Robbie Couch

Certain businesses could fire unmarried employees who become pregnant once a new Trump administration rule goes into effect. And it’ll be perfectly legal for them to do so.

On Aug. 14, the Department of Labor announced a change to the equal opportunity clause to “clarify the scope and application of the religious exemption,” according to the Federal Register. In a reversal to standards set by the Obama administration, the updated rule allows businesses under federal contract to follow hiring and firing practices that adhere to the owners’ “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

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(Image: Shutterstock)

The change will leave many marginalized people without legal protections against workplace discrimination, human rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have argued. A transgender employee or an unmarried worker who becomes pregnant could be fired by a business owner who believes being LGBTQ or having sex outside of marriage violates their faith. …

Robbie Couch

Marsha P. Johnson and Baron von Steuben may be known historical figures among the biggest U.S. history nerds, but to many Americans, the names may not ring a bell. That could soon change for high schoolers in Maryland — the latest state to implement LGBTQ history curriculums in its public schools.

Dozens of state lawmakers submitted a letter to Maryland’s education department in July requesting updated standards for history curriculums on LGBTQ and disability rights. The department, citing efforts already in the works to do so, agreed to comply.

Now Maryland will join California, New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon, and Colorado in enacting similar statewide K-12 LGBTQ curriculums. …

Kaley LaQuea

Joe Biden’s most recent gaffe occurred at a campaign event in Iowa, where, speaking on education, he commented that “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.” The presidential candidate later said he misspoke, and while that might be true, he can’t as easily explain away his troubling record of policy decisions that have harmed children in poverty, particularly in communities of color.

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(Image: Mario Villafuerte / Stringer via Getty Images North America)

As a senator in Delaware, Biden opposed racial integration in schools through busing, calling it a “bankrupt concept,” going so far as introducing an unsuccessful provision in 1975 to allow cities to reject federal funds for busing. …

Kaley LaQuea

Robert F. Smith shocked Morehouse College graduates during his commencement speech in May with his pledge to pay for the student loans of the 2019 graduating class. Morehouse College is now trying to ensure future graduating classes can also get financial help.

Smith, the richest black man in America, encouraged interest from Morehouse alumni to also donate to offset students’ loan debt. Earlier in August, the historic black men’s college announced the Student Success Program, which will allow donors to direct gifts to an entire class or to students pursuing low-paying jobs in service fields like teaching.

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Image: Ja_inter/DigitalVision Vectors via Getty Images

An American Council on Education report examining education attainment over the last 20 years found that black graduates tend to leave school with more debt and earn 15% less than their non-black peers. Black graduates also experience an unemployment rate two-thirds higher than typical bachelor’s degree holders of the same age group, a factor that contributes to growing wealth gaps. The report also found that between 2007 and 2016, mean wealth for white families rose by 15% but declined by 11% for black and Hispanic families. …

Brazilian President Rejects G7 Funds To Save Amazon. Scientists Say Rescue Requires Billions.

With the Amazon forest burning at a record rate, the $20 million pledged on Monday by wealthy nations to combat the fires is a metaphorical drop in the bucket.

Rescuing this life-giving tropical ecosystem — called “the Earth’s lungs” because it produces 20% of the planet’s oxygen — would cost $64 billion by one estimate for replanting and other conservation measures. …

Nestlé’s Nespresso is partnering with Swedish company Vélosophy to make 1,000 limited-edition bikes out of recycled single-use aluminum Nespresso coffee pods. The initiative, called RE:CYCLE, will make one bike from 300 pods.

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Image: Jonny Rowe/EyeEm, EyeEm via Getty Images

“RE:CYCLE has an iconic design, grounded in sustainability, that brings to life the potential of recycling our aluminum coffee capsules,” Justin DeGeorge, vice president of marketing at Nespresso, told Architectural Digest.

He went on to say, “Our unique collaboration pays tribute to the beauty of aluminum, which can be recycled again and again, and demonstrates the potential of the circular economy.”

Sounds nice, right? Not so fast.

Nestlé’s newfound love of bicycling should be judged against a record that environmentalists and some governments say represents the very worst in corporate behavior — from rampant plastic pollution to child labor to water theft to deforestation. …

Kaley LaQuea

Americans today carry more debt than ever before, and it’s affecting our health. Student loan, credit, auto, and mortgage debt all peaked in 2018 while overall consumer debt reached $13 trillion.

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Image: Alys Tomlinson, Cultura via Getty Images

But debt can be bad for more than just your financial health. It’s been linked to higher blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and sleep problems. Income and debt issues have even been tied to higher rates of heart disease. And while untreated illnesses can lead to serious health complications, people with medical and credit card debt are more likely to skip the doctor when they’re sick.

Debt of any kind is incredibly stressful, but free resources are out there to help. Community programs through the IRS offer free tax services, and many public libraries and state universities offer credit counseling and personal finance services. You can find free courses on financial literacy here. …

“Some of us look to the future and can’t imagine bringing children into such a hot, troubled world.”

As the warnings multiply about climate change and global pollution, and concerns grow about a stressed-out planet’s ability to sustain human life, a related conversation is picking up steam, especially among young adults.

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Image: ferrantraite, E+ via Getty Images

Should we be having kids?

“Some of us look to the future and can’t imagine bringing children into such a hot, troubled world,” says the mission statement of Conceivable Future, a group of U.S.-based …

Sean Piccoli

Icelanders held a memorial service for one of their own on Sunday: a glacier that had crowned a dormant volcano for millennia until global warming melted it away.

100 people trekked up the mountain on foot on Sunday to take part in a plaque-laying ceremony for a vanished ice sheet that locals called Okjökull.

“We see the consequences of the climate crisis,” Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said at the service. “We have no time to lose.”

A memorial plaque for a dead glacier can help people visualize the impact of man-made climate change when science and data alone aren’t enough, say two American anthropologists who made a documentary film about the lost glacier and came up with the idea for a memorial. …

Kaley LaQuea

An upcoming Supreme Court case could have dire consequences for LGBTQ protections. Here’s the background:

Aimee Stephens worked at Harris Funeral Homes for six years, but after Stephens transitioned to living openly as a woman, Harris fired her. Stephens filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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What does the Supreme Court decision have to do with the EEOC?

In 2012, transgender veteran Mia Macy filed a formal discrimination complaint with the EEOC. Even though Macy was highly qualified, she was denied a federal job after coming out as trans. The EEOC’s unanimous decision — that trans individuals are protected from discrimination under the Civil Rights Act — was the first of its kind. …


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