling the 2000 election in George W. Bush’s favor.
O’Connor was 75 when she announced her retirement from the court in 2005. It was a decision influenced by the decline in the health of her husband, John O’Connor III, who himself had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement that he was “saddened to learn” that O’Connor “faces the challenge of dementia.”
“Although she has announced that she is withdrawing from public life, no illness or condition can take away the inspiration she provides for those who will follow the many paths she has blazed,” Roberts wrote.
These kids and young adults want their day in court on climate change
October 23, 2018
Philip H. Knight Professor of Law, University of Oregon
Michael C. Blumm
Jeffrey Bain Scholar & Professor of Law, Lewis & Clark
Mary Wood has participated in a group of more than 60 law professors signing amicus briefs in support of youth-led climate cases against government.
Michael C. Blumm has participated in a group of more than 60 law professors signing amicus briefs in support of youth-led climate cases against government.
University of Oregon provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Humanity must rapidly decrease greenhouse gas emissions to avoid catastrophic levels of global warming, climate scientists have warned for decades. But America’s president has both feet on the fossil fuel accelerator.
One way to force President Donald Trump to put the brakes on his dangerous “energy-dominance” policy is a lawsuit filed on behalf of 21 young people. Using a barrage of legal motions, the administration’s lawyers are scrambling to keep this case, known as Juliana v. United States, from going to trial.
As environmental law professors, we have written about this remarkable case and are teaching our students about it. This case positions the climate crisis squarely in the realm of fundamental civil rights jurisprudence, where we believe it belongs.
Our Children’s Trust plaintiff Aji Piper gave a TED talk in which he explains why he and 20 other young people are suing the federal government over climate change.
A long time coming
Spearheaded by Our Children’s Trust, a nonprofit, this lawsuit is pending in a federal court in Oregon. It challenges U.S. energy policies on the basis that they are destabilizing the climate and violating established constitutional rights to personal security. The case originally took aim at the Obama administration when lawyers first filed the case in 2015. It now targets the Trump administration.
The 21 youth plaintiffs, who now range in age from 11 to 22 years old, are seeking to require the federal defendants to prepare and implement an enforceable national remedial plan to phase out the excessive greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
The trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 29 unless delayed by the Supreme Court. The district court in Oregon issued a decision reaffirming the case’s core claims on Oct. 15.
Currently, the fate of this case hangs in the balance due to a motion to stop the proceedings, filed by Justice Department lawyers in the U.S. Supreme Court just 11 days before the scheduled trial. The Supreme Court had refused the Trump administration’s prior effort to throw out the lawsuit in July 2018. This time, the court temporarily put the trial on hold the next day.
Attorneys for the youth plaintiffs have since filed a response with the Supreme Court to this latest of many attempts by Justice Department lawyers to stop the climate trial from going forward.
Civil and constitutional rights
Should the Juliana case succeed, there would be a court-supervised federal plan to shrink the nation’s carbon footprint at a rate necessary to stave off disastrous levels of climate change.
Environmental lawsuits typically rely on statutes or regulations. But Juliana is a civil rights case. It bores down to legal bedrock by asserting that people have constitutional rights to inherit a stable climate system capable of sustaining human lives and liberties.
The judicial role in this case is analogous to court-supervised remedies aimed at ending official school segregation after the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling.
The district court has rightly described Juliana as “no ordinary lawsuit.” As the youth plaintiffs assert, there remains only “an extremely limited amount of time to preserve a habitable climate system for our country.”
Role of the courts
U.S. fossil fuel production surged during Barack Obama’s presidency even though he did support renewable energy and he engaged in climate-related diplomacy. As the window of opportunity to avert what UN Secretary General António Guterres calls the “direct existential threat” of climate change is about to close under Trump’s leadership at a time when Republicans control both chambers of Congress, checks and balances in government matter more than ever before.
The U.S., after all, has three, not two, branches of government. In the Constitution, the Founders wisely created an independent judiciary and gave it the responsibility of preventing the other branches from trammeling upon the fundamental liberties of citizens.
In the Juliana case, youth plaintiffs are asserting well-established rights under the Constitution’s due process and equal protection clauses to personal security, family autonomy and property. They contend that the government’s fossil fuel policies jeopardize human life, private property and civilization itself.
They further assert rights secured by the public trust doctrine, a principle with ancient roots requiring government to hold and protect essential resources as a sustaining endowment for citizens, in the present and the future.
Oregon District Court Judge Ann Aiken issued a landmark decision in 2016 upholding both the Constitution’s due process rights and public trust rights, allowing the case to proceed.
At that time, she declared, “I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.” Numerous world-class experts plan to testify during the trial in her courtroom to explain the grave threats posed by Trump’s energy policies.
Not just here
Judicial alarm over governmental failure to confront the climate emergency is growing around the world, resulting in decisions in Pakistan, the Netherlands, and Colombia that ordered the authorities to act. These cases are all based on similar legal arguments: that governments have an obligation to protect their citizens from climate change.
A Dutch appeals court, for example, has ordered the Dutch government to cut emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.
In trying to get the case thrown out, Justice Department lawyers for the Trump and Obama administrations alike have contested the jurisdiction of the district court over these claims. The Trump lawyers also argue that a 50-day trial would impose an undue burden and cause irreparable harm.
But for the Supreme Court to stop the case on the eve of trial would disregard the standard judicial process. The courts use trials to develop a full record to determine constitutional violations.
In our view, following the controversies and turmoil surrounding Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, the credibility of the judiciary itself is fragile. Rallies planned around the country in support of the litigation could soon turn to protests against a perceived abrogation of fair judicial process if the case does not go to trial.
We think that this climate lawsuit should force everyone to see what a fleeting – and terrifying – moment in history this is. With humanity’s very ability to survive on the planet hanging in the balance, the stakes could not be higher.
This article draws on material originally published on Dec. 15, 2016.
A Quiz on The Federalist Papers
By E. Ray Walker
On October 27, 1787, the first of what was to become a series of essays urging ratification of the U.S. Constitution was published. Compiled into a book form in 1788 as “The Federalist” and later as “The Federalist Papers,” the essays argued that the proposed constitution would preserve the country and empower the government to act in the national interest.
The quiz below provides an opportunity to test your knowledge of The Federalist Papers.
1. The writers of The Federalist Papers wrote under this pseudonym?
A: James Callender
B. E. Pluribus Newman
D. Joseph Pulitzer
2. How many essays comprise The Federalist Papers?
3. According to The Federalist Papers, what is the role of a standing army?
A: To protect liberty and is necessary for the functioning of the government.
B. A standing army is not necessary.
C: A standing army is at odds with liberty.
D- None of the above
4. Which of these newspapers published The Federalist Papers?
A The Independent Journal
B: The Hartford Courant
C: The New York Times
D: The Philadelphia Bulletin
5. To whom were The Federalist Papers addressed?
A: The House of Representatives
C: The people of New York
D: Land-owning white men
6. Which of these early presidents wrote some of The Federalist Papers?
A: George Washington
B: John Adams
C: Thomas Jefferson
D: James Madison
7. Which of the writers of The Federalist Papers was not born in what became the United States?
A: Alexander Hamilton
B: John Jay
C: James Madison
D: None of the above
8. Which of these Supreme Court chief justices wrote some of The Federalist Papers?
A: John Marshall
B: John Jay
C: Salmon P. Chase
D: Warren Burger
9. Which doctrine of constitutional decision-making uses The Federalist Papers as a guide?
10. Which of these Founders did not write any of The Federalist Papers?
A: George Washington
B: George Mason
C: Benjamin Franklin
D: All of the above
Answers: 1-C, 2-D, 3-A, 4-A, 5-C, 6-D, 7-A, 8-B, 9-A, 10-D
ABOUT THE WRITER
E. Ray Walker is the opinion editor for InsideSources.com.
Climate change, rising sea levels a threat to farmers in Bangladesh
Study: Salty soil drives changes in agriculture, migration
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Rising sea levels driven by climate change make for salty soil, and that is likely to force about 200,000 coastal farmers in Bangladesh inland as glaciers melt into the world’s oceans, according to estimates from a new study.
Frequent flooding with salt water is already pushing farmers in Bangladesh to shift from growing rice to raising shrimp and other seafood, but not all coastal residents will be able to stay put and maintain their agricultural livelihoods, said study co-lead author Joyce Chen of The Ohio State University.
“Unfortunately, this is likely to be most challenging for those farming families who have the fewest resources to begin with,” said Chen, an associate professor of agricultural, environmental and development economics.
The study appears in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Chen and her co-author, Valerie Mueller of Arizona State University and the International Food Policy Research Institute, pulled together a variety of socioeconomic, population, geographic and climate change data to create models that allowed them to estimate population shifts based on rising water encroaching on coastal farmland and subsequent increases in soil salinity. Salty soil impedes growth of rice and most other crops. It’s the first study of its kind.
The researchers found that the farming potential lost with increased soil salinity is and will be a large driver of migration. The researchers estimated that a farm would be expected to lose 21 percent of its crop revenue each year when faced with moderate salt contamination.
In the next 120 years, coastal communities that are home to 1.3 billion people will be inundated with seawater, according to scientific forecasts. This puts about 40 percent of Bangladesh’s agricultural fields in jeopardy and already, residents of coastal areas are experiencing frequent flooding from rising oceans and adapting to the new normal.
“Many farmers have already converted some of their operations to aquaculture, raising shrimp and fish that do well in brackish – or somewhat salty – water,” Chen said.
According to the study, as soil salinity moves from low to high, the share of agricultural revenue from shrimp and other seafood farming goes up almost 60 percent. Converting from rice to aquaculture isn’t a simple or cheap endeavor, however, and many farmers can’t afford to make the change on a large-scale level, Chen said.
The shift from rice to seafood also presents a challenge for those looking to curtail the encroaching seawater, because shrimp and other seafood farmers now need and want it to maintain their livelihoods. Balancing those competing interests is something policymakers must consider, Chen said.
Another interesting finding from the study: While internal migration will likely increase by about 25 percent, migration abroad is estimated to decrease by 66 percent as soil salinity increases, because the resulting aquaculture produces jobs that are likely to keep Bangladesh residents in the country, she said.
The rising sea level and increase in frequency of catastrophic storms inevitably will leave Bangladesh vulnerable to losing coastal land, which is expected to disappear at a rate of 10 to 18 millimeters per year, the study says.
“My concern is that the most vulnerable people will be the least resilient in the face of climate change, because they have limited resources to adapt their farming practices or to move longer distances in search of other employment,” Chen said.
Mueller said policymakers would benefit from planning early for population shifts related to climate change.
“The Bangladesh study offers interesting insights for governments of countries facing similar imminent threats of sea level rise. As internal migration patterns are expected to shift in countries vulnerable to sea level rise, ministries of planning may benefit from developing economic strategies that integrate and even leverage the expected additional number of workers coming from vulnerable areas,” she said.
Neighboring countries also should begin to think about policies to accommodate international migrants, Mueller said.
“Given the humanitarian nature of climate migrants, additional financial support from the international community may be necessary to foster resettlement programs.”
A day to celebrate chemistry’s favorite unit — the mole. But what’s a mole?
Updated October 22, 2018
Tara S. Carpenter
Senior Lecturer and General Chemistry Coordinator, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Assistant researcher, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of Maryland, Baltimore County provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
On Oct. 23, between 6:02 a.m. and 6:02 p.m., chemists celebrate Mole Day. Mole Day is not a day to celebrate those furry little creatures that live in the ground. Rather, it is a day to celebrate a very important idea in the sub-microscopic world.
In chemistry, the mole is a unit used to talk about atoms. It is similar to other units we use everyday. For example, you might walk into the local doughnut shop and order a dozen doughnuts. In doing so, you know that you will get 12 of these snacks and the clerk knows to give you 12. The dozen unit is simply for convenience in discussing a quantity.
We apply the same idea to discuss quantities of atoms. Why do we not simply talk about dozens of atoms? The reason is because atoms are so small that it doesn’t make sense to do so. Imagine a single grain of table salt. That tiny crystal contains over 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 (one quintillion) atoms. Rather than discussing such a large number of atoms, we can talk more conveniently through the mole unit. A mole of something contains 602,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or 6.02 x 10²³ of that thing.
So rather than talking about over 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms in the grain of salt, we can express the quantity as around 0.000002 moles of atoms, which is much more convenient.
The number 6.02 x 10²³ is also called Avogadro’s number. Amedeo Avogadro was an Italian physicist. In 1811, he proposed that equal volumes of any gas at the same temperature and pressure contain the same number of atoms (or molecules). The number is named after him to honor his work. Because Oct. 23 is abbreviated as 10/23, chemists use this date to celebrate Mole Day.
How much space does a mole occupy?
Now just how many is 6.02 x 10²³? How long do you think it would take you to count to a mole? One day? One week? One year? Go ahead, start counting. It would take you around 20,000,000,000,000,000 years. As you can see, very large quantities of atoms take up very little space which gives us an idea of just how tiny they are. Here is another example: One mole of water with all 6.02 x 10²³ molecules of H₂O occupies slightly more than a tablespoon.
So how do those tiny atoms come together to make up the stuff in the world around us? Even though atoms are so small, there is a lot of action going on. Each atom is made up of even smaller particles called electrons. The way those electrons place themselves around the atom lead to properties we can experience and observe. In a metal, the tiny atoms are swimming in a sea of electrons which gives them the ability to conduct heat and electricity.
How about water? The electrons in a molecule of water are arranged so that each water molecule is extremely attracted to the one next to it. Because of this they naturally arrange themselves at the atomic level in ways that have big consequences in the world around us. When water freezes, the molecules arrange in a way that creates a lattice that causes ice to float in liquid water. Why is that so important? Because ice floats, a pond or lake will freeze at the top, but below the entire aquatic ecosystem is able to survive. This is an amazing phenomenon of water.
Small atoms with big consequences
Many other substances adopt their own unique properties due to arrangement of electrons. The propane gas that we use to fuel a gas grill is a gas at room temperature because the molecules are weakly attracted to each other. Unlike water, they don’t really want to be next to each other at all. Consequently, the space between them results in a gaseous state.
Another important gas is oxygen. We need oxygen to live out our lives. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. As you do that, the molecules are whizzing through your nose, into your lungs where about 0.001 moles of oxygen are absorbed into your blood. Those molecules are responsible for helping each cell in your body produce energy so that your eyes can see the words on this page and your brain can think about what they mean, all while keeping your heart beating.
So, if you ever feel like you’re too insignificant to make a difference, just remember that even the smallest of things matter in the grand scheme of things.
Happy Mole Day!