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Saturday April 29, 2017 @ 03:36:31 PM mt

Why it's illegal for some Christian bakers to refuse to bake gay wedding cakes. Explained.



A funny, concise three-minute explainer video about gay wedding cakes and the law.


Say, hypothetically, you go to a bakery to order your wedding cake.

Imagine you are Christian. And the bakery specializes in wedding cakes. Particularly satanic wedding cakes, but they make them for atheist and Buddhist weddings too, on occasion. And you happen to love the way their devil's food cake tastes, and you'd like them to make one for your Christian wedding. And then the satanic baker says, "I'm sorry, but it's against my beliefs to make a wedding cake for Christian weddings. Good day! Hail Satan!"

You'd be upset, right? (Along with being confused with the whole "Hail Satan" thing.)

Now imagine you are gay. And a Christian baker says making you a wedding cake is against their beliefs. Well, you don't have to imagine. Because it really happens. On occasion. And then sometimes the courts have to weigh in and shut that down. But the outcome depends on which state you live in. Each state has its own set of rules.

But what about freedom of speech? Or freedom of religion? Or artistic freedom? What then?

John Corvino's hilarious new video has answers to all your concerns about the rights of wedding cake bakers.

Along with being chair of the philosophy department at Wayne State University, John has a history of hilariously explaining, for example, why you can't marry your kitchen appliances. In the below video, he explains why he can't discriminate against his conservative students, why a Kosher bakery can refuse to make you a bacon cake, and why you can't own a bakery where all the bakers are nude.

(Make sure to watch the whole video, there's comedy after the credits.)

Good luck with all your baking. Please wear clothes when you do it.

This article was updated 4/29/2017.


John Corvino has written several books, including, most recently, "Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination." He does not own a nude bakery.

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Friday April 28, 2017 @ 07:12:29 PM mt

Why it's illegal for Christian bakers to refuse to bake gay wedding cakes. Explained.



A funny, concise three-minute explainer video about gay wedding cakes and the law.


Say, hypothetically, you go to a bakery to order your wedding cake.

Imagine you are Christian. And the bakery specializes in wedding cakes. Particularly satanic wedding cakes, but they make them for atheist and Buddhist weddings too, on occasion. And you happen to love the way their devil's food cake tastes, and you'd like them to make one for your Christian wedding. And then the satanic baker says, "I'm sorry, but it's against my beliefs to make a wedding cake for Christian weddings. Good day! Hail Satan!"

You'd be upset, right? (Along with being confused with the whole "Hail Satan" thing.)

Now imagine you are gay. And a Christian baker says making you a wedding cake is against their beliefs. Well, you don't have to imagine. Because it really happens. On occasion. And then the courts have to weigh in and shut that down.

But what about freedom of speech? Or freedom of religion? Or artistic freedom? What then?

John Corvino's hilarious new video has answers to all your concerns about the rights of wedding cake bakers.

Along with being chair of the philosophy department at Wayne State University, John has a history of hilariously explaining, for example, why you can't marry your kitchen appliances. In the below video, he explains why he can't discriminate against his conservative students, why a Kosher bakery can refuse to make you a bacon cake, and why you can't own a bakery where all the bakers are nude.

(Make sure to watch the whole video, there's comedy after the credits.)

Good luck with all your baking. Please wear clothes when you do it.


John Corvino has written several books, including, most recently, "Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination." He does not own a nude bakery.

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Friday April 28, 2017 @ 03:28:56 PM mt

These teachers haven't gotten raises in 4 years. So they took over the NFL Draft.




Playing host to the 2017 NFL Draft set the city of Philadelphia back a pretty penny.

The NFL Draft crowd in Philadelphia. Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Bringing the massive event to town cost about half a million dollars, which doesn't sound like much until you factor in another $5 million or so in private funding the city worked to secure. Plus all the labor and logistics to put on a spectacle that attracted over 70,000 people its first night.

On top of that, the NFL itself is shelling out about $20 million more.

Most of the city which is a big football town is pretty excited about the whole thing.

But there's one group that has every good reason not to be.

Public school teachers in Philadelphia have been trying for years to negotiate a new contract. To them, the draft hoopla is a slap in the face.

And a bunch of them wanted to let City Hall know exactly how they felt about it.

They raised $2,500 for a special, uh, "welcoming banner" to fly over the draft stage.

Image via Hobbes579/Reddit.

The banner reads, "City hall (hearts) sports but hates our teachers."

George Bezanis, a teacher in the district and one of the organizers behind the effort, told NBC Philadelphia poor pay and instability has led many teachers to leave the district.

In fact, Philly teachers haven't received raises in four years or more.

All the turmoil, he says, is hurting students.

Photos of the banner went viral on social media and inspired a massive response from teachers, parents, and citizens across the country.

The three-day NFL Draft will likely be a huge boon to the Philadelphia economy.

Last year's event in Chicago reportedly netted about $81 million in tourism spending, so it's easy to see why the current administration is excited to host.

But in a time where billionaire sports owners make fans pay for their own stadiums, don't Philadelphia's teachers deserve their own slice of the pie?

Or better yet, don't our kids?


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Friday April 28, 2017 @ 03:28:56 PM mt

In 1997 being gay on TV was not OK. Ellen and Oprah look back in this emotional clip.



'As long as you stay true to exactly who you are, you will be rewarded in ways that you cant imagine.'


It's been 20 years since Ellen DeGeneres uttered "I'm gay" on her ABC sitcom and changed the world forever.

That hyped episode of "Ellen," which brought in a whopping 42 million viewers, featured Oprah Winfrey, who played DeGeneres' therapist, and Laura Dern, DeGeneres' love interest, Susan.

On a major network with a mainstream audience, those two emotionally charged words were a groundbreaking moment for gay visibility on TV.

Photo by Buena Vista, courtesy of Everett Collection.

The live audience had cheered. DeGeneres embraced Susan in a warm hug. It felt like history had been made.

But it's easy to forget how wildly different things were for LGBTQ people in 1997.

Coming out of the closet quickly plunged DeGeneres' career into controversy.

She received death threats and many. Winfrey was inundated with homophobic and racist calls in the days that followed, too. And Dern? She couldn't find work as an actor for an entire year following the episode.

Photo by Brian K. Diggs/AP.

ABC began slapping an "adult content" warning at the beginning of each episode of "Ellen" that followed. Conservative groups rallied viewers to boycott the show. Ratings nosedived for the once successful series as backlash ensued. About a year after DeGeneres' coming out, ABC pulled the show.

Two decades later, though, it's clear that DeGeneres' initially painful coming out experience has paid off in more ways than one.

In an emotional episode of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" airing on April 28, 2017, DeGeneres invited Winfrey and Dern to revisit that groundbreaking moment.

Over the past two decades, far more queer characters have cropped up on prime-time television, acceptance of LGBTQ people has steadily increased among Americans, and millions of people around the country (and world) have found the courage to come out on their own. Even if it didn't feel like it at the time, DeGeneres' bravery in 1997 played a role in all of it.

"You are responsible for so much of that changing," Winfrey tells DeGeneres in the clip below. "You were the bravest woman ever."

"Were not supposed to be like somebody else," DeGeneres concludes. "Were not supposed to act like somebody else. As long as you stay true to exactly who you are, you will be rewarded in ways that you cant imagine."

Watch the touching clip of DeGeneres and Winfrey below:

You can also check out DeGeneres' emotional interview with Dern as well as the host's teary-eyed personal recounting of her journey since coming out on her YouTube channel here.


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Friday April 28, 2017 @ 11:47:00 AM mt

His uncomfortable experience in a coffee shop tells us a lot about race in America.



How everyday moments can become intolerable.


I usually work from a caf. Every morning, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., youll find me there, often writing, sometimes reading. I can usually walk, but sometimes I drive to the ones that are a little far. I park my car, walk in, drop my bag on an empty chair, and get in line for a cup of coffee. This is a routine.

About a year ago, I was in a coffee shop, writing.

Photo via iStock.

The place had a chair against the wall with small square individual table in front. I liked to sit there because I could sit upright and focus, instead of lounging on one of the comfy chairs.

Since I was a regular customer, a lot of the staff members knew me by face and some of them by name. When I arrived, I set my computer on a table and went to the counter to order a cup of coffee. The barista took my money and said, You are Abdullah, right?

No, I am not.

Oh, sorry. You do look like Abdullah, the guy from Saudi.

OK, but I am Deepak, the guy from India.

Ill try to remember that. Sorry.

No problem, I said.

I got my coffee and sat down.

I noticed peoples eyes skipping around me as they passed by or waited in line.

Then I saw the person sitting on my left reading the news on his laptop. His computer screen had a picture of the couple who had killed 14 people in San Bernardino. It was a day after the shooting had taken place.

I looked at it for a few seconds and then went back to writing. I didnt want to think much of it, but I looked at it again and then looked around. There was a woman sitting to my right wearing a hijab. She hadnt been there when I came into the coffee shop. Somehow, I hadnt noticed. She was busily chatting in English on her phone and typing on her laptop at the same time. Her white veil covered her head but not her face. Her long-sleeved top covered her arms and wrists. This was not the first time I had seen a hijabi girl in the coffee shop, but I didnt remember when the last time had been. I looked at her from the corner of my eyes and then shifted to the picture on the laptop to my left. Tashfeen Malik, the female shooter, didnt look very different from the lady sitting next to me. I thought that might be what people were looking at.

It dawned on me that I could be confused for someone who looked like Syed Farook, the male accomplice. There was an early morning rush, and there were more people in line now. A lot of them were looking at their phones and also looking at me. At least that is what I thought.

I was not able to focus on my work anymore. I was fidgeting.

Photo via iStock.

The lady next to me was still talking and typing. It seemed to me the more I tried to avoid attention, the more conspicuous I was getting.

Shes not with me, I wanted to say to them. Ive never seen her before! Then I thought even if she moved away from me, the folks in the coffee shop could still think of me what they might have been thinking of her. A part of me thought that I was overreacting, but then I remembered all those times working a day job in an electronics store, when so many Americans asked me if I was from Syria or Iraq.

All kinds of thoughts were brewing up in my head as I sat staring at my computer, my fingers frozen.

I was irritated at the people looking at us. I wanted to move to a different spot, but all the seats were taken. The only choice was to get up and leave. Or just sit there and let people stare at me. I left. Later, I thought to myself that I was being worried for no reason. It was all in my head.

In February 2017, as I read the news in another coffee shop, the big story was about two Indians enjoying a few drinks at a bar in Kansas. Reports say that a prejudiced man shot them and killed one of them. They didnt look much different from me in fact, they looked exactly like me. Now their parents are mourning back in India. I could have been one of those men.

Photo via iStock.

I thought of my time at the coffee shop a year ago how I felt threatened and uncomfortable. I can only imagine how Muslims are feeling now that Trump is president.

I came home and held my wife and my daughter and felt happy and lucky to be together and alive. And then I thought about the most powerful men in America who seem to be waging war on everyone who resembles me.

This story first appeared on Latterly and is reprinted here with permission.


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Friday April 28, 2017 @ 11:46:59 AM mt

21 trees going out on a limb to ask for your help.




Hello, human!

1. A tree grows amid a field of flowers. Photo by Guillaume Souvant/AFP/Getty Images.

Yes, you down there. We're talking to you.

2. Stars twinkle in the night sky over the treetops of a forest in Frankfurt. Photo by Patrick Pleul/AFP/Getty Images.

It's us the trees.

3. Beautiful fall leaves. Photo by Ozma/Flickr.

We need a word with you. And it's important.

4. The sun rises in Honolulu, Hawaii. Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images.

Take a seat.

5. A tree made for climbing. Photo by Sergei Gapon/AFP/Getty Images.

We feed you.

6. Trees: They give us fruit. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

We cool down cities and sidewalks.

We release water vapor into the air and provide much needed shade to homes and streets to help keep cities cool.

7. A row of ash trees in a Chicago park, which have been treated with insecticide to keep them safe from pests like the emerald ash borer. Photo by Nova Safo/AFP/Getty Images.

We provide a beautiful, affordable way to clean up air pollution.

Not to brag, but in Chicago alone, we remove 18,000 tons of air pollution each year. And in Kansas City? 26,000 tons! Amazing, right? You're welcome.

8. The midtown New York skyline behind blooming trees in Central Park. Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images.

We provide you with oxygen, free of charge.

9. A tree by the sea. Photo by Stephen Wernicke/Flickr.

And we even raise your property values and can help lower crime rates.

Again, you're welcome.

10. A Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus) sits on a kanzakura tree in Taipei. Photo by Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images.

We don't do it for credit. But after helping out like this for millennia, we could use a favor.

11. Snow covered trees are seen as Amtrak's California Zephyr rolls past. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

We're being destroyed.

12. A deforested area in the Ro Pltano biosphere reserve in the La Mosquitia region, Honduras. Photo by Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images.

We're not given an opportunity to thrive.

Even in areas where timber operations are illegal, like the Amazon jungle, the practice continues.

13. A deforested area in the middle of the Amazon jungle in Para, Brazil. Photo by Raphael Alves/AFP/Getty Images.

It's getting dire for some of us. And for the animals that call us home.

14. Trees provide homes and food for all kinds of wildlife. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

Sumatran orangutans are just one species affected by Indonesia's booming palm oil industry. Millions of acres of prime peatland forest have been cleared to make way for plantations a practice that releases tons of carbon, displacing trees and the destroying animal habitats.

So we need you to give a damn.

We saw some of you at the March for Science. Thanks for that. But you're not done.

People in Times Square at the March for Science in New York. Photo by Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images.

We need you to stand up for trees. In your communities, in your preserved natural spaces, and around the globe.

15. Coastal redwood trees at Muir Woods National Monument. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

We need you to support conservation efforts, buy and support companies and products that don't contribute to deforestation, and encourage sustainable tree planting and harvesting.

The demand for avocado is so high that it's fueling deforestation in Mexico. Farmers are thinning out existing pine forests to plant avocados. Not cool, folks.

16. Trees are better in bunches. Photo by Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images.

We need you to fight for us because we've bent over backwards to do the same for you.

Cough, cough, "The Giving Tree," cough, cough.

17. A leaning tree near the Dinder national reserve, a protected region in Sudan. Photo by Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images.

Even when you make fun of us for accidentally having belly buttons.

18. Trees, like people, come in all shapes and sizes. Photo by William Warby/Flickr.

So, please, lend us a hand.

19. A boy climbs a tree near the lake Ammersee in the small Bavarian village of Herrsching, in southern Germany. Photo by Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images.

We'll keep doing our part to blow you away with our friggin' majesty.

20. Trees are gorgeous. Photo by Bram van de Sande/Flickr.

Stop by and visit us anytime, OK?

We really like watching all of you grow up.

21. A woman photographs blossoming cherry trees in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Warm regards,
The trees


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Friday April 28, 2017 @ 11:46:59 AM mt

Samsung's emoji translator may seem silly but what it really does is heartwarming.




Elisa used to share everything with her aunt, Gemma.

But one day, an aneurysm gave Gemma aphasia, a disorder that affects more than 2 million Americans and their ability to speak, read, or understand language. Almost overnight, their way of communicating ground to a halt.

Their story is featured in a new Samsung ad. Their frustration and isolation is heart-wrenching.

While aphasia might make speaking and reading difficult, it doesn't affect a person's ability to recognize symbols or read faces. Including, it turns out, little yellow emoji smiley faces.

Here's where Samsung comes in. The company's Italian team has created an emoji-based, free chat app to help people with aphasia and other language disorders.

The app, called Wemogee, functions as a text-to-emoji translator. Its programmed with a library of more than 140 phrases. Text messages selected by one party get automatically translated to emojis and vice-versa.

Image from Samsung Italia.

Having standardized phrases is also neat because it might help save someone like Elise from having to hunt for the perfect emoji. It's all already in there. No misunderstandings.

Elise and Gemma might not be able to chat the same way they used to, but this idea could help make things easier. And while people with aphasia and other speech disorders might only make up a subset of our population, it's really cool to see a communications company setting out to make sure everyone has a voice.

See more of Elise and Gemma and the app in action in the video below.


I wasn't compensated by Samsung to write this; it's just a neat bit of technology worth talking about.

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Friday April 28, 2017 @ 11:46:59 AM mt

A former 'MythBusters' extra thanks Adam Savage for crushing a harmful myth about gender.



'MythBusters' may be over, but Savage is just getting started.


For more than 13 years, Adam Savage co-hosted a little show you might have heard of called "MythBusters."

And as its title suggests, the show's premise was that Savage, a special effects guru, and fellow science enthusiast Jamie Hyneman would tackle various myths, urban legends, and stuff you'd usually only see in movies. (There were a lot of explosions, and it was wonderful.)

The show may be over, but a recent string of tweets shows that Savage isn't done busting myths.

Savage, flanked by his "MythBusters" co-star Jamie Hyneman and "science guy" Bill Nye at the 2010 White House Science Fair. Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

On April 26, Savage waded into discussion about sex, gender, and the science behind it all.

It began when Savage got some rude responses to his tweet about author Kelly Oxford's new book, leading him to push back on the idea that gender is something that can be neatly divided into two separate teams.

From there, he dished out some real-talk about the gender binary:

And while it was cool to see Savage taking a stand, the best thing to come out of his tweets were the replies from people thankful for validation from someone they admire.

Responses from people outside the gender binary began flowing in, thanking Savage for seeing them for who they are.

There's a sweetness in the replies but also a frustrating sadness as many of the people replying are so frequently denied the basic recognition and validation that most of us take for granted.

Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender woman living in the Bay Area and one-time "MythBusters" extra, also chimed in with a thoroughly appreciative response.

"Being trans means often having to navigate 'myths' about gender, and it is usually a burden that trans people alone are tasked with explaining," Smith explains over email. "So it meant a lot to me to see Savage use his privilege and position to speak out on behalf of folks like me, and for scientific reality."

And that's just it: Acknowledging the existence of trans people (inside and outside the gender binary) is a statement backed by scientific reality.

Many of Savage's critics and people who oppose the fight for transgender equality generally accused him of pushing "pseudoscience." He was having none of it.

"It's biology not bigotry" is the tagline for the National Organization for Marriage's latest push against recognizing trans people for who they are. And it sounds simple, right? XX chromosomes equal female, XY chromosomes equal male. Easy-peasy.

Except it's not, and that's what Savage dove into with a lengthier explanation.

"Humility is one of the loveliest of human traits. It's often hard-won, and in every case it exists, it foments acceptance, kindness, and open-mindedness. These are qualities that improve the lives of all who experience them. I have a wide circle of awesome and amazing friends. I get so much from them. Among my precious loved ones, I count many who fall outside the binary sex/gender identification being asserted. I can't conceive rejecting their experience as anything but cruel and inhumane and I don't care what they have in their pants or what they do with them. I have a hard time imagining why anyone would."

(A 2015 article in Nature supports much of what he's saying, by the way.)

Savage speaks during a 2015 "MythBusters" panel. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Discovery Communications.

There's a lesson we can all learn from Savage here, and it's this: When given a choice, always stand on the side of love, empathy, and understanding.

The most important message of Savage's tweets has nothing to do with chromosomes.

You don't need to be a professional "MythBuster" to know that the first step to bridging gaps begins with empathy and not discounting the existence of an entire group of people. In the fights to decide who is "right" and who is "wrong," we too often forget that there are other people with unique perspectives involved.

Let's hear them and, when in doubt, choose acceptance.

Thank you, Adam Savage. May you keep busting myths and inspiring others to be better people for a very long time to come.


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Thursday April 27, 2017 @ 07:08:17 PM mt

Every state should do what Oregon did to get voters to turn out. It worked big time.




A magical thing happens when registering to vote becomes easier or, if you can even imagine,effortless.

Case in point: Oregon.

Image via iStock.

In 2015, Oregon passed a law utilizing the state's DMV to significantly increase the number of people registered to vote.

Under the new provision, any Oregonian who interacts with the state's Department of Motor Vehicles (to, say, get a new driver's license) sees their information automatically sent to the secretary of state's elections division, registering them as a voter.

A resident would need to opt out not opt in to the voter registration process.

Photo by Don Ryan/AP.

As The New York Times reported in December, the new law was deemed a big success shortly after the 2016 election as more than 225,000 Oregonians became new registrants through the DMV (not too shabby for a state of about 4 million).

Now, a new report from the Alliance for Youth Action is pinpointing who, exactly, headed to the polls in Oregon during the election.

Of all the states, Oregon saw the largest spike in voter turnout among young people and people of color between the last two presidential elections. It shows the automatic voter registration law did precisely what it was intended to do:help boost turnout, particularly among demographic groups that needed it most.

Millennials who tend to move around more often than their parents (which complicates their voter registration process) and people of color who face obstacles, often politically-motivated, that suppress their vote generally lag behind other groups in terms of election day turnout.

57% of people ages 18 through 29 voted in the 2016 election up from just 37% in 2012, according to the report from the Alliance for Youth Action. And a whopping 79% of people of color voted last November up from 53% in 2012.

Those figures mark impressive 20% and 26% swings, respectively.

"The state already had one of the highest turnout rates in the country, and now its building an ever stronger voter base," Allegra Chapman, director of voting and elections at Common Cause, told HuffPost. "This is definitely the direction in which the country needs to go: amplifying all eligible voices to create a democracy that accounts for all."

Efforts to pass automatic voter registration laws, like the one in Oregon, are cropping up across the country. But so, too, are laws quietly intending to do just the opposite.

States like California, Vermont, West Virginia, and Connecticut have followed in Oregon's footsteps, implementing similar measures to simplify the voter registration process for constituents. Many other states, usually controlled by Republican legislatures, have moved in the opposite direction in recent years, passing laws that further crack down on who can vote and when they can do it.

Photo by Don Ryan/AP.

Laws that require a voter to show up to the polls with a valid photo ID have been touted by Republicans as a means to stomp out voter fraud. But voter fraud isn't a widespread problem, research has found, and the restriction disproportionately prevents people of color from voting a group that, conveniently enough, tends to vote blue.

Other states have limited early voting as well a move that, again, affects non-white voters to a larger degree.

"Access to the ballot matters," Sarah Audelo, executive director of the Alliance for Youth Action, noted to HuffPost. "As a country, we should be taking a hard look at ourselves to see what are we doing to make sure that our people are able to vote, that theyre able to participate in our democracy."

Because, as Oregon showed us, our democracy works better when more of us are at the table.


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Thursday April 27, 2017 @ 07:08:17 PM mt

A troll attacked a gay lawmaker online. So he called the troll's grandma.




Meet Brian Sims, Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Photo via Brian Sims/Facebook.

He's also the state's first openly gay lawmaker.

His pride and bravery have won him plenty of fans, but have also opened him up to a slew of hate speech and criticism.

So much so that Sims has gotten, well, pretty dang good at handling the trolls.

One man recently came to Sims' Facebook page to attack him, but got a little more than he bargained for.

After spewing some horrific insults at Sims via his Facebook page, the commenter (known only as David) got a response that had to have taken him off guard.

Sims called David's grandma and told on him.

Really.

Dear Bigots, posting your grandmother's telephone number all over the same page you use to post slurs on other people's pages is not going to end well for you. Brian

Posted by Brian Sims onWednesday, April 26, 2017

"David," Sims wrote in response. "... you shouldn't have posted your grandmother's telephone number on your Facebook page so many times. She and I just had a very disappointing chat about you."

And he was 100% serious.

Sims told Occupy Democrats he was hoping to get David himself on the phone when Grandma picked up. But she promised Sims that David would call him back.

He did, but not before David's grandmother, presumably, gave him an earful.

She wasnt kidding," Sims said. "I heard from him within 2 hours and while I cant say we resolved anything, I can pretty much guarantee that Christmas at my home is going to be better than his this year.

It goes to show: Just because you can say anything you want online doesn't mean you should.

Unfortunately though, this kind of hate speech isn't limited to anonymous internet trolls these days.

The world might be a better place if everyone stopped before they judged, harassed, attacked, or smeared another human being and thought: 'What would my grandma think?'


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