a-parrot-ly mummified birds made it to Chile

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Chile’s Atacama Desert is the driest non-polar desert in the world and therefore home to few animals. And yet, scientists have recently discovered mummified parrots there. The discovery reveals potential trade that brought parrots and macaws to oasis communities, which researchers find quite impressive given it means the birds traveled across the 13,000-foot Andes through difficult terrain and cold weather. Most of the remains found date between 1000 and 1460 CE, a time of warfare, commerce, and frequent movement. Here are some other stories that we unraveled for you.


Democrat works to reverse decades long ban on yoga in Alabama schools
Thu Apr 1

Did you know that yoga has been banned in Alabama schools since 1993? For the past three decades, conservative groups have feared the practice promotes Hinduism to its students. Now, Alabama Democrat Jeremy Gray — a church-going Christian who has been practicing yoga for 10 years — has introduced a bill (which recently failed a tie vote and will be revisited) to lift the ban. The legislation continues to draw criticism despite attempting to alleviate the fears by:
  • Ensuring yoga is an elective activity with alternatives made available
  • Limiting yoga instruction to stretches and exercises with exclusively English descriptive names
  • Prohibiting chanting, mantras, mudras, or namaste greetings
And this belief that yoga comes with a hidden religion agenda isn’t a unique notion in Alabama. As yoga has garnered interest in nearly a thousand schools across the country, it’s also garnered skepticism.
  • In 2016, an elementary school in Georgia faced criticism for introducing a yoga program that opponents said promoted a “non-Christian belief system.”
  • A few years prior, a San Diego school district was sued by a group of parents that complained that the district’s yoga program encouraged Eastern religion. While this lawsuit failed, parents tried again two years ago complaining it was a poor use of funds in already strapped schools.
All that said, yoga has been proven to benefit children. Studies have shown how the practice can help students enhance skills such as memory, attention control, and cognitive flexibility. Yoga can also help kids separate themselves from harmful thoughts/emotions, reduce anxiety, and even have a positive effect on their academic performance. Whether or not Alabama students can start reaping these benefits will depend on the second vote’s outcome.

Some additional resources... 
→ For more on the Alabama ban and recent bill being stalled, turn to the Associated Press or The Hill

 To read Jeremy Gray’s proposed bill, click here.
 For more on why schools have been banning yoga, turn to the Atlantic.


Violence erupts in Northern Ireland over costly new trade rules
Mon Apr 5

The aftermath of Brexit has led to protests in Northern Ireland over a trade deal implemented earlier this year. As a refresher…
  • The Republic of Ireland is an independent country still in the EU while Northern Ireland and Great Britain are part of the UK, which exited the EU ("Brexit").
  • Once the UK left the EU during Brexit, Great Britain’s goods (like meat and eggs) suddenly required border inspections before entering the EU but Northern Ireland’s same goods did not (since they still follow EU rules).
  • So the question became: How do goods from Great Britain get checked before entering the EU via Northern Ireland? A hard border on the Irish island itself would violate the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which mandated open borders on the island.
  • Brexit’s answer was the Northern Ireland Protocol, which instead installed a border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the Irish Sea.
Okay, so what’s the issue with this protocol? Rioters have been starting fires and pelting police with bricks and gasoline bombs for a week over the protocol because it:
  • Increased pallet costs. A single pallet of goods now costs up to an additional £350 to handle the extra administration work (for reference, it typically costs around £100 to ship).
  • Added time. Each of those pallets have to clear customs, which is now taking an added four hours per trailer on top of the extra two hours it takes to get through the new border control posts.
  • Increased cancellations. Since January, an estimated 48% of exports to Northern Ireland have either been delayed or cancelled due to these new requirements.
  • Effectively separated them from the UK. Northern Ireland unionists fought to stay in the UK prior to the Good Friday Agreement and this border undermines that membership.
While police have appealed for calm earlier this week, the Democratic Unionist Party — a conservative, pro-British rule, political party in Northern Ireland — has called for the Protocol to be scrapped all together.

Some additional resources... 
→ For more on the unrest this week, turn to the Washington Post or ABC News.

 For more on the new trade deal, turn to this BBC article for an explainer and this BBC article for more on the costs.
→ To learn more on the origins of the Good Friday Agreement and its significance, head to BBC


NYPD is taking kids phones and not giving them back
Sun Apr 4

Having your items confiscated during an arrest may be normal — but not getting a cell phone back shouldn't be. Yet last year, of the 55,000 seized phones by the NYPD, nearly half weren’t returned. This has led to a digital disabling of minors who have lost permanent access to a number of resources, making them more likely to end up in jail.

Why is the NYPD taking these kids’ phones? Legally, police can confiscate property considered evidence, contraband, or simply for safekeeping during the arrest. In the latter case, the items are returned quickly, but the NYPD is instead making dubious claims that these phones are evidence — even though the patrol guide online instructs the default classification for phones to be 'safekeeping.' While the pandemic makes being phoneless especially difficult, the confiscation of phones from youth overall leaves them with problems in:
  • Education. One youth with a learning disability relied on his phone to navigate online classes and call friends for homework help, but has been unable to do so for over a year now
  • Communicating with the justice system. Many of these minors are struggling to complete programming, therapy, probation monitoring, or communicate curfew checks without their phones, increasing the likelihood they get a jail sentence.
  • Emotional burden. Youth rely on phones to connect to friends and family, but many also consume and create art or music on them therapeutically.
  • Financial hurdles. Some families can’t afford a replacement phone and are seeking alternative ways for their children to get access to all the above.
So really, why is the NYPD taking these phones? Some lawyers worry the real reason is the expansion of the NYPD’s gang and DNA database. Police in New York have been known for cracking into cell phones for surveillance, despite a 2018 Supreme Court ruling banning the search of cell phones without warrants. Recent lawsuits and legislation from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office are seeking ways to get these phones back in their rightful owners' hands.

Some additional resources...

 For more on this issue and efforts to get the phones back, turn to the City or Chalkbeat New York.

For more on previous rulings prohibiting property confiscation, turn to CNN or the Appeal.
→ For more on the legality of it, turn to Legal Match.


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