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EPA to Nix Clean Power Plan, Declaring End to ‘War on Coal’

Environmental groups are outraged over the Trump administration wanting to overturn an Obama-era plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt announced Monday he will scrap the Clean Power Plan, declaring “the war on coal is over.”

Climate change skeptic

Pruitt made his announcement at a coal miners’ supply store in Kentucky — a southern state whose coal industry has suffered from big job loses, in part because of a declining demand for coal and restrictions on coal burning plants.

Pruitt, like President Donald Trump, is a climate change skeptic. He sued the EPA numerous times when he was Oklahoma attorney general.

He believes the Obama White House overstepped its authority by setting carbon dioxide emission standards that Pruitt says are hard for coal and other industries to meet.

No federal agency, Pruitt said, “should ever use its authority to declare war on any sector of our economy.”

Environmental groups furious.

“With this news, Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt will go down in infamy for launching one of the most egregious attacks ever on public health,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said.

“The damage caused by Trump’s willful ignorance will now have myriads of human faces, because he’s proposing to throw out a plan that would prevent thousands of premature deaths and tens of thousands of childhood asthma attacks every year.”

The Obama Clean Power Plan has yet to take effect. The Supreme Court put it on hold last year until it can rule on whether the plan is legal.

Meanwhile, Pruitt’s decision to throw it out will certainly face a number of legal challenges from environmental groups and state attorneys general.

 

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Economy & business
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ILO: Global Unemployment Rises to More than 200 Million

Global unemployment this year stands at more than 201 million, an increase of 3.4 million compared to 2016, says the International Labor Organization.

The ILO says the private sector, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, plays a crucial role in creating decent jobs around the world.

The ILO study (World Employment and Social Outlook 2017: Sustainable Enterprises and Jobs) reports private businesses account for nearly 3 billion workers, or 87 percent of total global employment. It says a strong public sector is the foundation for growth, job creation and poverty reduction.  

Deborah Greenfield, the ILO deputy director general for policy, says investing in workers is a key to sustainability. She also says providing formal training for permanent employees results in higher wages, higher productivity and lower unit labor costs. Greenfield says temporary workers are at a disadvantage.

“But, intensified use of temporary employment is associated with lower wages and lower productivity without achieving any gains in unit labor costs,” Greenfield said. “The report also finds that on-the-job training is an important driver of innovation. Since temporary workers are rarely offered training, this might also affect innovation in firms in a negative way.”  

The ILO report says in some cases, innovation has led to the hiring of more temporary workers, mainly women. It notes, however, that while this might be beneficial in the short term, in the long term, it depresses wages and leads to lower productivity because of the instability of temporary work and lack of benefits.

The report, however, finds innovation increases competitiveness and job creation for enterprises. It says innovative firms tend to be more productive, employ more educated workers, offer more training and hire more female workers.

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Silicon Valley & Technology
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Fake News Still Here, Despite Efforts by Google, Facebook

Nearly a year after Facebook and Google launched offensives against fake news, they’re still inadvertently promoting it — often at the worst possible times.

 

Online services designed to engross users aren’t so easily retooled to promote greater accuracy, it turns out. Especially with online trolls, pranksters and more malicious types scheming to evade new controls as they’re rolled out.

Fear and falsity in Las Vegas

In the immediate aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, Facebook’s “Crisis Response” page for the attack featured a false article misidentifying the gunman and claiming he was a “far left loon.” Google promoted a similarly erroneous item from the anonymous prankster site 4chan in its “Top Stories” results.

A day after the attack, a YouTube search on “Las Vegas shooting” yielded a conspiracy-theory video that claimed multiple shooters were involved in the attack as the fifth result. YouTube is owned by Google.

None of these stories were true. Police identified the sole shooter as Stephen Paddock, a Nevada man whose motive remains a mystery. The Oct. 1 attack on a music festival left 58 dead and hundreds wounded.

The companies quickly purged offending links and tweaked their algorithms to favor more authoritative sources. But their work is clearly incomplete — a different Las Vegas conspiracy video was the eighth result displayed by YouTube in a search Monday.

Engagement first

Why do these highly automated services keep failing to separate truth from fiction? One big factor: most online services systems tend to emphasis posts that engage an audience — exactly what a lot of fake news is specifically designed to do.

Facebook and Google get caught off guard “because their algorithms just look for signs of popularity and recency at first,” without first checking to ensure relevance, says David Carroll, a professor of media design at the Parsons School of Design in New York.

That problem is much bigger in the wake of disaster, when facts are still unclear and demand for information runs high.

Malicious actors have learned to take advantage of this, says Mandy Jenkins, head of news at social media and news research agency Storyful. “They know how the sites work, they know how algorithms work, they know how the media works,” she says.

Participants on 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” channel regularly chat about “how to deploy fake news strategies” around major stories, says Dan Leibson, vice president of search at the digital marketing consultancy Local SEO Guide.

One such chat just hours after the Las Vegas urged readers to “push the fact this terrorist was a commie” on social media. “There were people discussing how to create engagement all night,” Leibson says.

Eye of the beholder

Thanks to political polarization, the very notion of what constitutes a “credible” source of news is now a point of contention.

Mainstream journalists routinely make judgments about the credibility of various publications based on their history of accuracy. That’s a much more complicated issue for mass-market services like Facebook and Google, given the popularity of many inaccurate sources among political partisans.

The pro-Trump Gateway Pundit site, for example, published the false Las Vegas story promoted by Facebook. But it has also been invited to White House press briefings and counts more than 620,000 fans on its Facebook page.

 

Facebook said last week it is “working to fix the issue” that led it to promote false reports about the Las Vegas shooting, although it didn’t say what it had in mind.

 

The company has already taken a number of steps since December; it now features fact-checks by outside organizations, puts warning labels on disputed stories and has de-emphasized false stories in people’s news feeds.

 

Getting algorithms right

Breaking news is also inherently challenging for automated filter systems. Google says the 4chan post that misidentified the Las Vegas shooter should not have appeared in its “Top Stories” feature, and was replaced by its algorithm after a few hours.

Outside experts say Google was flummoxed by two different issues. First, its “Top Stories” is designed to return results from the broader web alongside items from news outlets. Second, signals that help Google’s system evaluate the credibility of a web page — for instance, links from known authoritative sources — aren’t available in breaking news situations, says independent search optimization consultant Matthew Brown.

“If you have enough citations or references to something, algorithmically that’s going to look very important to Google,” Brown said. “The problem is an easy one to define but a tough one to resolve.”

More people, fewer robots

Federal law currently exempts Facebook, Google and similar companies from liability for material published by their users. But circumstances are forcing the tech companies to accept more responsibility for the information they spread.

Facebook said last week that it would hire an extra 1,000 people to help vet ads after it found a Russian agency bought ads meant to influence last year’s election. It’s also subjecting potentially sensitive ads, including political messages, to “human review.”

In July, Google revamped guidelines for human workers who help rate search results in order to limit misleading and offensive material. Earlier this year, Google also allowed users to flag so-called “featured snippets” and “autocomplete” suggestions if they found the content harmful.

The Google-sponsored Trust Project at Santa Clara University is also working to create tags that could serve as markers of credibility for individual authors. These would include items such as their location and journalism awards, information that could be fed into future algorithms, according to project director Sally Lehrman.

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Silicon Valley & Technology
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Fake News Is Still Here, Despite Efforts by Google, Facebook

Nearly a year after Facebook and Google launched offensives against fake news, they’re still inadvertently promoting it — often at the worst possible times.

 

Online services designed to engross users aren’t so easily retooled to promote greater accuracy, it turns out. Especially with online trolls, pranksters and more malicious types scheming to evade new controls as they’re rolled out.

Fear and falsity in Las Vegas

In the immediate aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, Facebook’s “Crisis Response” page for the attack featured a false article misidentifying the gunman and claiming he was a “far left loon.” Google promoted a similarly erroneous item from the anonymous prankster site 4chan in its “Top Stories” results.

A day after the attack, a YouTube search on “Las Vegas shooting” yielded a conspiracy-theory video that claimed multiple shooters were involved in the attack as the fifth result. YouTube is owned by Google.

None of these stories were true. Police identified the sole shooter as Stephen Paddock, a Nevada man whose motive remains a mystery. The Oct. 1 attack on a music festival left 58 dead and hundreds wounded.

The companies quickly purged offending links and tweaked their algorithms to favor more authoritative sources. But their work is clearly incomplete — a different Las Vegas conspiracy video was the eighth result displayed by YouTube in a search Monday.

Engagement first

Why do these highly automated services keep failing to separate truth from fiction? One big factor: most online services systems tend to emphasis posts that engage an audience — exactly what a lot of fake news is specifically designed to do.

Facebook and Google get caught off guard “because their algorithms just look for signs of popularity and recency at first,” without first checking to ensure relevance, says David Carroll, a professor of media design at the Parsons School of Design in New York.

That problem is much bigger in the wake of disaster, when facts are still unclear and demand for information runs high.

Malicious actors have learned to take advantage of this, says Mandy Jenkins, head of news at social media and news research agency Storyful. “They know how the sites work, they know how algorithms work, they know how the media works,” she says.

Participants on 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” channel regularly chat about “how to deploy fake news strategies” around major stories, says Dan Leibson, vice president of search at the digital marketing consultancy Local SEO Guide.

One such chat just hours after the Las Vegas urged readers to “push the fact this terrorist was a commie” on social media. “There were people discussing how to create engagement all night,” Leibson says.

Eye of the beholder

Thanks to political polarization, the very notion of what constitutes a “credible” source of news is now a point of contention.

Mainstream journalists routinely make judgments about the credibility of various publications based on their history of accuracy. That’s a much more complicated issue for mass-market services like Facebook and Google, given the popularity of many inaccurate sources among political partisans.

The pro-Trump Gateway Pundit site, for example, published the false Las Vegas story promoted by Facebook. But it has also been invited to White House press briefings and counts more than 620,000 fans on its Facebook page.

 

Facebook said last week it is “working to fix the issue” that led it to promote false reports about the Las Vegas shooting, although it didn’t say what it had in mind.

 

The company has already taken a number of steps since December; it now features fact-checks by outside organizations, puts warning labels on disputed stories and has de-emphasized false stories in people’s news feeds.

 

Getting algorithms right

Breaking news is also inherently challenging for automated filter systems. Google says the 4chan post that misidentified the Las Vegas shooter should not have appeared in its “Top Stories” feature, and was replaced by its algorithm after a few hours.

Outside experts say Google was flummoxed by two different issues. First, its “Top Stories” is designed to return results from the broader web alongside items from news outlets. Second, signals that help Google’s system evaluate the credibility of a web page — for instance, links from known authoritative sources — aren’t available in breaking news situations, says independent search optimization consultant Matthew Brown.

“If you have enough citations or references to something, algorithmically that’s going to look very important to Google,” Brown said. “The problem is an easy one to define but a tough one to resolve.”

More people, fewer robots

Federal law currently exempts Facebook, Google and similar companies from liability for material published by their users. But circumstances are forcing the tech companies to accept more responsibility for the information they spread.

Facebook said last week that it would hire an extra 1,000 people to help vet ads after it found a Russian agency bought ads meant to influence last year’s election. It’s also subjecting potentially sensitive ads, including political messages, to “human review.”

In July, Google revamped guidelines for human workers who help rate search results in order to limit misleading and offensive material. Earlier this year, Google also allowed users to flag so-called “featured snippets” and “autocomplete” suggestions if they found the content harmful.

The Google-sponsored Trust Project at Santa Clara University is also working to create tags that could serve as markers of credibility for individual authors. These would include items such as their location and journalism awards, information that could be fed into future algorithms, according to project director Sally Lehrman.

 

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Science & Health
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Seeing Hope: FDA Panel Considers Gene Therapy for Blindness

A girl saw her mother’s face for the first time. A boy tore through the aisles of Target, marveling at toys he never knew existed. A teen walked onto a stage and watched the stunned expressions of celebrity judges as he wowed America’s Got Talent.

Caroline, Cole, Christian. All had mere glimmers of vision and were destined to lose even that because of an inherited eye disease with no treatment or cure.

Until now.

On Thursday, U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisers will consider whether to recommend approval of a gene therapy that improved vision for these three youths and some others with hereditary blindness.

It would be the first gene therapy in the U.S. for an inherited disease, and the first in which a corrective gene is given directly to a patient. Only one gene therapy is sold in the U.S. now, a cancer treatment approved in August that engineers patients’ blood cells in the lab.

A hearing like no other

Children, parents, doctors and scientists will tell the FDA panel what it’s like to lack and then gain one of our most primal senses.

Cole Carper, an 11-year-old boy who got the therapy when he was 8, describes how sight changed what he knew of the world. When he returned to his home in Little Rock, Arkansas, after treatment, “I looked up and said, ‘What are those light things?’ And my mom said, ‘Those are stars.”‘

His sister, 13-year-old Caroline Carper, treated when she was 10, said that afterward, “I saw snow falling and rain falling. I was completely surprised. I thought of water on the ground or snow on the ground. I never thought of it falling,” because the sky was something she couldn’t see, along with other things like her mother’s smile.

The treatment, Luxturna, is made by Philadelphia-based Spark Therapeutics. It does not give 20-20 vision or work for everyone, but a company-funded study found it improved vision for nearly all of those given it and seemed safe. The company’s Nasdaq ticker symbol is ONCE, for how often it hopes the therapy is needed.

“It’s exciting” and in some cases might be a cure, although how long the benefits last isn’t known, said Dr. Paul Yang, an eye specialist at Oregon Health & Science University who is testing gene therapies for other companies. “There’s nothing else for these kids.”

How it works

The therapy has wider implications but was tested for Leber congenital amaurosis, or LCA, caused by flaws in a gene called RPE65. Those with it can’t make a protein needed by the retina — tissue at the back of the eye that converts light into signals to the brain that lets us see. People often see only bright light and blurry shapes and eventually lose all sight.

Parents are carriers of the flawed gene and it can lurk undetected for generations, suddenly emerging when an unlucky combination gives a child two copies of it.

“It’s usually a surprise that they have a blind child,” said Dr. Jean Bennett, a University of Pennsylvania researcher who with her husband, Dr. Albert Maguire, led testing at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The couple designed an obstacle course to test vision after treatment, and the FDA accepted it as a valid measure of success.

“The maze was actually Al’s idea. I put it together first in our driveway,” using white tiles with arrows, foam rolls and cones, and black spaces to simulate holes that kids should avoid, Bennett said.

Maguire did many of the 45-minute operations to deliver the gene therapy; the rest were done at the University of Iowa. It involves puncturing the white part of the eye and injecting a modified virus that contains the corrective gene into the retina. Benefits appear within a month.

Results

Eighteen of 20 treated study participants improved on the mobility maze a year later, and 13 passed the test at the lowest light level. None in a comparison group of nine patients did. That group was allowed to get the therapy after waiting one year, so in all, 29 were treated, plus more in earlier studies. The two who did not improve may not have had enough healthy retinal cells to respond to treatment; one improved on other tests and another stopped deteriorating.

About half of those treated were able to read three or more additional lines on an eye chart, but the variability between the groups was too big to be sure, statistically, that they were different on this measure.

Many are no longer legally blind and gained independence.

“There were children who were able to move from a Braille classroom to a sighted classroom. One person who had never worked was able to get a job,” said Dr. Katherine High, president of Spark Therapeutics and the scientist who pioneered the therapy when previously at the children’s hospital.

There were two serious side effects, both deemed unrelated to the gene therapy itself. One was due to a drug given afterward and another was a complication of the surgery.

‘Whoa, Mom, what is that?’

Ashley Carper recalled when her children were diagnosed with the disease.

“The doctor came out with tears in his eyes. He said it was the same condition and they will be blind, and nothing could be done. Nothing.”

Cole and Caroline used canes and went to a school for the blind.

“Cole played football but he played center,” and just stood on the field after the snap to the quarterback because he couldn’t see well enough to do more, his mother said.

Ten years ago, she went to a support group conference and happened to sit next to Bennett. It took two years for gene testing to determine whether the Carper kids would qualify for the study, and insurance wouldn’t pay because there was no established treatment. A Dallas hospital picked up the tab.

Finally, the siblings were enrolled in the study, but they landed in the comparison group so they had to wait a year to be treated. About a week after Cole’s treatment, they went shopping at Target.

“When we got to the Nerf aisle I was like, ‘Whoa, mom, what is THAT? Can I get this? Can I get that? Because I had never seen what that stuff looked like,” Cole said.

Caroline has had her own delights.

“Oh yikes, colors. Colors are super fun,” she said. “And the sunshine is blinding.”

Seeing gold

For Christian Guardino, a senior at Patchogue-Medford High School on Long Island, the most remarkable part about performing on America’s Got Talent a day before his 17th birthday earlier this year wasn’t winning the golden buzzer that showered gold confetti on him and sent him into further competition. It was seeing the confetti thanks to his gene therapy several years ago.

“I walked out on that stage all by myself,” he said. “I saw the judges. It was incredible.”

His mother, Beth Guardino, said the judges didn’t know about Christian’s blindness and gene therapy until after his audition.

Before treatment, “it was dark, life without light,” Christian said. “I found a way to work through it, to cope with it, and that was music.”

Since treatment, “I’ve been able to see the most incredible things. I’m able to see stars, I’m able to see fireworks, snow falling,” he said. His favorite? “The moon. Most definitely. I’m a huge astronomy fan.”

Next steps

The FDA must decide by Jan. 18 whether to approve Luxturna. What it might cost is a worry. One gene therapy sold in Europe cost $1 million and was used by only one or two people; another has had few takers.

Spark’s chief executive, Jeff Marrazzo, would not give an estimate for cost, which companies usually announce only after approval. Some rare disease treatments run a quarter to three-quarters of a million dollars a year. Spark has talked with insurers and “there is a clear path for it to be reimbursed one time per eye,” he said.  

More than 260 genes can cause inherited retinal disorders, affecting 3 million worldwide. RPE65 mutations can cause other vision diseases besides LCA, so if the treatment is approved, it should be for people with the flawed gene rather than a specific disease, said Dr. Eric Pierce at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear, who was involved in its early testing.

Laura Manfre founded Sofia Sees Hope, a group named for her 14-year-old daughter, Sofia Priebe, who has LCA but not the gene Luxturna targets. The Connecticut woman will represent families at the FDA hearing.

Sofia said she longs for a therapy that would let her “drive a car, walk into a room and be able to identify my friends, to be able to do my own makeup and to read a book in print … and see the night sky.”

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Arts & Entertainment
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Satire on EU Bureaucracy Wins German Book Prize

A satirical look at the European Union and its bureaucracy, which opens with a pig running amok in one of Brussels’ main squares, has won the prestigious German Book Prize.

Austrian writer Robert Menasse scooped a 25,000 euro prize for his novel Die Hauptstadt (The Capital) on Monday, on the eve of the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Europe’s future hangs in the balance as Britain wrangles with Brussels about the terms of its departure from the bloc after the June 2016 Brexit vote. Despite efforts to provide a united front, the other 27 members remain deeply divided over the euro, taxes and migration.

“Contemporary times are presented literarily so well that contemporaries recognize themselves and coming generations will better understand this time,” the German Publishers and Booksellers Association said.

The Austrian newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten called Menasse’s book “provocative, timely and important: a plea to remember what lies at the centre of the ‘European peace project’, and to have the courage to take it into its next phase.”

The book, published by Suhrkampf Verlag in September, was one of six books shortlisted for the prize. Menasse, clearly moved, accepted the prize in Frankfurt.

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Economy & business
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American Richard H. Thaler Wins Nobel Prize in Economic Science

American Richard H. Thaler was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize for Economics — officially the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

The award committee said Thaler was chosen “for his contributions to behavioral economics.”

 

“By exploring the consequences of limited rationality, social preferences, and lack of self-control,” Thaler “has shown how these human traits systematically affect individual decisions as well as market outcomes,” the Swedish Academy said.

Thaler developed the theory of “mental accounting,” explaining how people simplify financial decision-making by creating separate accounts in their minds, focusing on the narrow impact of each individual decision rather than its overall effect.

Thaler was born 1945 in East Orange, New Jersey and received his Ph.D. in 1974 from the University of Rochester, New York. He is a Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Illinois.

 

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the award Monday. It carries a $1.1 million prize.

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Indigenous Peoples Day? Italians Say Stick With Columbus

Is it time to say arrivederci to Christopher Columbus?

A movement to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day has gained momentum in some parts of the U.S., with Los Angeles in August becoming the biggest city yet to decide to stop honoring the Italian explorer and instead recognize victims of colonialism.

 

Austin, Texas, followed suit Thursday. It joined cities including San Francisco, Seattle and Denver, which had previously booted Columbus in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day.

 

But the gesture to recognize indigenous people rather than the man who opened the Americas to European domination also has prompted howls of outrage from some Italian-Americans, who say eliminating their festival of ethnic pride is culturally insensitive, too.

“We had a very difficult time in this country for well over a hundred years,” said Basil Russo, president of the Order Italian Sons and Daughters of America. “Columbus Day is a day that we’ve chosen to celebrate who we are. And we’re entitled to do that just as they are entitled to celebrate who they are.”

 

It’s not about taking anything away from Italian-Americans, said Cliff Matias, cultural director of the Redhawk Native American Arts Council, which is hosting a Re-Thinking Columbus Day event Sunday and Monday in New York.

 

“The conversation is Columbus,” he said. “If they’re going to celebrate Columbus, we need to celebrate the fact that we survived Columbus.”

 

The debate over Columbus’ historical legacy is an old one, but it became emotionally charged after a similar debate in the South over monuments to Confederate generals flared into deadly violence in August at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

 

In Akron, Ohio, a September vote over whether to dump Columbus opened a racial rift on the city council that was so heated conflict mediators were brought in to sooth tensions.

In New York, where 35,000 people are expected to march in Monday’s Columbus Day parade, vandals last month doused the hands of a Christopher Columbus statue in blood-red paint and scrawled the words “hate will not be tolerated.” Activists calling for the city to change the parade’s name also are expected to hold a demonstration.

 

On Sunday, three demonstrators briefly interrupted a wreath-laying ceremony at the Columbus statue in Columbus Circle. The protesters, two dressed in fake chains and one wearing a hooded white sheet, spoke out before being escorted away. Police said one person was arrested.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, appointed a committee to evaluate whether monuments to certain historical figures should be removed, prompting a backlash from fellow Italian-Americans who vowed to defend the Columbus statue, which has stood over Columbus Circle for more than a century.

 

Many Italians who migrated to the U.S. initially had a rough time. In 1891, 11 Italians were lynched in New Orleans by a mob that held them responsible for the death of a police official.

 

At the end of the 1800s, Italians began to link themselves more with Columbus. Italian-American businessman and newspaper owner Generoso Pope was among those who worked to get Columbus Day recognized as a federal holiday in 1937.

 

“It was one of the things that would allow them to become Americans symbolically,” said Fred Gardaphe, a professor of Italian-American studies at Queens College.

 

Indigenous Peoples Day began to gel as an idea before the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas.

 

South Dakota began celebrating Native American Day on the second Monday of October in 1990. Berkeley, California, got rid of Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day in 1992.

 

Many places that have adopted Indigenous Peoples Day since then, including Alaska, have sizable Native American populations.

 

A few cities have compromised. Salt Lake City officials declared they would keep Columbus Day but celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on the same day.

 

In Akron, a city with few Native Americans and a large Italian-American community, an attempt to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day on Sept. 11 split the all-Democrat city council along racial lines. Five black members voted to rename the holiday, and eight white members voted against it, following a debate that devolved into shouting.

 

“The first voyage of Columbus to the Americas initiated the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It would lead to the kidnapping, deaths and slavery of tens of millions of African people,” said Councilman Russel Neal, who is black.

 

But Councilman Jeff Fusco, who is Italian-American, said, “It’s a celebration of Italian heritage. It’s very similar to other days throughout the year that we celebrate for many other cultures.”

States and municipalities aren’t legally bound to recognize federal holidays, though most do. Columbus Day is already one of the most inconsistently celebrated. Places that choose to replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day may give their own workers or schoolchildren a day off, teach in schools about Native Americans instead of Columbus, issue proclamations or mark it in other ways.

 

There is no question that Columbus’ arrival in the New World under the sponsorship of Spain was bad for the indigenous people of Hispaniola, the island he colonized that is now split between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

 

Many of the native people of the island were forced into servitude. Multitudes died of disease. Spain repopulated the workforce with African slaves.

 

Columbus is celebrated in Latin America, too. A massive monument to the explorer, the Columbus Lighthouse, opened in 1992 in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico commemorates Discovery Day on Nov. 19, marking the day Columbus landed there.

 

Ralph Arellanes, chairman of the activist group Hispano Round Table of New Mexico, said that as a Hispanic he supports Columbus Day.

 

“It was the marriage of two peoples creating a new people, in a new land,” he said.

 

Though Columbus “wasn’t a saint,” he said, he believes Anglo-Americans like President Andrew Jackson should be held more responsible than the Spanish for the hardships Native Americans faced.

 

Arellanes also said he doesn’t understand why Italians claim Columbus for themselves when Columbus was sailing for Spain.

 

 

 

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