CEO with Down syndrome runs successful cookie company and helps people with disabilities get jobs

Collette Divitto created her own cookie company when she was in her 20s. And if being a successful business owner at such a young age isn’t impressive enough, Divitto also created a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities start their careers. Caitlin O’Kane has more with The Uplift.

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Department of Transportation releases several initiatives aimed at helping truck driver shortage

The Department of Transportation has unveiled a new set of initiatives to alleviate the truck driver shortage that has exacerbated the national supply chain crisis. Only on “CBS Mornings,” Errol Barnett speaks with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about how the plan aims to bring in new drivers and keep the old drivers from leaving.

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Civil war in the US is unlikely because grievance doesn’t necessarily translate directly into violence

Will the U.S. be torn apart by civil war? Paul Sancya/AP photos

The potential for violent extremism in America to erupt into full-fledged conflict across the country is a common topic of discussion nowadays.

A recent FBI report highlights an increasing risk of violence against government institutions, private organizations and individuals. The possible perpetrators: primarily “lone wolves,” but potentially also militias and other organized groups such as animal activists, anti-abortionists and white supremacists.

Claims that America is at the greatest risk of civil war since, well, the Civil War, recently received additional support from some experts in the field of political science.

But civil wars are rare events.

Before the 2020 election, I analyzed the risk of a so-called “Second American Civil War” that some speculated might ignite on or around Election Day. I concluded the risk was very low, while also emphasizing the uncertainty of the times.

Despite the ugly Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021, and anti-racism protests of the past few years, some of which included rioting, violent confrontation, and property destruction, my analysis has held, and I remain unconvinced that America is likely to descend into civil war in the near future.

Before proceeding, I want to stress that, as a scholar who studies civil conflict, I discuss the manifestations of violence here not on the basis of their underlying political ideologies but in relation to empirical definitions of different types of political violence.

Grievance doesn’t translate into violence

Researchers usually define civil wars based on a certain threshold of combatant deaths, often 1,000 or more.

In 2020, for example, only eight conflicts crossed that threshold worldwide. They happened in countries – including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Yemen – experiencing rampant poverty and underdevelopment, nondemocratic or dysfunctional political institutions, and a long history of conflict along ethnic and religious lines.

What real civil war looks like: Members of the Syrian Civil Defense sort bodies of victims following Syrian government forces airstrikes on March 5, 2020, in the Idlib province.
Aaref Watad/AFP via Getty Images

When trying to assess the likelihood of civil war, researchers first look at whether people are willing to engage in violence. Willingness is often attributed to anger and grievances over inequality or political marginalization.

Individuals or groups may have grievances with specific state or national policies, or with other groups. As their anger grows, these people may not only use aggressive and demeaning language, but also become more accepting of the idea of using violence.

Anger and grievances are probably the most frequently highlighted issues in the mainstream media, and especially in social media outlets. Studies of social media outlets have found that their algorithms are designed to amplify anger to appeal to wider groups.

Aggrieved people, however, exist almost everywhere, even in the world’s happiest countries. Feeling aggrieved and even using harsh and violent rhetoric does not mean a person is willing to take up arms against the government or one’s fellow citizens.

Risks to joining a rebellion

But even if they are fully willing, in almost every case, civil war will not happen unless these very angry people have the opportunity to organize and use violence on a large scale.

Joining a rebellion is extremely risky. You can die or be severely wounded. Your chances of winning are low. If you don’t win, even if you survive unscathed, you still risk prosecution and social alienation. You may lose your job, your savings and even your home and put your family at risk.

It doesn’t matter how angry you are, these considerations are usually prohibitive.

All these calculations are part of what economists call “opportunity costs.” Opportunity costs basically measure how much you would have to potentially give up if you were to engage in a given activity, such as rebellion.

In most countries afflicted by civil war, poverty, economic downturn and even food insecurity mean that these costs are relatively low. An unemployed farm laborer in rural Mozambique has, from an economic perspective at least, less to lose from joining an extremist insurgency than, say, Robert Scott Palmer, owner of a cleaning and restoration company from Largo, Florida.

Apparently willing to risk his livelihood by using violence against police during the Jan. 6 riot, Palmer was thwarted by other factors that are highly relevant in determining the potential for a full-fledged rebellion – the government’s capacity to punish and deter violence, and the opportunity, or lack of opportunity, for dissidents to organize and mobilize effectively enough to start a war.

For example, people who want to organize and rebel against the government will find it easier to do in remote areas where the government cannot know or reach them. Tora Bora – the cave complex in the mountain of eastern Afghanistan – is an example of such a place. Insurgents can hide and train there, practically unknown to, and untouchable by, Afghanistan’s military, which generally lacks the capabilities and capacity of its American counterpart.

The high levels of American policing and intelligence capacity mean that insurgency opportunities are rare in the U.S. Individuals who organize, arm themselves and decide to act against the government risk being detected and thwarted before they can become real threats.

Moreover, because of the low urban density of the U.S., even if such rebels are successful in organizing – in rural Alaska, for example – they will be unable to reach, let alone conquer, big cities or threaten American sovereignty in significant ways.

‘Intensified domestic terrorism’

There could be more violent attacks in the U.S. Here, a man pays respects in front of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after a mass shooting at the church that killed nine African Americans on June 19, 2015.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

These low opportunities suggest that civil war in America is still unlikely. But this does not preclude the occurrence of other forms of less intense violence. Concerns about increased violent extremism in the United States recently led the U.S. Justice Department to establish a new domestic terrorism group.

It is possible we might see a rise in the number of organized domestic terror attacks – along the lines of the British experience during its conflict with the Provisional Irish Republican Army or the U.S. experience with the Weather Underground during the 1960s and 1970s.

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More likely is an increase in so-called “lone wolf” attacks, such as the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church Shooting, the 2016 Orlando nightclub shootings or the 2010 Austin suicide attack on a four-story building that housed an IRS field office. These may become more prevalent because of the spread of violent messages on social media and the “gamification” of violence, for instance via competitive point-scoring detected by the FBI among violent individuals.

Because they often involve one individual, “lone wolf” attacks are harder to identify and prevent, which increases the opportunity for individuals to engage in violence. But the costs of doing so remain high.

Start at the top

What can be done to reduce the risk of violence?

A well-functioning and effective government security organization combined with a vibrant economy lowers conflict opportunity. But taking aim at factors that make people willing to engage in violence might be another effective strategy.

This could start from the top.

The risk of radicalization is the highest when government leaders themselves attack government institutions to achieve short-term political goals.

Politicians and activists can disagree, but if they also continue to reaffirm their trust in the American political and legal systems, which are still among the world’s best in terms of ensuring equal political participation, personal freedoms and economic prosperity, that could go a long way toward discouraging willingness to engage in anti-government or other types of political violence.

Ore Koren does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Seditious conspiracy charge against Oath Keepers founder and others in Jan. 6 riot faces First Amendment hurdle

Stewart Rhodes faces up to 20 years behind bars if convicted of seditious conspiracy. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The seditious conspiracy charges filed against Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers militia, along with 10 other defendants, opens a new and significant chapter in the events of Jan. 6, 2021.

Many observers have noted the absence of “seditious conspiracy” charges in connection with prosecutions of those who took part in the Capitol riot. Participants in the riot have been charged with minor crimes such as trespassing or other lower-level offenses. Others have been charged with more serious offenses, such as obstructing a congressional proceeding or bringing a weapon inside the U.S. Capitol.

But the seditious conspiracy charges announced on Jan. 13, 2022 by the Department of Justice raise the stakes and political temperature of the Jan. 6 investigation. As a First Amendment scholar, I believe they may also give rise to serious concerns about the rights of others protesting government actions down the road.

Prosecutions are rare

The crime of seditious conspiracy involves joining with others to overthrow the government of the United States.

Under federal law, persons are guilty of seditious conspiracy if they conspire “to overthrow, put down, or destroy the government” by force. That is the central or core offense.

However, the federal seditious conspiracy law also prohibits using force to “prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States” and using force to “seize, take, or possess any property of the United States.” The crime carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, fines, or both.

Seditious conspiracy prosecutions are rare in the U.S., but not unheard of. Charges have been successfully brought against Puerto Rican nationalists who stormed the Capitol in March of 1954 and against Islamic militants who plotted to bomb several New York landmarks in the early 1990s. However, juries have also acquitted members of a neo-Nazi group charged with seditious conspiracy for conspiring to overthrow the U.S. government and assassinate federal officials.

Prosecutors may be reluctant to charge seditious conspiracy for several reasons. Conspiracy charges, which entail planning between two or more people to commit a crime, take lots of time and resources to develop and prosecute. Proving the elements of seditious conspiracy can be factually and legally difficult. Entering a restricted area or obstructing a congressional proceeding are far easier crimes to prove than plots to overthrow or hinder the U.S. government.

Prosecutors may also be reluctant to charge seditious conspiracy because the charges may appear to be politically motivated.

From speech to action

The First Amendment also may pose a significant hurdle for prosecutors trying to prove seditious conspiracy.

Although it does not protect speech that incites imminent lawless action, the First Amendment does protect speech that advocates overthrowing government in more abstract terms.

So anti-government sentiment or general calls to “action” against purported “tyrants” – or statements of that nature – don’t rise to the level of a seditious conspiracy. For prosecutors to convict those charged with seditious conspiracy, they must prove there were specific plans to hinder the execution of the law or seize government property.

For example, a 2010 seditious conspiracy charge brought against members of the Hutaree militia, which the government alleged planned to wage war against the government, was dismissed because the prosecution’s case rested substantially on hateful and offensive speech by members of the Christian extremist group that was protected by the First Amendment. The evidence did not demonstrate a plot to overthrow the government.

In the case of the Oath Keepers, the government will have to overcome similar First Amendment concerns.

In the case of Rhodes and his alleged co-conspirators, prosecutors may secure a conviction if they can prove, as is alleged in the indictment, that the militia moved from protected speech to planning specific actions – including “to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power” – that are not protected by the First Amendment.

In a press release accompanying the conspiracy charges, the Department of Justice alleged specific actions by the defendants, including planning to travel to Washington, and bringing weapons to the area in support of the operation.

If any case fits the seditious conspiracy crime, perhaps this is it.

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Potential for abuse

However, use of the seditious conspiracy law in Rhodes’s case may set a bad precedent as far as future protesters and dissidents are concerned. I see a danger that it could be used to support seditious conspiracy charges against other, potentially nonviolent, groups.

The words of the seditious conspiracy law – using force to “prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States” or to “seize, take, or possess any property of the United States” – may be broad enough to sweep in certain kinds of civil disobedience, disruptive protests at the Capitol and elsewhere, and plans to resist mass arrests.

Such concerns may be yet another reason prosecutors had seemingly been reluctant to rely on seditious conspiracy charges for the Jan. 6 defendants.

History demonstrates how broadly worded sedition laws can suppress protest and dissent. During the World War I, pacifists and dissidents were frequently charged with sedition and seditious conspiracy based on their political advocacy and criticism of government.

The First Amendment, which broadly protects dissent, would not permit such prosecutions today. Modern interpretations of freedom of speech impose stringent requirements in prosecutions for “inciting” violence. However, a successful prosecution for seditious conspiracy in the Rhodes case may create a precedent for going after demonstrators who commit ordinary crimes, such as damaging a police car or occupying a federal building, or who engage in other acts of civil disobedience.

This danger is not entirely speculative. In 2020, the Trump Justice Department considered charging Black Lives Matter protesters with seditious conspiracy in connection with demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and Portland. The Justice Department ultimately decided not to go down that road. To be sure, factual and other distinctions can be made between those protests and the storming of the Capitol. But in the hands of a zealous prosecutor, the potential for abuse is clear.

Timothy Zick does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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The metaverse is money and crypto is king – why you’ll be on a blockchain when you’re virtual-world hopping

In the metaverse, your avatar, the clothes it wears and the things it carries belong to you thanks to blockchain. Duncan Rawlinson –, CC BY-NC

You may think the metaverse will be a bunch of interconnected virtual spaces – the world wide web but accessed through virtual reality. This is largely correct, but there is also a fundamental but slightly more cryptic side to the metaverse that will set it apart from today’s internet: the blockchain.

In the beginning, Web 1.0 was the information superhighway of connected computers and servers that you could search, explore and inhabit, usually through a centralized company’s platform – for example, AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google. Around the turn of the millennium, Web 2.0 came to be characterized by social networking sites, blogging and the monetization of user data for advertising by the centralized gatekeepers to “free” social media platforms, including Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter and TikTok.

Web 3.0 will be the foundation for the metaverse. It will consist of blockchain-enabled decentralized applications that support an economy of user-owned crypto assets and data.

Blockchain? Decentralized? Crypto-assets? As researchers who study social media and media technology, we can explain the technology that will make the metaverse possible.

Owning bits

Blockchain is a technology that permanently records transactions, typically in a decentralized and public database called a ledger. Bitcoin is the most well-known blockchain-based cryptocurrency. Every time you buy some bitcoin, for example, that transaction gets recorded to the Bitcoin blockchain, which means the record is distributed to thousands of individual computers around the world.

This decentralized recording system is very difficult to fool or control. Public blockchains, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, are also transparent – all transactions are available for anyone on the internet to see, in contrast to traditional banking books.

Ethereum is a blockchain like Bitcoin, but Ethereum is also programmable through smart contracts, which are essentially blockchain-based software routines that run automatically when some condition is met. For example, you could use a smart contract on the blockchain to establish your ownership of a digital object, such as a piece of art or music, to which no one else can claim ownership on the blockchain — even if they save a copy to their computer. Digital objects that can be owned – currencies, securities, artwork – are crypto assets.

Items like artwork and music on a blockchain are nonfungible tokens (NFTs). Nonfungible means they are unique and not replaceable, the opposite of fungible items like currency – any dollar is worth the same as, and can be swapped with, any other dollar.

Nonfungible tokens (NFTs) use the cryptography of blockchain to make provably unique instances of digital items, including artwork like these images shown at an exhibition in Miami Beach in November 2021.
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Importantly, you could use a smart contract that says you are willing to sell your piece of digital art for US$1 million in ether, the currency of the Ethereum blockchain. When I click “agree,” the artwork and the ether automatically transfer ownership between us on the blockchain. There is no need for a bank or third-party escrow, and if either of us were to dispute this transaction – for example, if you claimed that I only paid $999,000 – the other could easily point to the public record in the distributed ledger.

What does this blockchain crypto-asset stuff have to do with the metaverse? Everything! To start, the blockchain allows you to own digital goods in a virtual world. You won’t just own that NFT in the real world, you’ll own it in the virtual world, too.

In addition, the metaverse isn’t being built by any one group or company. Different groups will build different virtual worlds, and in the future these worlds will be interoperable – forming the metaverse. As people move between virtual worlds – say from Decentraland’s virtual environments to Microsoft’s – they’ll want to bring their stuff with them. If two virtual worlds are interoperable, the blockchain will authenticate proof of ownership of your digital goods in both virtual worlds. Essentially, as long as you are able to access your crypto wallet within a virtual world, you will be able to access your crypto stuff.

Don’t forget your wallet

So what will you keep in your crypto wallet? You will obviously want to carry cryptocurrencies in the metaverse. Your crypto wallet will also hold your metaverse-only digital goods, such as your avatars, avatar clothing, avatar animations, virtual decorations and weapons.

Avatars, like this representation of El Salvador President Nayib Bukele, are cartoonlike animations that people inhabit in the metaverse.
AP Photo/Salvador Melendez

What will people do with their crypto wallets? Among other things, shop. Just as you likely do on the web now, you will be able to purchase traditional digital goods like music, movies, games and apps. You’ll also be able to buy physical-world items in the metaverse, and you’ll be able to view and “hold” 3D models of what you are shopping for, which could help you make more informed decisions.

Also, just like you can use ye old leather wallet to carry your ID, crypto wallets will be linkable to real-world identities, which could help facilitate transactions that require legal verification, such as buying a real-world car or home. Because your ID will be linked to your wallet, you won’t need to remember login information for all the websites and virtual worlds that you visit – just connect your wallet with a click and you are logged in. ID-associated wallets will also be useful for controlling access to age-restricted areas in the metaverse.

Your crypto wallet could also be linked to your contacts list, which would allow you to bring your social network information from one virtual world to another. “Join me for a pool party in FILL IN THE BLANK-world!”

At some point in the future, wallets could also be associated with reputation scores that determine the permissions you have to broadcast in public places and interact with people outside of your social network. If you act like a toxic misinformation-spreading troll, you may damage your reputation and potentially have your sphere of influence reduced by the system. This could create an incentive for people to behave well in the metaverse, but platform developers will have to prioritize these systems.

Big business

Lastly, if the metaverse is money, then companies will certainly want to play too. The decentralized nature of blockchain will potentially reduce the need for gatekeepers in financial transactions, but companies will still have many opportunities to generate revenue, possibly even more than in current economies. Companies like Meta will provide large platforms where people will work, play and congregate.

The metaverse doesn’t exist yet, but that hasn’t stopped a land rush as people and businesses grab virtual real estate.

Major brands are also getting into the NFT mix, including Dolce & Gabbana, Coca-Cola, Adidas and Nike. In the future, when you buy a physical world item from a company, you might also gain ownership of a linked NFT in the metaverse.

For example, when you buy that coveted name-brand outfit to wear to the real-world dance club, you might also become the owner of the crypto version of the outfit that your avatar can wear to the virtual Ariana Grande concert. And just as you could sell the physical outfit secondhand, you could also sell the NFT version for someone else’s avatar to wear.

These are a few of the many ways that metaverse business models will likely overlap with the physical world. Such examples will get more complex as augmented reality technologies increasingly come into play, further merging aspects of the metaverse and physical world. Although the metaverse proper isn’t here yet, technological foundations like blockchain and crypto assets are steadily being developed, setting the stage for a seemingly ubiquitous virtual future that is coming soon to a ‘verse near you.

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Rabindra Ratan conducts consulting work on the metaverse and other media technologies. His university research has received funding support from companies, including Meta, as well as government organizations, including the National Science Foundation. He also invests personally in cryptoassets, including Ethereum.

Dar Meshi receives funding for research from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program. He also owns various cryptoassets, including ether.

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TikTok star, registered dietician Sam Previte discusses how to practice intuitive eating

Sam Previte, a registered dietician and certified intuitive eating counselor, runs the popular TikTok account, Find Food Freedom, where she teaches her followers about intuitive eating. Previte joins “CBS Mornings” to discuss the practice and how to relearn what we consider healthy.

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Prince Andrew stripped of royal patronages and military titles by Queen after sex abuse lawsuit ruling

Prince Andrew has been stripped of all his honorary military titles and royal patronages by Queen Elizabeth as he faces Virginia Giuffre’s sex abuse allegations “as a private citizen.” Holly Williams reports on why Buckingham Palace would make this move and what it means for Prince Andrew.

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Bob Saget reflects on his life in revealing interview conducted just weeks before his death

Bob Saget says he used humor as a survival mechanism against pain. In a revealing interview just weeks before his death, he reflects on his dedication to help unlock the mysteries of the disease that killed his sister. CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook has the story.

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What made Bob Saget’s Danny Tanner so different from other sitcom dads

Bob Saget, top left, was affectionately called ‘America’s Dad’ for his role as Danny Tanner in the sitcom ‘Full House.’ Lorimar Television/Fotos International via Getty Images

Bob Saget, who died on Jan. 9, 2022, is probably best remembered for his role as Danny Tanner on the popular sitcom “Full House,” which aired from 1987 to 1995.

I think fans of the show have such fond memories of this character because Danny exemplified what it meant to “be there” as a parent. A single dad whose wife had passed away, he was eager to lend an ear to daughters D.J., Stephanie and Michelle, offering them support and reassurance through the twists and turns of childhood and adolescence.

Why heap so much praise on a sitcom dad? It’s easy to disregard TV as mere mindless entertainment. But entertainment media can both reflect and reshape culture – including how fathers interact with their children. They can influence how viewers think about fathers, regardless of the accuracy of those portrayals.

As someone who studies stereotypes of fathers, I view Danny as an avatar of the changing expectations of fatherhood that began in the late 1970s.

Danny Tanner and ‘being there’

Danny Tanner was a 30-something widower when Full House premiered. That wasn’t a common situation for his demographic – less than 1% in his bracket shared it – and it allowed viewers to watch Danny parent his three daughters with the help of his brother-in-law and his best friend.

Nonetheless, in nearly every episode, viewers saw Danny “being there” for his family. “Being there” is a concept that describes being physically and emotionally involved with your children. This term took on particular significance for fathers in the late 20th century. “Being there” allowed dads to be seen as more than just financial providers and recognized that fathers interact with their children in varied and important ways.

In the earlier part of the century, fathers were assumed to be breadwinners and not much else, a stereotype reflected in the era’s popular media. For example, sitcom fathers on “Father Knows Best,” which aired from 1954 to 1960, and “The Donna Reed Show,” which ended its run in 1966, bore little responsibility for actual child care beyond a pat on the head and some occasional discipline.

Beginning in the 1970s, psychologist Michael Lamb encouraged a change in how we thought about fathers and broadened the definition of what he called “father involvement.”

Lamb proposed three dimensions of father involvement: engagement, availability and responsibility. The last of these, responsibility – which involved financial support and parental guidance – could be spotted in some form in the preceding sitcoms. But engagement and availability, which tend to involve day-to-day emotional support, were almost entirely foreign.

Danny Tanner’s approach to fatherhood, by contrast, demonstrated perhaps the fullest realization of these changing expectations.

One episode, “Back to School Blues,” featured oldest daughter D.J. starting junior high. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t go well. She’s teased by older girls, wears the same outfit as one of the teachers, and spends lunch alone. (I was a year younger than D.J., and this episode made me nervous about my own entry into junior high.)

When Danny doesn’t approve of D.J.‘s attempts to look older to fit in and make friends, she storms off to her room saying she wants to be left alone. Danny says he can’t do that, and then listens as she explains everything that went wrong at school.

In this short scene, he reinforced family rules and provided emotional support, while showing that he would “be there” for D.J. whenever she needed.

A different kind of dad

Though Danny represented a departure from the typical sitcom father, he didn’t exactly spearhead a new trend.

Immature and irresponsible fathers – the kind seen in popular shows like “The Simpsons,” “Home Improvement” and “Married … With Children” – were more commonplace. To this day, the stereotype of the bumbling dad persists on TV.

Danny comforts D.J. after she admits she isn’t happy with her body.

In my research, I found that single sitcom dads with full child care responsibilities were shown interacting with their children more often than married sitcom dads. Compared to their married counterparts on the tube, they were more likely to offer kindness, care, love, support and guidance. Along with Danny, these characters included Mr. Drummond on “Diff’rent Strokes,” Tony Micelli in “Who’s the Boss?” and Maxwell Sheffield on “The Nanny.”

On the other hand, married sitcom father-child interactions were more likely to involve criticism and sarcastic humor. In fact, married sitcom fathers often made jokes at their children’s expense.

Why does this discrepancy exist?

My research has found that in real life, married fathers are thought to be loving and kind but with room for improvement as parents. They’re seen as the right-hand man to mothers, who have taken the lead in parenting. Because of this, people expect more bumbling and less skill.

Single dads, however, tend to be viewed as selfless and dedicated, because the assumption is that they’ve put their children above all else.

Danny Tanner isn’t the novelty today that he was in the early 1990s. But if his character is instructive in any way, it’s that dads shouldn’t have to lose their wives to be the best parent they can be.

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Jessica Troilo does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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The #BettyWhiteChallenge highlights the growth of animal philanthropy and the role of rescues

Betty White had three dogs in 1954, including ‘Stormy,’ a Saint Bernard. Bettmann/Getty Images

Betty White’s death on Dec. 31, 2021, inspired countless remembrances and celebrations of her life and her brilliant comedic work on television.

The actress also had a lifelong love of animals, especially dogs. She treasured animals as companions and supported efforts to improve their welfare as an actress, advocate and donor. Inspired by this legacy, White’s fans are encouraging people across the country to honor her by making their own charitable contributions of at least US$5 to an animal rescue of their choice on Jan. 17, 2022 – the day that would have been White’s 100th birthday.

Known as the #BettyWhiteChallenge, this campaign has spread rapidly on social media.

Compassion economies

This outpouring of public support offers a good opportunity to take a closer look at how Americans, especially people like me, care for animals.

I currently have three rescued pets: a 13-year-old coonhound, a bloodhound and a feisty cat that keeps everyone in line. My family has also fostered more than 25 coonhounds and bloodhounds.

I’m also an ethnographer of caregiving, compassion and charity, as well as a longtime volunteer with several animal rescues – nonprofits that are largely volunteer-run and care for animals in need of new homes. I study how people come together to save animals and find them their “forever homes.”

The growth of rescue organizations is one big reason why the estimated number of adoptable animals that are euthanized every year appears to be declining. Precise figures are unavailable, but somewhere between 1 million and 2 million dogs and cats are killed every year. According to the statistics that are available, that is down from approximately 2.6 million a decade ago.

Efforts to improve animal welfare are underway everywhere in the United States. One of my favorite examples occurred during the 2020 presidential election, when a rescued blind Bluetick Coonhound named Oscar became a local celebrity and rallying point for a politically fractured Alabama town.

The full scale and impact of this work is hard to see. More than 10,000 shelters, rescue organizations and sanctuaries collectively spend more than $4 billion annually to provide food, shelter, medical care, behavioral training and other care for the more than 6 million companion animals that enter U.S. shelters every year.

In addition to cats and dogs, animal shelters and rescue organizations may temporarily care for many other kinds of animals, including horses, goats, donkeys, reptiles, amphibians, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs and other rodents. Some organizations specialize in housing, feeding and obtaining medical care for other kinds of animals that have been abandoned and abused, such as cows, camels and elephants.

America’s rescue communities rely on what I and other experts call compassion economies.

In addition to grants from federal, state and local government sources, charitable donations flow from businesses, foundations and individuals. These gifts can be monetary or in-kind donations of medical services, food, shelter, toys and transportation. Americans also contribute through what may amount to millions of hours of volunteering.

In a 1993 appearance on the ‘Phil Donahue Show,’ Betty White urged Americans to do more to rescue animals.

The role of volunteers

Volunteers are often heralded as the backbone of any animal rescue operation. They play essential roles in terms of guaranteeing that animals get the exercise, socialization and nurturing they require while awaiting adoption.

There’s ample room for creativity. Rescue Readers is a program in which children and adults read to animals in the shelter, providing company for the animals and strengthening reading skills for the readers. Kitty Cuddlers help by socializing kittens until they are old enough and strong enough to be adopted.

And some people temporarily care for adoptable animals they do not plan to keep long term in their homes – a practice called fostering. Fostering animals not only frees up space and staffing at animal shelters, it helps animals recover from stress. Fosters can also teach animals to be good companions for their new families.

Volunteers can help in other ways, too.

Amateur and professional photographers can take attractive photographs of waiting animals and thereby increase their chances of being adopted. Pilots and drivers can pitch in, through groups like HoundPilot and Pilots N Paws, by transporting rescue animals to communities where they are more likely to be adopted.

And flight angels are airplane travelers who take along pets in transit as accompanied baggage. Once they land at their destination, a rescue organization picks up the transported companion animals.

The reasons why someone supports animal rescue efforts are often deeply personal. They might volunteer and make donations to honor their own beloved pets, because they are unable to have a pet of their own or because they are lonely and miss the companionship of having a pet.

Volunteering in animal rescue can make people feel like they are part of a community and that they are making real differences in the lives of animals and other people.

That has been especially apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people have felt disconnected from friends and family. People who foster animals describe the thrill of watching scared, sick animals blossom into healthy, happy pets that are ready for their “forever families.”

A unifying force

Americans’ love for animals can sometimes transcend political differences. Some 36% of Republicans and Democrats alike are dog owners, for example.

Many people with companion animals in their homes do disagree about issues such as spaying and neutering policies, euthanasia or pet food.

But a shared love for animals allows animal lovers with conflicting viewpoints to work toward the common good in ways that may even mediate differences of opinion about race, gender and other issues.

Betty White regularly harnessed her camera-ready appeal to support animal charities.

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Melissa L. Caldwell receives funding from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is a volunteer with American Black and Tan Coonhound Rescue.

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Colleges accused of conspiring to make low-income students pay more

A lawsuit claims that 16 elite U.S. universities give preference to children of donors over other applicants in their admissions. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Sixteen universities – including six in the Ivy League – are accused in a lawsuit of having engaged in price fixing and unfairly limiting financial aid by using a shared methodology to calculate the financial need of applicants. The schools in question have declined to comment or said only that they’ve done nothing wrong. Here, Robert Massa, a professor of higher education at the University of Southern California, provides insights into what the case is about.

Is this the latest ‘admissions scandal’?

Although it may be tempting to brand this case as the latest college admissions “scandal,” this lawsuit harks back to an investigation of 57 private, four-year universities conducted over 30 years ago by the Department of Justice on charges of “price fixing.” In this case, price fixing means limiting how the colleges compete for students by agreeing with one another to offer similar financial aid awards to admitted students.

Back then, groups of these colleges would meet to review the financial aid packages that each college had offered to students. The colleges stated that they did this to assure that each school in the group based their awards on the same financial information from the student, such as family income, number of students in college, non-custodial parent and the like, so that students could select schools based on which school was best for them instead of which school offered the best deal. The colleges did this by all offering aid that would make the price paid the same at each school.

The government, citing Section I of the Sherman Antitrust Act, disagreed. It claimed the practice of sharing financial aid information on students limited competition and, in so doing, had the potential to lead to higher prices for students because without competition, there would theoretically be no reason to attempt to “outbid” a member of the group.

Eventually, all of the schools settled with the government and agreed to stop collaborating on financial aid awards. Congress exempted colleges from antitrust laws in 1992, but only if they were “need blind” in admission. To be “need blind” means that a college won’t view a student’s application for financial aid prior to deciding whether to admit the student. Further, the exemption allowed these colleges to form groups to discuss aid policies and awards only if they agreed to award all aid on the basis of need and not merit.

What are these colleges accused of doing?

The five student plaintiffs in this case accuse these colleges of making low-income students pay more for their college education by agreeing to award them less financial aid than they would have been eligible to receive by using the standard financial need formula approved by Congress for awarding federal financial aid. This, they claim, is in violation of the antitrust exemption.

Specifically, the plaintiffs claim that the colleges give preference to children of potential donors. In that way, according to the plaintiffs, these schools are not “need-blind” and do not qualify for the exemption. It is worth noting again, however, that “need blind” refers to admission decisions made without viewing a financial aid application. Children of donors who might be capable of a large gift would not likely file an application for financial aid. Therefore, prior to making an admission decision, colleges cannot view a form that doesn’t exist.

The suit also alleges that the schools are not 100% “need blind” because some look at financial aid applications when admitting students from their waitlists. Based on my more than four decades of experience in the field of admissions, this is a common practice at the end of the admissions cycle if space is available in the freshman class, but after most financial aid funds have been awarded.

Further, the suit alleges that these schools award less aid because they agree to use a “shared methodology,” with a formula that calculates higher family contributions toward college expenses than does the “Federal Methodology” approved by Congress in the awarding of federal aid. The adjustments made to the formula, the suit alleges, decreases the student’s need for financial aid. Despite that assumption, colleges that agree on financial need calculations could also increase aid eligibility. For example, they could do this by deciding together that they will expect students to contribute less from their summer earnings because of COVID-19’s impact on the job market, therefore increasing their need for aid and decreasing the price they must pay.

How does this affect the average college applicant?

Only a small fraction of today’s college students would be affected by these alleged practices. The vast majority of the thousands of colleges and universities in this country must adhere to antitrust laws because they don’t promise to be need-blind, they don’t meet full need and they do not award aid solely on the basis of need. Thus, they do not meet the criteria for an exemption.

Why should anyone care about this?

Colleges are not legally required to provide grant aid from their own funds to admitted students who qualify. I have found in my 45 years of experience in college admissions that most colleges provide aid because they are committed to removing financial barriers for as many students as possible.

I also know that colleges believe that their degree leads to upward mobility, and they want to help students achieve their dreams. Of course, no one wants colleges – or consumer businesses for that matter – to engage in practices that eliminate competition and result in increased prices. Operating within the law, colleges must be transparent about how they admit students and award them financial aid. This is essential so families can be confident that they are indeed being treated fairly.

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Robert Massa receives funding from Gates Foundation through University of Southern California to study impact of COVID on college admissions nationwide

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Sugar detox? Cutting carbs? A doctor explains why you should keep fruit on the menu

Ripe berries and sugar crystals are both sweet, but one offers much more than just calories. Chris George/PhotoPlus Magazine/Future via Getty Images

One of my patients – who had been struggling with obesity, uncontrolled diabetes and the cost of her medications – agreed in June 2019 to adopt a more whole-food plant-based diet.

Excited by the challenge, she did a remarkable job. She increased her fresh fruit and vegetable intake, stopped eating candy, cookies and cakes and cut down on foods from animal sources. Over six months, she lost 19 pounds and her HbA1c – a measure of her average blood sugar – dropped from 11.5% to 7.6%.

She was doing so well, I expected that her HbA1c would continue to drop and she would be one of our plant-based successes who had reversed diabetes.

Her three-month follow-up visit in March 2020 was canceled because of COVID-19 lockdowns. When I eventually saw her again in May 2021, she’d regained some of the weight and her HbA1c had climbed to 10.4%. She explained that her diabetes doctor and a diabetes nurse educator had told her that she was eating too much “sugar” on the plant-based diet.

She’d been advised to limit carbohydrates by cutting back on fruits and starchy vegetables and eating more fish and chicken. Sugar-free candy, cakes, cookies and artificial sweeteners were encouraged. In the face of conflicting medical advice, she fell back on conventional wisdom that “sugar” is bad and should be avoided whenever possible, especially if you have diabetes.

I’m a physician, board certified in preventive medicine with a lifestyle medicine clinic at Morehouse Healthcare in Atlanta. This emerging medical specialty focuses on helping patients make healthy lifestyle behavior modifications. Patients who adopt whole-food plant-based diets increase carbohydrate intake and often see reversal of chronic diseases including diabetes and hypertension. In my clinical experience, myths about “sugar” and carbohydrates are common among patients and health professionals.

Fruit vs. sugar

Your body runs on glucose. It is the simple sugar that cells use for energy.

These molecules are the three kinds of simple sugars, found in starches, fruit and milk.
Trinset/ iStock via Getty Images Plus

Glucose is a molecular building block of carbohydrates, one of the three essential macronutrients. The other two are fat and protein. Starches are long, branching chains of glucose.

Chains of simple sugar molecules linked together form starches and other carbohydrates.
Trinset/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Naturally occurring carbohydrates travel in nutrient-dense packages such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Humans evolved to crave sweet tastes to get the nutrients needed to survive. A daily supply of vitamins, minerals and fiber is needed because our bodies cannot make them. The best source of these substances for our ancient ancestors was sweet, ripe, delicious fruit. In addition, fruits contain phytonutrients and antioxidants, chemicals produced only by plants. Phytonutrients such ellagic acid in strawberries have cancer-fighting properties and promote heart health.

Refined sugars, on the other hand, are highly processed and stripped of all nutrients except calories. They’re a concentrated form of carbohydrates. The food industry produces refined sugars in many forms. The most common are sucrose crystals, which you’d recognize as table sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup, which is found in many processed foods and sweetened beverages.

If you continually satisfy your taste for sweet with foods that contain refined sugar – rather than the nutrient-rich fruits at the core of this craving passed on by evolution – you may not get all the nutrients you need. Over time, this deficit may create a vicious cycle of overeating that leads to obesity and obesity-related health problems. Women who eat the most fruit tend to have lower rates of obesity.

Sugar toxicity

Refined sugars are not directly toxic to cells, but they can combine with proteins and fats in food and in the bloodstream to produce toxic substances such as advanced glycation end products (AGEs). High blood glucose levels may produce glycated low-density lipoproteins. High levels of these and other glucose-related toxic substances are associated with an increased risk of a wide range of chronic health problems, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

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The disease most commonly associated with sugar is Type 2 diabetes. A surprising number of people, including health professionals, incorrectly believe that eating sugar causes Type 2 diabetes. This myth leads to a focus on lowering blood sugar and “counting carbs” while ignoring the real cause: progressive loss of pancreatic beta cell function. At diagnosis, a patient may have lost between 40% and 60% of their beta cells, which are responsible for producing insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that controls how much glucose is in the bloodstream by blocking glucose production in the liver and driving it into fat and muscle cells. Loss of beta cell function means not enough insulin gets produced, resulting in the high blood glucose levels characteristic of Type 2 diabetes.

Beta cells have low levels of antioxidants and are susceptible to attack by metabolic and dietary oxidized free radicals and AGEs. Antioxidants in fruit can protect beta cells. Researchers have found that eating whole fruit decreases the risk of Type 2 diabetes, with those who eat the most fruit having the lowest risk.

As you consume less refined sugar, you may notice more nuance in fruits’ flavors.
Brianna Soukup/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Detoxing from sugar

People interested in losing weight and improving health often ask if they should do a “sugar detox.” In my opinion this is a waste of time, because it is not possible to eliminate sugar from the body. For instance, if you ate only baked chicken breasts, your liver would convert protein to glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis.

Low-carb diets may lead to weight loss, but at the expense of health. Diets that significantly reduce carbohydrates are associated with nutrient deficiencies and higher risk of death from any cause. On low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets the body will break down muscles and turn their protein into glucose. The lack of fiber causes constipation.

Eliminating foods sweetened with refined sugar is a worthy goal. But don’t think of it as a “detox” – it should be a permanent lifestyle change. The safest way to go on a refined sugar “detox” is to increase your intake of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables. Once you eliminate refined sugar, you’ll likely find that your taste buds become more sensitive to – and appreciative of – the natural sweetness of fruits.

This article is part of a series examining sugar’s effects on human health and culture. To see all articles on this series, click here.

Jennifer Rooke works for Morehouse School of Medicine. This is stated in the article.

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“60 Minutes” speaks with former FBI agent leading investigation into betrayal theory

Decades later, it’s still not known how the Nazis discovered Anne Frank, her family, and four others in their secret Amsterdam annex during the Holocaust. “60 Minutes” speaks with a former FBI agent leading an investigation into the theory that they were betrayed.

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Oath Keepers leader and 10 others charged with seditious conspiracy in connection to Capitol attack

On Thursday, the Department of Justice filed the most serious charges to date in the Capitol riot investigation against 11 members of the far-right extremist militia, the Oath Keepers. Senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge has the latest on the seditious conspiracy charges.

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Married MacArthur ‘geniuses’ explore border policy and immigration

Last year’s MacArthur Fellow recipients were among the most diverse since the foundation started giving the so-called “genius” awards 40 years ago. Two of the recent grantees are married Latino filmmakers, looking at migration and U.S. border policy. Jeffrey Brown visited them at their California home for our arts and culture series, CANVAS.

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Married MacArthur ‘geniuses’ explore unexpected slice of Mexican-American life

Last year’s MacArthur Fellow recipients were among the most diverse since the foundation started giving the so-called “genius” awards 40 years ago. Two of the recent grantees are married Latino filmmakers, looking at migration and U.S. border policy. Jeffrey Brown visited them at their California home for our arts and culture series, CANVAS.

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What a Supreme Court decision on vaccine mandates means for workers

The conservative majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Biden’s COVID vaccination policy, stating that the administration had overstepped its authority with the rule, which would’ve applied to more than 80 million workers. Marcia Coyle, of The National Law Journal, and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, join John Yang to discuss.

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News Wrap: Syrian secret police officer sentenced to life in prison for war crimes

In our news wrap Thursday, a court in Germany convicted a former Syrian secret police officer for crimes against humanity and sentenced him to life in prison over the torture of more than 4,000 detainees, the top House Republican defended his refusal to cooperate with Jan. 6 probe, and the Republican National Committee plans to forbid presidential nominees from participating in election debates.

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Oath Keepers leader, 10 others charged with seditious conspiracy for Capitol insurrection

The most serious federal charges yet in the Jan. 6 insurrection were unsealed Thursday. The leader of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing paramilitary group, and 10 of his members were charged with seditious conspiracy for attempting to overthrow the U.S. government. Kathleen Belew, assistant professor of history at University Chicago and the author of “Bring the War Home,” joins Amna Nawaz to discuss.

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Democrats’ voting rights legislation ‘on ice’ with opposition to filibuster change

President Biden and congressional Democrats made a new push Thursday for voting rights legislation. The House passed a repackaged set of two bills aimed at blunting Republican-passed state laws that Democrats say will limit voting. But they still face hurdles within their own party to achieve a filibuster rule change. NewsHour’s Lisa Desjardins and Geoff Bennett join Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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Sen. Warnock on the prospects for voting rights legislation: ‘This is about our Democracy’

President Biden on Thursday made his case for voting right legislation directly to Senate Democrats and heatedly denounced the Republican efforts to put limits on voting. But Sen. Kyrsten Sinema reiterated that she would not support a change to the 60-vote threshold or weakening the filibuster. Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, a key lawmaker close to the issue, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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With fewer animals to spread their seeds, plants could have trouble adapting to climate change

A Bohemian waxwing eating mountain ash berries.

Lisa Hupp, USFWS/Flickr

Picture a mature, broad-branched tree like an oak, maple or fig. How does it reproduce so that its offspring don’t grow up in its shadow, fighting for light?

The answer is seed dispersal. Plants have evolved many strategies for spreading their seeds away from the parent plant. Some produce seedlings that float on the wind. Others have fruits that actually explode, ejecting their seeds.

And more than half of all plants rely on wildlife to disperse their seeds. This typically happens when animals eat fruits from plants or carry away their nuts, then excrete or drop the seeds somewhere else. In tropical rainforests, animals disperse the seeds of up to 90% of tree species.

Today the Earth is losing species at a rapid rate, potentially representing the sixth mass extinction in its history. In a newly published study, we examine what this loss means for seed dispersal, focusing on birds and mammals that disperse fleshy-fruited plants.

We assessed how seed dispersers help plants shift their geographic ranges to reach habitats newly suitable for growth – a crucial mechanism for surviving climate change. If not enough seeds disperse to track the environmental conditions like temperature and precipitation that plants require, the plants could be stuck in settings where they will struggle to survive. This could lead to losses of plant species, along with the valuable products and services they provide, ranging from food to carbon storage.

Researchers follow brown spider monkeys in a Colombian tropical forest to determine which plant seeds they are dispersing.

A new era for plant movement

Animals have been dispersing seeds for millions of years, but the relationships between plants and their seed dispersers have changed dramatically in our modern era.

Berries in California are no longer eaten by grizzly bears, which disappeared from the state a century ago. On the island of Madagascar, seeds no longer travel in the bellies of gorilla-sized lemurs, which went extinct there about 2,300 years ago. In France, seeds don’t catch a ride on the fur of lions or between the toes of rhinos that once lived there, as shown in prehistoric cave paintings. When animals disperse seeds today, their movement is often hampered by roads, farms or built-up areas.

For most animal-dispersed plants – especially those with large seeds, which require large animals like tapirs, elephants and hornbills to spread them – these changes mean a big reduction in seed dispersal, and a great slowdown of plant movement.

Seedlings sprouting from elephant dung in Malaysia.
Ahimsa Campos Arceiz, CC BY-ND

Research by our team and work by many colleagues have uncovered the negative ecological consequences that occur when seed dispersers disappear. Now researchers are assessing how seed dispersal decline is affecting plants’ responses to climate change.

Quantifying what’s been lost

Only a small fraction of the thousands of seed disperser species and tens of thousands of animal-dispersed plant species have been studied directly. Many seed disperser species are extinct or so rare that they can’t be studied at all.

To overcome this challenge, we pulled together data from published studies showing which bird and mammal seed dispersers eat which fruits, how far they spread the seeds, and how their digestive systems’ effects on the seeds help or hinder germination. These three steps together describe what’s required for successful seed dispersal: A seed must be removed from the mother plant, travel some distance away from it and survive to become a seedling.

Next, we used machine learning to generate predictions for seed dispersal, based on the traits of each species. For example, data on a medium-sized thrush in North America could help us model how a medium-sized thrush species from Asia dispersed seeds, even if the Asian species wasn’t studied directly.

Lowland tapirs like this one in Mato Grosso, Brazil, globally classified as vulnerable, are important seed dispersers in tropical forests.
Bernard Dupont/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Using our trained model, we could estimate seed dispersal by every bird and mammal species – even rare or extinct species for which there isn’t any species-specific data on the seed dispersal process.

The last step was to compare current seed dispersal to what would be happening if extinctions and species range contractions hadn’t happened. For fleshy-fruited plants, we estimate that because of bird and mammal losses, 60% fewer seeds are being dispersed far enough worldwide to keep pace with climate change by shifting locations. Further, we estimate that if currently endangered seed disperser species such as bonobos, savanna elephants and helmeted hornbills became extinct, global seed dispersal would decline by an additional 15%.

The impact of past seed disperser declines has been greatest in areas including North America, Europe and the southern part of South America. Future losses of endangered species would have their most severe impacts in areas including Southeast Asia and Madagascar.

With fewer seed dispersers present, fewer seeds will be moved far enough to enable plants to adapt to climate change by shifting their ranges.

Areas with with brighter red coloration have lost more climate-tracking seed dispersal function. Areas with brighter blue coloration stand to lose more of their remaining seed dispersal function if endangered species there go extinct.
Fricke et al., 2022, CC BY-ND

Seed dispersers help sustain forests

Seed dispersal also helps forests and other natural ecosystems recover from disturbances like wildfire and deforestation. This means that mammals and birds play a major role in sustaining natural vegetation.

Most forest recovery around the world happens through seed dispersal and natural forest regrowth rather than via people planting trees. Seed dispersal by animals is especially important for tropical forests, which can grow back relatively quickly after they are logged or burned.

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Seed dispersers also promote biodiversity by helping to ensure that a large number of plant species can survive and thrive. Ecosystems that contain many plant species with diverse genetic makeups are better equipped to handle uncertain futures, and to sustain the ecosystem functions that humans rely on, such as storing carbon, producing food and timber, filtering water and controlling floods and erosion.

There are ways to increase seed dispersal. Making sure patches of similar habitats are connected helps species move among them. Restoring populations of important seed dispersers, ranging from toucans to bears to elephants, will also help. And global models of seed dispersal like ours can help scientists and land managers think about seed dispersers as a nature-based solution for addressing climate change.

Evan Fricke receives funding from the National Science Foundation.

Alejandro Ordonez receives funding from the Aarhus University Research Fund.

Haldre Rogers receives funding from the US National Science Foundation and the US Department of Defense’s Joint Region Marianas and Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program. She is affiliated with the nonprofit organization, Tåno Tåsi yan Todu.

Jens Christian Svenning receives funding from numerous research funding agencies and private foundations, currently mainly VILLUM Fonden, Independent Research Fund Denmark, European Commission, Novo Nordisk Foundation, and Danida Fellowship Centre. He is on the Supervisory Board for Rewilding Europe.

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