Is Spanking Bad Parenting? We Asked, You Answered

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Last week, we askedShould parents spank their children? You answered, and here are your thoughts, edited for clarity.

Nick Johnson, Birdseye, Indiana

I grew up with parents who spanked me and my siblings. The spankings were never out of control, and after the discipline they would hold us and explain why we were punished and how to do better next time. My dad actually handed the paddle to me one time and said to spank him. I don’t remember my transgression, but he said he failed in teaching me the right thing to do and that he deserved the punishment. It was a hard thing to do — I remember being in tears as I gave him that wallop, thinking I was the one who messed up and he didn’t deserve this. That really stood out as a powerful lesson of humility and pardon.

Steph Barret, San Francisco

No. It is barbaric, unnecessary and an abuse of power. Yes, I am a mother. And yes, I have never hit my kid. My kid respects me. In fact, we have a solid, loving relationship.

Michael Murray, High Point, North Carolina

I was a troublemaker as a kid, and timeouts and getting grounded didn’t work. I got spanked all of twice my entire childhood, because it worked. There are 7 billion people on this Earth, and none of them are exactly the same.

Mary McDermith, Mountain View, California

A fast swat on the bottom of a kid who is out of his own control can right the world for a kid. But prolonged yelling or refusal to speak to the child or timeouts longer than three minutes can do real damage and break the bond just as surely as a beating. Adults should always remember that the goal is to teach, not to frighten or take adult vengeance on a kid who has made an error in judgment.

 

Robibi G.

I was spanked as a kid. The anxiety of being spanked was always greater than the spanking itself. Spanking failed as a deterrent for my bad behavior, and I just planned better to get away with things. Now I have two kids of my own: a 4-year-old daughter and 19-month-old son. On a recent trip my daughter was getting out of hand, so I decided to try spanking her with calm deliberation and love, but assuring her it was punishment for her behavior and not me [being] angry at her. I spanked her hard enough on the backside and legs for it to hurt and turn red. However much I tried (and I tried in different ways), it never felt like it was going to work.

It broke my heart, but not for the visceral reasons most people might cite — I wasn’t troubled to see her distressed, crying and upset. But I was appalled to see her behavior afterward: She would try to overcome my apparent loss of regard for her with overly solicitous behaviors, sucking up to power and authority with overt obeisance. This was sickening to me. 

Bob Brookhart, Pinellas Park, Florida

It makes no sense trying to reason with a child. It is an unrealistic expectation to think the child understands. Pain is nature’s way of getting your attention that something is wrong. Discipline is God’s way of dealing with disobedience; thus, spare the rod, spoil the child.

Valerie Williams

Having worked with children on a behavioral unit and having witnessed how spanking is looked upon as abuse, I know spanking your child can get you in trouble. I’m from the old school, when parents had a right to parent their children, and that included spankings when necessary. I see this as a cultural divide: When a white person hears “spanking,” they hear “abuse.” I was spanked, never abused. It’s time parents take their rights to parent back.

Charles Mcvinney, Boston

I personally believe people who hit their children should be charged with assault and treated accordingly.

Holly Davee, Thayne, Wyoming

Depends on the kid; they are all different. What works with one may not work on another. Some learn from it, while others become more rebellious. You need to really understand your child to decide.

Melanie Spozio, Wright City, Oklahoma

I was whipped in my time, and a lot, and I survived. It made me stop and think before doing something dumb and taught me common sense. As a parent I use whippings as a last resort, because I believe in communication beyond the talk of why they are in trouble. Don’t talk at your kids; talk with your kids.

Mia Andrews, San Francisco

I’m the daughter of a nondenominational pastor; I am his eighth child of 12. Your question created an immediate and passionate emotional response from me; over the past several years, I’ve learned how utterly dysfunctional my household was. There was more than spanking — the perpetual fear of the belt was terrifying, and I am still feeling the echoes of that experience in my everyday life. I don’t have children, but I have three dogs, and I’ve realized how instinctive aggressive methods of discipline have apparently become to me, and it has taken work to soften my approach and use more patient methods of training.

The thing is, if anyone yells at me or threatens to hit me, I become frozen and terrified. I have come to realize that these responses have stemmed from being subjected to physical discipline as a child. Let me be clear: I don’t believe that there are never circumstances under which a child needs a swift smack on the bottom. However, spanking is violence, and do we really want to be violent toward our loved ones, toward those who we have a responsibility to care for and protect? I think generally, we shouldn’t spank our children; not as a rule, but as a standard. I think my issue was that spanking was the default, and not conversations; this is what caused trauma and dysfunction.

Jim Hagar

Why are children different than anyone else, such that physical punishment is supposedly OK? It’s completely inappropriate to hit my wife, husband, colleague or friend; why not small children?

How This Midwestern City Is Leading America in Retail Tech

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Last year, the top three executives at workforce management startup Branch Messenger decamped from Pasadena, California–based Idealab, the United States’ oldest surviving technology incubator, midway through their stint there. Their destination: Minneapolis.

Of 150-plus Idealab startups birthed over two-plus decades, 45 have achieved successful exits. In Pasadena, Branch’s founders had seasoned mentors who built careers guiding founders from early stage to initial public offering or acquisition. And the West Coast’s top venture funds were either across town or a short flight up the coast, in Silicon Valley.

Why trade that cushy, sunny perch for a frosty flyover city?

A legacy retailer, of all things, prompted the move. Branch was part of the inaugural cohort at Techstars Retail, a tech accelerator led by Minnesota-bred venture capitalist Ryan Broshar in partnership with Target, America’s second-largest discount retailer. But Techstars is only one in a bouquet of startup accelerators, competitions and platforms that are drawing young retail innovation firms to the Twin Cities.

We accomplished more in three months [after moving to Techstars] than in the year and a half prior.

Atif Siddiqi, founder of Branch Messenger

For years, the third-tier Midwestern metro has been dominated by health care giants like UnitedHealth Group and Medtronic, sprawling conglomerates (3M, Cargill, General Mills) and a polite, low-key culture that values incremental results over grand pronouncements. In the meantime, Target and Best Buy, the region’s big-box giants, have struggled. Now, Inspectorio, a digital quality inspection firm launched in Hong Kong, has joined Branch in moving its base to Minneapolis. Belgium-based SpotCrowd — which uses technology to help catch shoplifters in real time — and India-based StoryXpress — a cloud-based video creation service — have announced they will relocate to Minnesota in the coming months. Last year, Amazon, perennial nemesis of brick-and-mortar retailers like Target and Best Buy, quietly opened a 100,000-square-foot software development office in the same building where Branch Messenger first shifted in Minneapolis. And a slew of local retail tech startups offering services from meal deliveries and e-commerce to consumer relationship management are thriving.

 

“We accomplished more in three months [after moving to Techstars] than in the year and a half prior,” says Branch Messenger founder Atif Siddiqi.

When it comes to attracting startups, the Twin Cities have an edge over peers in some ways. The metro is home to 17 Fortune 500 companies. Retired executives from these firms are well represented in the area’s angel investing community, while those currently working hunt for promising acquisition targets. That’s an advantage over ostensibly startup-friendly metros like Denver and Boulder, where more early-stage companies compete for attention from fewer incumbents.

“We have a number of big companies that got their start here,” says Shawntera Hardy, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). “They have a legacy of entrepreneurship and strategic reinvestment in the ecosystem.”

But the emergence of this new wave of retail tech startups — both local and those that have relocated — appears intricately linked to the multiple platforms the Twin Cities have come to offer them in recent years.

RetailXelerator, a “scale-up accelerator,” connects funded product startups with retailers, utilities and other prospective clients. Its portfolio boasts about 20 concepts from across the U.S. MN Cup, the country’s largest statewide startup competition, attracts dozens of early-stage concepts each year with $450,000 in available seed capital. Not all startups that emerge with any success from MN Cup are retail-oriented, but several — like Kipsu, a customer relationship management firm, and Upsie, a retail warranty provider — are. And like Branch Messenger, the three foreign firms that have relocated — Inspectorio, SpotCrowd and StoryXpress — are all beneficiaries of Techstars’ program, as are local startups like St. Paul–based meal delivery service Local Crate.

These firms are growing, and drawing the attention of investors. Branch Messenger has received $10 million in two back-to-back funding rounds, and its services are used by giants like CVS, Walgreens and McDonald’s. Inspectorio closed last year on a $3.7 million funding round led by Target itself. Kidizen, a St. Paul–based e-commerce platform for children’s products, recently closed on a $3 million Series A round led by Chicago-based Origin Ventures, which says on its blog that it heard of the firm while attending a Techstars event. Upsie founder and CEO Clarence Bethea says the firm is growing 25 percent month-on-month.

Not all retail startups here have relied on accelerators and contests. But the upsides of these platforms extend far beyond traditional hand-holding, say founders of firms that have participated. The Twin Cities Startup Week, for instance, offers up to $300 reimbursements for flights into the metro, apart from full access to the event’s seminars and breakouts, and networking opportunities. These platforms have in turn spawned a close-knit startup fraternity that looks out for its own, says Bethea.

Harsh challenges do lie ahead for the Twin Cities. Minneapolis–St. Paul’s lakes can’t compete with Colorado’s mountains or California’s mild climate. So, those promoting the metro’s potential play up the region’s quality of life — nationally renowned parks, manageable commutes, relatively low cost of living — while downplaying its notoriously cold winters.

But anemic local funding networks and a risk-averse corporate culture, endemic to the region, are a tougher challenge to surmount. The DEED contributes $30,000 to MN Cup annually, and offers a crucial loan program for startups owned by minorities, women and veterans, who face heightened skepticism from Minnesota’s largely white male investors and executives. A state program that gave a 25 percent tax break for investments in tech and product startups has helped bring in more than $400 million in private investment, says Hardy. But Minnesota’s Legislature declined to renew the program in 2018, and funding has already run out for this year.

A fear of startups among established firms doesn’t help. “Some retail startups are so disruptive that they’re a threat to job security [at incumbent companies],” says Kim Garretson, a Minneapolis-area retail innovation consultant.

This isn’t unique to Minnesota; retailers and consumer product firms have long held innovation at arm’s length. But Doug Berg, founder of Minnetonka-based e-commerce solutions provider MyAlerts, says Minnesota companies take the cake.

Still, the willingness of the local startup community to embrace out-of-town companies leaves Techstars’ Broshar optimistic. “Their achievements shine a positive light on the region’s retail tech ecosystem,” he says.

The Mass Shooter Name Game Misses the Point

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Caren Lissner is the longtime editor-in-chief of the Hudson Reporter newspaper group in Hoboken, New Jersey, and has written about domestic violence, mass shootings and the media for several national publications.

When a gunman killed 26 people in a Texas church, CNN’s Anderson Cooper purposely withheld the perpetrator’s name. “We don’t say the killer’s name,” he declared. His response was part of a chorus that rings out after every such tragedy, suggesting that withholding shooters’ names will help prevent copycats. Critics across the web repeated the no-name mantra. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times called Cooper’s stance “silly and self-important,” and the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based journalism think tank, posted reasons why it’s necessary to name shooters.

Why so many diverging opinions on releasing killers’ names? Would withholding the information really cut down on the notoriety the FBI says some shooters crave? To be clear, recent studies have indeed suggested that large-scale killings have a contagion effect — often leading to similar tragedies within two weeks — and law enforcement officials recommend that media be cautious in reporting these events. They’ve urged news outlets to avoid publishing killers’ manifestos, withhold their photographs and stop using characterizations like “lone wolf.” But most studies have not said — as opposed to what you might read — that journalists should completely avoid mentioning killers’ names. Repeating “don’t name the shooter” without context merely scapegoats news outlets for mass tragedies, diverts attention from more detailed discussions of how these incidents should be covered and, worst of all, distracts from conversations about the roots of the tragedies and how to curb them.

 Calls for “the media” to do anything are always an egregious oversimplification.

 The church massacre was one of four recent mass killings in which a man targeted his wife or ex-wife and took down several bystanders. The issue of mentioning shooters’ names is worth discussing — just in a more complex way, with nuanced solutions. Recent articles about the topic have focused on a 2015 Arizona State University study, “Contagion in Mass Killings and School Shootings.” The paper notes that past research showed that media reports of suicides appear to lead to copycats. Could this be applied to mass shootings? Researchers concluded that large-scale shootings (four or more deaths) appear to lead to similar events within 13 days. Since researchers didn’t see a similar correlation in incidents with lower victim counts, they believe the tragedies with widespread press coverage spurred copycats. 

 

But the study’s other conclusions about mass shootings are often left out of editorials. “While our analysis was initially inspired by the hypothesis that mass media attention given to sensational violent events may promote ideation in vulnerable individuals,” the researchers wrote, “what our analysis tests is whether temporal patterns in the data indicate evidence for contagion, by whatever means.” They added, “We find that state prevalence of firearm ownership is significantly associated with state incidence of mass killings with firearms, school shootings and mass shootings …” Researcher Sherry Towers tells OZY that repeating killers’ names is unnecessary, but she believes withholding them entirely could lead to conspiracy theories. Also, she would need a year or two of data sets to see if withholding names had any effect. “It goes beyond just the name,” she says, expressing dismay that media outlets covering October’s Las Vegas shooting gave explicit technical details. 

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Chaplain Tom Kiyuna (R) hugs Jose Zarman beside a memorial outside the First Baptist Church, which was the scene of a mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2017.

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So what about withholding names completely? Experts have suggested that shooters can be inspired by prior events or seek media coverage and notoriety. Some in law enforcement have tried to push back, like the Oregon sheriff who refused to name a 2015 shooter at Umpqua Community College. But the absence of a name can leave a dangerous vacuum: In the 2012 Newton, Connecticut, school shooting, for instance, an unofficial source incorrectly released the name of the shooter’s brother. The false name spread throughout the internet before law enforcement corrected it. Incorrect shooter names can go viral in minutes.

So should news outlets withhold names completely, mention them for a few hours or a day, or, as sociologist Zeynep Tufekci recommended in 2012, withhold them for several weeks? In 2015, a couple whose son was murdered in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater started the “No Notoriety” campaign, advocating to “limit the name and likeness of the individual in reporting after initial identification, except when the alleged assailant is still at large.” This raises the question of how long “initial identification” should last.

One thing is clear: It’s time for law enforcement and major news outlets to collaborate and set coverage guidelines, and they must distinguish between TV, print and social media, because standards and methods diverge. Calls for “the media” to do anything are always an egregious oversimplification. 

The Birth of a Palestinian Resistance Logo

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Companies have logos — and so should resistance movements. Or so Palestinian artist Vladimir Tamari and an anonymous friend decided one day in Beirut in 1969, two years after Israel occupied Palestine in the Arab-Israeli war. Tamari, who spent 47 years in Japan with his wife and children, penned a long post on his personal website in August 2016, describing in detail the birth of the logo for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — a black arrow and green dot pointing to a red map of Palestine, the place to which exiled Palestinians long to return. Tamari died in August this year, and the truth of the logo’s origins came close to being buried with him. 

Before Tamari’s post, it was commonly believed across the Arab world that author Ghassan Kanafani, then spokesperson for the PFLP, had designed the logo. Kassem Hawl, a renowned Iraqi filmmaker who made a film based on Kanafani’s short story “Return to Haifa,” recalls asking his friend decades ago about the design’s history. “He told me a short story that one day he saw a photograph on the wall in the city [maybe Gaza],” Hawl says over Skype. “It was a map of Palestine that some young person had drawn.” Kanafani described an arrow pointing toward the map, to which he added the “J” in Arabic (for Jabha, or front). Only then was the logo passed on to Vladimir Tamari, who finessed its color and final shape, according to Hawl. “This is the story as Ghassan Kanafani told it to me.”

The logo helps keep alive the spirit and hope of liberation, reminding us of the necessity of regaining our own homeland.

Vladimir Tamari, Palestinian artist

Kanafani was assassinated in 1972 — it is presumed by Israel — so the story can’t be verified with him. And when asked for confirmation of the logo’s origins, a PFLP spokesperson responded in Arabic, asking in a joking manner what it would cost to change it. But Tamari’s notes are so detailed, complete with early sketches, there’s every reason to believe he is the true creator of this lasting symbol of Palestinian resistance. 

 

“[We] were wondering why the resistance did not have an effective logo or symbol, so we started designing one,” Tamari wrote on his website. “We sketched and played with various ideas, using the Arabic letter ‘Fa’ for Falastin (Palestine), adding an arrow to the word Fath — Yasser Arafat’s group — and finally adding a map of Palestine.” He said they felt the resulting symbol was dramatic enough to send to the Palestine Liberation Organization for consideration. They did, but never heard back. “They already had a bureaucratic-looking logo designed by my friend, the Palestinian painter Ismail Shammout,” Tamari wrote. 

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Palestinian artist Vladimir Tamari made this preliminary sketch in 1969 for the logo of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

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In the meantime, he said, he was helping artist Mona Saudi produce her book In Time of War: Children Testify: Drawings by Palestinian Children, about children from the Baq’aa refugee camp in Jordan. “Mona had contacts with the PFLP, and had the idea to change the ‘Fa’ of the logo to the Arabic letter ‘Jeem’ for Jabha, i.e., front.” She then presented the idea to Kanafani. (OZY could not reach Saudi for comment.) As Tamari tells it, “Kanafani … was also a gifted amateur artist, and he immediately understood the impact of the symbol and had it adopted by the group, after changing the square format to a circle.” It has since been adopted in and outside of Palestine on posters, flags and wall graffiti, though the colors have been reduced to red and white. 

Despite his enduring contribution to the PFLP, Tamari in no way condoned the group’s targeting of innocent civilians in Palestine’s name. The U.S. Department of State officially listed the PFLP as a terrorist organization on Oct. 8, 1997, following a series of plane hijackings and suicide bombings. “In a spirit of disillusionment I left Beirut for good,” he wrote, “and emigrated to Japan, where I limited my activities for Palestine to designing posters, giving talks and the like, devoting myself to my art and inventions.” 

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Tamari’s final version.

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For its part, the PFLP is unequivocal about its condemnation of Israel, which the logo does well to convey. In Branding Terror: The Logotypes and Iconography of Insurgent Groups and Terrorist Organizations, Artur Beifuss and Franceso Trevini Bellini write, “The red color of the PFLP logo and flag hints at the group’s Marxist-inspired ideology. … Red also symbolizes bloodshed and war, and indicates the PFLP’s commitment to armed struggle in order to realize its aims.” Beifuss and Belllini suggest the design also acknowledges support from “non-Palestinian insurgent groups, such as the German left-wing guerrilla group Rote Armee Fraktion.”

Asked to comment on the logo, the Egyptian graffiti artist who works under the pseudonym Ganzeer (“bicycle chain”) and whose work first achieved widespread acclaim after the 2011 Egyptian revolution, says it’s adequate. “Vladimir’s logo is conceptually sound,” he tells OZY, “but … can be improved upon aesthetically to achieve the kind of geometric harmony that makes a good logo truly powerful.”

If not entirely muscular, at least its symbolism remains unwavering, according to Tamari. “The logo helps keep alive the spirit and hope of liberation, reminding us of the necessity of regaining our own homeland,” he wrote.

The Unlikely Baltic Spot That’ll Set Your Mouth on Fire

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The first bite of Japanese golden curry feels weak. It’s a wicked deception. With a few more bites, the sides of your tongue tingle. Then, your body heats up and you’re peeling off clothes. Your chest grows warm and your sinuses react to the intense spice. More heat sweats continue, as you push through to finish (but why did you order a large portion?), because a firestorm has erupted in your mouth. Taking deep breaths between bites helps, but it’s like an athletic test of endurance. 

This is a level-three dish at Stock Pot in Riga, Latvia. Imagine what a 10-plus would do to you.  

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The quick-serve restaurant is just down the street from Old St. Gertrude’s Church where a famous Sauer organ serenades concert-goers.

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The Baltics aren’t known for spicy food. You’d almost be called a fool for searching. But you’ll find some at this quick-serve restaurant, tucked inside St. Gertrude’s Church. Others have found it — perhaps from the intoxicating, aromatic spices wafting out the door, or perhaps by asking someone in the steady stream of people headed inside.

The menu — with dishes like fish laksa, Indian lentil soup, hummus, Thai red chicken curry and Cambodian Khmer mussel soup — changes daily. As do the spice levels: Every dish is rated from one to 10-plus based on the heat it brings. With a couple of communal tables inside and a weather-permitting outdoor area, the space is compact. All the better to watch the pleasure and pain of those who dare to eat there.

For the uninitiated, a warning is issued when a high-heat-level option is ordered.

Stockpot’s “chili heads” love the burn of the largely Asian-influenced menu, says owner and chef Richard Johnson. For the uninitiated, a warning is issued when a high-heat-level option is ordered. To accommodate everyone, Johnson tries to keep a balance on spice and heat while using cumin and fresh chilies — bird’s eye, scorpion, Naga ghost and, hottest of them all, the Carolina Reaper — in the home-style dishes. Except, of course, during the annual Stock Pot heroes challenge, wherein fearless souls try to eat an off-the-scale, extreme dish in 20 minutes.

 

When a customer concedes that help is needed to cool the flames, Johnson recommends full-fat yogurt or the famous Latvian devil’s drink, kefir; carbonated water with lime juice is also very effective. But if “the whole body is in shock due to a huge endorphin high, then just a calm talking-to, letting them know what their body is going through to bring them down,” works, he adds. 

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In the kitchen, spice and heat is balanced with cumin and fresh chilies.

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Johnson and his wife, Linda, opened Stock Pot in 2012 because they like spice and have a passion for good food “without the bells and lights.” Also, some of the world’s spiciest chilies are available in Latvia at affordable prices, so it’s possible for them to add lots of “fresh heat” to dishes that are friendly to most diners — carnivores, vegetarians, vegans, the gluten-free and allergy sufferers — and their wallets (dishes start around $2.30). Stock Pot is open only on weekdays, though, so plan accordingly.  

And after you’ve endured the heat, take a look in the bathroom mirror. You’ll likely find, as I did, that your face is so red you look like a Brit on an island holiday. It’s not a sunburn, but a deep flush worthy of a selfie to commemorate your unforgettable, fiery meal.

ESPN’s Newest College Football Host Changes the Game

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Quick: What comes to mind when you think of college football? Millions of fans might say College GameDay — ESPN’s pregame ritual that’s become synonymous with the sport itself. Hosts and commentators like Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Lee Corso populate the Saturday morning show, previewing the day’s biggest matchups and engaging in pointed debate, banter and storytelling. It’s a weekly warmup that’s been a fan favorite for 30 years, but there’s a new face in the familiar — and all-male — cast: Her name is Maria Taylor.

“I feel like I’m in the right place, right time, but also the right person,” says Taylor. “There’s a push to bring diversity to the forefront of sports.… I don’t know if it’s a new movement, but I’m riding the wave.”

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Maria Taylor, a former standout volleyball player at the University of Georgia, is in her sixth season as a host, analyst and reporter.

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Taylor was hired by ESPN in 2012; since 2014, she has worked for the SEC Network. This past May, the week she was turning 30, she got the call offering her the job reporting for GameDay and ABC’s Saturday Night Football (she replaced Sam Ponder, who left to host ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown). As the first African-American female reporter to lead ESPN’s premier college football programs, Taylor’s arrival may have seemed sudden, but she’s been in the trenches — and has the chops as a former athlete and seasoned journalist.

It’s not about young girls wanting to be analysts. It’s about girls realizing that they can do anything.

Jessica Mendoza, ESPN analyst and reporter

Taylor graduated in 2009 from the University of Georgia, where she studied broadcasting, played basketball and was a three-time All-SEC star in volleyball. With an offer to play professional volleyball in hand — a move that would’ve suspended her media career — she sought out her coach for advice. “I was going to play professionally in Puerto Rico,” Taylor explains. “But [UGA head coach] Andy Landers encouraged me — actually, he kind of scolded me — not to put my career goals on hold.”

 

She forged ahead and is now an ESPN rising star, but her network is not without turmoil. Still considered the mother ship for jobs in sports media, ESPN has been accused of political partisanship, is hemorrhaging cable subscribers (13 million lost since 2011) and recently announced its third round of layoffs in two year. One must question Taylor’s long-term future at the network.

Taylor spent the first 10 years of her life in Chicago before moving just outside Atlanta. The 6-foot-2 middle child in a family of giants — her father and her brother are both 6-foot-7 and her younger sister is 6 feet — is quick to claim the title of “most athletic” among her relatives. “It was definitely me,” she says, and, for emphasis: “I was the only one who played all four years of college sports.” 

Thanks no doubt to her FBI operative father, Taylor has always been comfortable in front of the camera. “I just figured that my room was bugged,” she tells OZY. “Boys would try to sneak over in high school, and it was like, ‘Uh, I don’t think that’s a good idea.’” Her affinity for the camera was an asset from the start, but her first job after graduation — covering UGA athletics — posed an unexpected challenge. Tasked with interviewing friends and former teammates, Taylor found it “depressing,” she reflects. “I had to redefine myself. The toughest thing was realizing that the story wasn’t about me anymore.”

In 2013, she earned an MBA and then joined SEC, where her roles ranged from hosting SEC Nation to serving as a football reporter alongside Brent Musburger to working volleyball and women’s basketball events. And then she got “the call” and everything changed.

But change has been taking place in sports journalism for the better part of a decade. From leading ESPN personalities like Linda Cohn and Jackie MacMullan to current industry favorites Jemele Hill, Katie Nolan and Rachel Nichols, women occupy a growing segment of the field. Still, it’s rare to see an African-American woman prominently featured on a major network. And in today’s highly politicized climate, criticizing ESPN for being partisan has become easy sport for pundits and trolls. Exhibit A: Fox Sports Radio’s Clay Travis, who’s morphed into a outsize media personality largely by poking at ESPN’s perceived liberal bias. “Linda Cohn was suspended for saying that ESPN has gotten too political,” Travis said on HLN’s Across America, referencing Jemele Hill’s September 2017 tweets about Donald Trump. “If you suspend [Cohn], it seems crazy that you wouldn’t suspend somebody for saying that the president of the United States is a white supremacist.”

Taylor acknowledges that “politics has become an intersection that everyone has to cross” — and issues like the NFL protests force reporters to engage politically — “but I know that my role is not to give opinion.” Still, when University of Missouri football players joined race-related protests in 2015, Taylor was one of the first reporters on the scene. “My focus wasn’t just showing what they were doing, but understanding why,” she explains. “I’m going to attack stories a little differently when I’m forced to talk about politics.”

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Taylor and Texas Christian coach Gary Patterson having some fun on the College GameDay set at TCU on Oct. 7, 2017. 

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And when the camera’s not rolling? Having benefited from relationships with prominent mentors like ABC’s Robin Roberts and ESPN’s Joe Tessitore, Taylor knew she wanted to help other women with similar goals. In 2015, she co-founded Winning Edge Leadership Academy, a nonprofit aimed at providing educational support and mentorship opportunities for minorities and women seeking careers in sports. “There are so many kids that want to break into sports but don’t know how,” she says. “We’re trying to connect the dots.” As more young women see faces like Taylor’s on their TV screens, the current shift in the industry is bound to continue. And to listen to ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza, the first female analyst in baseball history, that shift signals a much larger movement: “It’s not about young girls wanting to be analysts. It’s about girls realizing that they can do anything.”

So what’s next for Taylor? She definitely wants to branch out beyond sports; for a long time, hosting a morning show — like Roberts — was the ultimate goal. Lately, though, she’s leaning toward original content creation. “The lane I’m in is great,” says Taylor, but she’d love to produce her own projects down the line.

There’s your preview, GameDay fans. Stay tuned for the action.

Special Briefing: Bitcoin’s Remarkable Ride

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This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.

WHAT TO KNOW

What happened? Bitcoin is having a good year — and a great week. The price of the world’s leading cryptocurrency climbed above the $10,000 mark yesterday, then topped $11,000 just 12 hours later, capping a meteoric rise that’s seen its value soar more than 1,000 percent this year. Hovering just around the magical $10,000 mark now, the total circulating value of the volatile currency is still above $160 billion — equivalent to the valuation of major corporations like General Electric. But investors and spectators alike are wondering if it’s sustainable.

Why does it matter? Even as experts warn of a bubble akin to the dot-com crash of the early 2000s, the boost in price may lure more investors — and regulators. It could also spur more investment in the many other cryptocurrencies available. Enthusiasts hope these digital currencies will become the new gold standard for safe investment.

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Spanish firm Bitchain has installed bitcoin ATMs in a Barcelona shopping center.

Source JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty

HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT

Why now? The decision last month by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to allow trading on bitcoin futures in December might have had something to do with it. Now more hedge funds are adding it to their portfolio, and the momentum may have made the currency look more legitimate to investors.

Who’s investing in it? The cryptocurrency craze, and bitcoin’s staggering jumps in value, have drawn millions of retail investors, mostly ordinary people. Its inherent volatility is a key reason why many major institutional investors are still staying clear, although they also cite significant regulatory hurdles. Meanwhile, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has been outspoken in his skepticism of bitcoin. “It’s worse than tulip bulbs,” he says. ”It won’t end well.”

 

It takes loads of power. Bitcoin is “mined” — think of something akin to a digital printing press — in an extremely power-intensive process involving a computer network that uses more electricity annually than all of Ireland. Need more perspective? Consider this: A single bitcoin transaction uses enough power to boil 36,000 kettles of water.

But really, it’s all about the tech. Arguably even more important than bitcoin is the technology upon which it is built. Blockchain, a virtual ledger where digital transactions take place with unprecedented safety and transparency, has far-reaching and potentially revolutionary implications for sectors as varied as government and underground crime. It could do for commerce and exchange what the internet did for communication. Bitcoin may well be a passing fad, but blockchain is probably here to stay. 

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Bitcoin mining equipment at the SberBit facility in Mosocw.

Source Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS

WHAT TO READ

Invest in Bitcoin, Even If It’s a Bubble, by Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg View

Somewhere beyond a not-so-remote horizon, today’s hype may result in cheaper and more convenient identification technology with different levels of privacy, cheaper transactions, better ways of making contracts.”

WTF Is Blockchain?! (A Comic Book Explainer) by James Watkins and Eva Rodriguez on OZY

Blockchain is coming. Like the internet before it, this new shared digital infrastructure is set to transform the economy and revolutionize how you consume media, how you communicate online and even how you vote.”

WHAT TO WATCH

Goldman Sachs’ Jeff Currie says bitcoin is a commodity.

It’s not that much different than gold. I don’t see why there’s all this hostility towards it.” 

Watch on Bloomberg:

Banking on Bitcoin, a new documentary that examines the roots of bitcoin.

Bitcoin is, like, the largest socioeconomic experiment the world has ever seen.”

Watch the trailer on YouTube:

WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER

While bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency and currently has the greatest market cap, look out for ether, the main currency based on the Ethereum blockchain network. It is currently trading at around $450, after recently hitting an all-time high, and in the past year it has grown 5,000 percent — even faster than bitcoin. Because Ethereum has a better technical setup for real-world applications than the bitcoin network — with companies like Intel, Cisco, Microsoft and more part of an alliance to build products on Ethereum — many analysts suggest that it is a stronger long-term bet. It could become the Facebook to bitcoin’s Myspace — or the Apple to bitcoin’s Nokia.

Why I’m Struggling to Believe in a New Zimbabwe

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This story from Zimbabwe-based writer Fungai Machirori was first published in late November 2017.

I watched last week as many parts of Zimbabwe — and Zimbabwe’s diaspora — erupted into uncontained joy at the announcement of Robert Mugabe’s resignation. And I felt bewilderment as to why I didn’t feel the same emotions. After the initial excitement of congratulatory Whatsapp messages and breathless calls with friends and family, I began to feel a deep exhaustion set into my bones — a familiar exhaustion I have struggled with about my country for many years.

Eventually, I broke down, my copious tears pasting my cotton shirt to my chest, offsetting a dull throbbing headache. I was scared, but even more than that, I was racked with guilt.

Why wasn’t I excited anymore? Why couldn’t I understand why everyone else was so excited? Was anyone else feeling this way? The more I spoke to people and scoured social media, the more alone I felt. 

“We are free!” “It’s a new Zimbabwe!”

I wanted to be ecstatic and for it to be that simple. But instead, what remained most palpable to me was apprehension about having hopes and dreams that might again be trampled by a callous system. 

Mugabes

Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace

Source Fungai Machirori/OZY

I wasn’t in Zimbabwe on the day — having stayed in the United States for an extended visit after a speaking engagement. I’d always believed Mugabe would die in office, and that we wouldn’t be told about it by the officials for at least a month. In my imagination, people would only express their true feelings in the privacy of their homes, fearing reprisal for any public display of emotions other than grief. I also never imagined it would be the military that ordinary citizens would celebrate with. 

Perhaps it is this ability to discard, erase and forget — and so easily — that makes it hard for me to celebrate.

When I’d left home, just over two weeks before, nothing had hinted at such impending, momentous change. As my taxi driver drove me to the airport, down the streets filled with jacarandas wilting out of season, he spoke as usual about how hard it was to survive and how the only solution that remained in our collective power to change things was to register to vote. 

And then vote Mugabe out. 

“Who will you be voting for?” I asked.

“Anyone,” he replied. “Anyone is better than this.”

 

A week earlier — and with plenty of reservations about the transparency of our electoral system — I had registered to vote for next year’s elections, as per the requirements of our new biometric system. But what was meant to be a simple process that should’ve taken 10 minutes turned into a nightmarish metaphor. The biometric system had rezoned me to another constituency, even though I still live at the same address I did four years ago, when the last elections took place. Much to his irritation, I challenged the registrar, insisting that if he looked up my street address by my cross road, he would see that I lived in Harare West constituency, and not Mount Pleasant. I even showed him my voter registration slip from the previous elections to prove the point.

After a protracted process of resistance and disagreement, he looked up my address again. And without saying anything else, he printed a new registration slip that stated my constituency as Harare West and took the old slip — the one with the conspicuous error — crumpling it and throwing the paper in the trash basket.

Perhaps it is this ability to discard, erase and forget — and so easily — that makes it hard for me to celebrate. 

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Supporters hold a portrait of Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa during his inauguration on November 24, 2017.

Source ZINYANGE AUNTONY/AFP/Getty

As I watched ZANU-PF’s provincial coordinating committees and politburo almost unanimously call for Mugabe’s resignation this past week, I couldn’t help but feel the hypocrisy that these had been the very same people who had passionately advocated for Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recall from their party just a week before he became president; the same people who had benefited so richly from Mugabe’s leadership over the years. Somehow, it reminded me also of 2008, when heightened hopes of change with what seemed an electoral win for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party and Morgan Tsvangirai so quickly turned into despair, and then a seamless and collective adapting to a new (ab)normal of obscene suffering.

Perhaps this is why I wept: I needed to resist forgetting. 

A few years ago, I read an article by a Zimbabwean student in the United States whose words have stayed with me. It was titled “A breakup letter to Zimbabwe: I really just don’t care anymore.” In it, Dominic Mhiripiri wrote:

“To be away from home — say, to be away at your Ivy League university, is to realize, slowly, that you’re becoming the person that, in the days of youthful idealism, you feared you might become: the indifferent and resentful citizen who cares and stresses about the choice between hazelnut and java chip frappuccino, at Starbucks, more than the choice between mute acquiescence or an aggrieved uprising on the grim streets of Harare.” 

I was still a fervent, young optimist back then, and those words rattled me, offended me even. Having returned to Zimbabwe after my master’s studies in the United Kingdom — and amid popular disapproval of my choice — I had believed so singularly in making positive change and returning to impart the skills I had had the privilege to gain abroad. 

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Citizens celebrate Zimbabwe’s independence day in 2014.

Source Fungai Machirori/OZY

But four years later, I hear Mhiripiri’s words in my own musings, in emails to friends that feature lines such as the following, written just last month:

“Zimbabwe has ground me to dust. All the things I hoped and dreamed about, Zimbabwe has taught me to put away and replace with pain and mere survival.”

As I searched myself for words to share on social media on November 21, I found solace in those of poet Julius Chingono, who died some years ago. 

“The African Sun
shines bright
even upon dictators
warms even
absolute rulers.
Sets even upon despots.”
(From the anthology Not Another Day

Chingono was an eccentric and sharp-tongued man for his age — he was 65 when he died. I often wondered what his literary career may have been if Zimbabwe hadn’t imploded as spectacularly as it did in the early 2000s. I wept also for him.

I know that to hope is our only chance of survival. As human beings. As Zimbabweans. But I remain wary of forgetting and weary from all these years of needless strife.

And still, I cannot access any joy.

LGBT Asylum Seekers Face a Tough New Battle in Ukraine

An activist's silhouette is seen through a rainbow flag during a Gay Parade in Kiev

Soldado Kowalisidi had fought for LGBT rights in Siberia since 2012, and had come out as a transgender man in 2015, when last year he finally sought shelter in Ukraine, convinced he couldn’t continue his work in Russia anymore. Russia had just passed legislation widely known as the “Yarovaya package” — twin anti-terrorism laws that dramatically expanded the government’s surveillance powers. As one of Siberia’s first openly transgender activists, Kowalisidi had long been a target for Russia’s security service, and for homophobic gangs.

Ukraine, he hoped, would offer him protection.

He was wrong. The 25-year-old was last month denied refugee status by Ukraine’s migration service, his case the latest in a string that human rights activists believe could be the result of discrimination. Just the week before Kowalisidi’s verdict, a Ukrainian court had sided with the migration service in its decision to deny another LGBT activist, Belarusian Edward Tarletsky, refugee status the previous year.

If you haven’t had gender reassignment surgery, you are a woman.

Ukrainian migration official to Kowalisidi, a male transgender asylum seeker

Human rights activists say the treatment of LGBT asylum seekers is symptomatic of Ukraine’s attitude toward the wider LGBT community. Homophobia remains prevalent across the country at a time when Ukraine is preparing to take a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council for the 2018–2020 term, following its election in October. That means Ukraine will soon hold others accountable for their human rights record while it still faces questions about its treatment of sexual minorities.

One caseworker handling Kowalisidi’s application had no idea what a transgender person was. A second was more blunt. “If you haven’t had gender reassignment surgery, you are a woman,” Kowalisidi recalls the officer telling him. The interviews, he says, made him feel as though he were at fault for being transgender.

 

For sure, Ukraine’s migration service isn’t welcoming in any case for asylum seekers, irrespective of why they’re seeking shelter in a foreign land — only 71 applicants out of 656 received protection in 2016. But human rights advocates say minorities such as the LGBT community face further discrimination. (A migration service spokesperson said they had no knowledge about discrimination within the body.)

Oleksandra Lukianenko, a lawyer at Right to Protection, a refugee-aid nongovernmental organization, says officers at the migration service are not trained enough to work with this vulnerable category of people, and don’t understand their fear of returning to their home countries. This, she says, leads to the rejection of their claims. Her nonprofit is currently working with four LGBT asylum seekers, none of whom have so far been granted protection.

People hold placards reading 'Members of parliament do not be indifferent', 'We all equal, we all worthy' during a rally of Ukrainian activists and representatives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community

People hold placards reading “Members of Parliament, do not be indifferent” and “We all equal, we all worthy” during a rally of Ukrainian activists and representatives of the LGBT community.

Source SERGEI SUPINSKY/Getty

For the moment, the total number of LGBT asylum seekers applying for shelter in Ukraine is small, says Anna Kuznyetsova, a resettlement associate at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Ukraine. Though exact numbers are unclear, Kuznyetsova says these cases are new for the migration service, only really emerging in the past two years.

That may appear to partly explain the ignorance Kowalisidi experienced. But Ukraine faces a deeper challenge, suggests Irene Fedorovych, project coordinator at the nonprofit Social Action Centre in Ukraine. The country, she says, receives LGBT refugees but also produces them. Ukraine, she adds, has never been “very human rights orientated,” an approach reflected in how authorities handle LGBT cases. “When you start talking to them, they genuinely do not understand that their attitude is part of what we call discrimination,” she says.

It was a very different Ukraine that activists had envisioned following the Maidan revolution, which ousted Russian-allied President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. The country, they had hoped, would adopt a more progressive attitude toward the LGBT community as part of its new pro-European rhetoric. But there has been little improvement either socially or legally on protections for the community, says Olena Shevchenko, executive director of LGBT nonprofit Insight. Just two weeks ago, a gay couple from Odessa fled Ukraine, fearing for their lives after they were targeted in a homophobic attack. “We have a pride parade now,” Shevchenko says. “But we would like to feel safe at other times of the year too.”

Far-right activists burn the rainbow LGBT flag outside the Small Opera House in Kiev on June 13, 2017 during the official opening of Kiev Pride 2017.

Far-right activists burn the rainbow LGBT flag outside the Small Opera House in Kiev on June 13, 2017, during the official opening of Kiev Pride 2017.

Source SERGEI SUPINSKY/Getty

Officially, the UNHCR says it has not received any complaints of discrimination against LGBT applicants while seeking asylum in Ukraine. It has, however, resettled four LGBT asylum seekers who were turned away by Ukraine in third countries, since 2015. It will also this year partner with the European Asylum Support Office to train migration-service caseworkers how to assess with sensitivity claims related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

And while Ukraine is expected to use its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council to highlight Moscow’s abuses in Crimea and parts of Donbas that are under Russian occupation, next year’s membership could cut both ways. “With a seat on the council, the spotlight on the human rights situation of the members is that much brighter,” says Human Rights Council spokesman Rolando Gomez. “We would expect with a seat on the council that they would [take their] human rights obligations that much more seriously.”

For those expectations to turn into reality may take time, though. And for Kowalisidi, who is in the process of appealing the decision of the migration service, it may be too late by then.