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Written in 1787, the U.S. Constitution is the world’s oldest written charter of government in use today.
Most Americans are familiar with its first three words – “We the People.” Yet they “don’t understand” the venerable document, says Kimberly Wehle, a professor of law at the University of Baltimore.
To get readers interested in the charter, Wehle recently published “How to Read the Constitution — and Why,” a back-to-the-basics, accessible primer on the U.S. charter of government written for a time when many on the left and some on the right think the Constitution is under assault.
The book’s launch coincides with the end of a consequential term for the Supreme Court, during which President Donald Trump’s second court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, joined the bench following a contentious confirmation hearing. It also coincides with the nation’s 243rd observance of Independence Day, July 4.
VOA spoke with Wehle about the Supreme Court and how and why to read the Constitution. The following excerpts have been edited for clarity and length.
The U.S. Constitution is the oldest surviving written constitution in use today. What makes it so enduring?
Kimberly Wehle: It’s enduring because of the structure of the first part of the Constitution. That is not the Bill of Rights. But the structure of the first part of the Constitution assumes that there is no person in elected office or appointed office that’s above the law. So each branch is checked by the other two branches and so far, that balance of power ensuring that the human desire to amass unlimited power is checked. I think that that is one of the most enduring elements.
The late Justice Antonin Scalia once said that the “real key to the distinctiveness of America” in the world, what makes America a free country, is not the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press, but rather the structure of government enshrined in the Constitution. Do you agree?
Wehle: The framers, as Justice Scalia indicated, didn’t include express rights in the original Constitution, because they believed that the three-part structure would preserve rights. So there’s a direct connection between the checks and balances and the separation of powers (on the one hand) and individual rights (on the other), meaning the three-part system ensures that the government doesn’t arbitrarily bully individual people. If there’s bullying going on, one of the other two branches is situated to check that.
And yet every branch of government, it seems, over time has accumulated some degree of power at the expense of the other. For example, the Constitution gives the power to declare war to Congress, yet American presidents have waged war without clear congressional authorization. How did that happen?
Wehle: There’s a chicken-and-egg issue with the power to declare war and the commander-in-chief power. Scholars generally believe that Congress has to declare war. The president can use the military to respond to threats and attacks. As we saw during the George W. Bush administration, Congress authorized the president to preemptively start a war. But when people in office and in the judiciary don’t enforce parts of the Constitution, they cease to really have meaning.
So how do you read the Constitution? Do you examine the text to decipher its original meaning, as the so-called “originalists” do, or do you approach it as a “living document” open to interpretation, as the so-called “judicial” activists do.
Wehle: I disagree with that distinction. In the book, I compare the Constitution to reading a poem, for example, where, you know, there’s ambiguous language, and there are various ways of reading that ambiguity and deciding what it means. The Constitution is the same way. People bring different points of view to it. But the idea that it’s clear, most of the time is just not accurate.
In your book, you make an urgent plea to Americans to read their own Constitution, a text many are taught in grade school. Why read it?
Wehle: Because we’re overloaded in our society with information, online social media, 24-hour cable news and information, various political points of view, people feeding bottom lines to us. And of course, as we saw in the 2016 presidential elections, some of what we get is actually planted — and it’s deliberately false — by Russians, in this instance, that aren’t really interested in promoting American democracy. So in order to cut through this polarized conversation, my suggestion as an educator, which I tell my students, is start with the text. If you want to know what (special counsel) Robert Mueller indicted someone for, read the indictment. If you want to know what your Constitution says, start with the language itself. That’s what the Supreme Court does.
What benefit would citizens of other countries derive from reading the American Constitution?
Wehle: There are a lot of eyes on America for lots of reasons, including this reputation for having, freedoms, which, I think, (are) being challenged and tarnished internationally. So it benefits, given that the United States is a place that a lot of other countries watch. It is beneficial for everyone to understand how our Constitution works, and the dangers if it stops working.
The Supreme Court is the nation’s top appellate court as well as its top constitutional court. What role does it play in American life?
Wehle: It really functions like a mini legislature, and I say that with great care. Meaning when a case gets to the Supreme Court on an important issue, and the court issues a decision under the Constitution, that can’t even be amended by a statute. The Constitution is the boss of all bosses.
So if the court decides that there’s a constitutional question lurking in a statute passed by Congress and then it rules one way or the other under the Constitution, the only way to change that outcome is to amend the Constitution, or amend the configuration of the court such that they will reverse precedent. Both of those are extremely, extremely hard to do.
The Supreme Court is deeply ideologically divided. Many critics see the justices on the court as politicians in robes. Help our international audience understand how the judiciary in this country became so politicized?
Wehle: I don’t think they’re politicians in robes, because politicians tend to make decisions in America based on getting more money to win elections. So they will set aside principle, they’ll set aside policy outcomes, just for that objective.
That’s not the case at the Supreme Court. That being said, it’s unfortunate what happened with Justice Kavanaugh. It’s the most glaring example of how the Senate has allowed the confirmation process to become politicized.
But once justices are on the court, their decision on how to construe vague language will depend on their judicial philosophy. Some justices might believe Congress should have a lot more power over executive branch agencies. Some justices might believe the president has unlimited power in certain circumstances, like when it comes to the use of the military.
Other justices, the liberal wing, are more interested in making sure individual people retain as many rights versus the government. These are philosophical differences over how the government should work. (VOA)
Between zoom meetings, webinars, you're walking a tight rope to balance work from home and domestic chores, in all this its easy to forget about taking care of yourself. It's imperative to squeeze in a few hours to indulge in yourself, whether its a massage or a hair spa treatment.
It comes with a range of accessories which includes the 40mm Airwrap long barrels, 30mm Airwra barrels, a Firm smoothing brush, a Soft smoothing brush, a Round volumising brush, the Pre-styling dryer, a non-slip heat-resistant mat to place your styler on, a Storage case and even a Filter cleaning brush. A Storage bag (Iron/Fuchsia) securely stores your Dyson Airwrap when you're on the move.
The different styling attachments cater to unique hair needs and are designed for different hair styles. | File
The different styling attachments cater to unique hair needs and are designed for different hair styles. For instance the 30 mm barrels create and set voluminous curls. With clockwise and counter-clockwise barrels for symmetrical curls. The 40 mm barrels create and set loose curls or waves. The Firm smoothing brush creates a straighter style with less frizz ad fewer flyways, with firm bristles engineered to control unruly, frizz prone hair. The pre- styling dryer takes hair from wet to damp, ready for styling. The round volumizing brush directs air into the hair to give body, and the bristles create tension to shape hair as it dries, Ideal for limp, flat hair. To create a sooth, blow-dry finish. With soft bristles engineered to be gentle on the scalp.
It features three precise airflow speeds, to suit your styling and four precise heat settings, including constant cold shot. The cold shot immediately deactivates the heating element, for cooler air to set your style. The Coanda to curl barrels harness an aerodynamic phenomenon and the Coanda to smooth which uses Dyson brushes to attract hair to the surface of the brush, propelling air along the hair strands for a smooth, straighter style. It's powered by the Dyson digital motor V9, a 13-blade impeller spins at up to 110,000rpm, generating 3.2kPa. Powerful enough to produce the air pressure needed to create the Coanda effect. The intelligent heat control measures airflow temperature over 40 times a second, intelligently controlling the heating element to keep the temperature under a 150 degree Celsius. Preventing extreme heat damage. "Great styling and takes lesser effort than the usual blow drying. Saving lots of visits to the salon, absolutely love it!" says a salon regular who switched her weekly visits to the salon for the at home Dyson experience. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Dyson, hair, hair styles, styling, airflow, non-slip heat-resistant mat, Pre-styling dryer, olumising brush, smoothing brush, Dyson Airwrap
An international team of astronomers has identified 366 new exoplanets, using data from the NASA Kepler Space Telescope's K2 mission. The findings, described in a paper published in the Astronomical Journal, showed a planetary system that comprises a star and at least two gas giant planets, each roughly the size of Saturn and located unusually close to one another.
The discovery is significant because it's rare to find gas giants -- like Saturn in the solar system -- as close to their host star as they were in this case. The researchers cannot yet explain why it occurred there, but it makes the finding especially useful because it could help scientists form a more accurate understanding of the parameters for how planets and planetary systems develop.
An international team of astronomers has identified 366 new exoplanets, using data from the NASA Kepler Space Telescope's K2 mission. | NASA
"The discovery of each new world provides a unique glimpse into the physics that play a role in planet formation," said lead author Jon Zink, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar. The findings could be a significant step toward helping astronomers understand which types of stars are most likely to have planets orbiting them and what that indicates about the building blocks needed for successful planet formation, acoording to the study. "We need to look at a wide range of stars, not just ones like our sun, to understand that," Zink said.
The term "exoplanets" is used to describe planets outside of the solar system. The number of exoplanets that have been identified by astronomers numbers fewer than 5,000 in all, so the identification of hundreds of new ones is a significant advance. Kepler's original mission came to an unexpected end in 2013 when a mechanical failure left the spacecraft unable to precisely point at the patch of sky it had been observing for years.
But astronomers repurposed the telescope for a new mission known as K2, whose objective is to identify exoplanets near distant stars. Data from K2 is helping scientists understand how stars' location in the galaxy influences what kind of planets are able to form around them. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Astronomers, discover, possible, exoplanets, telescope, mission, planets
By Dr Anil Batra
The winter comes with its own set of hassles. New moms have to be careful because they have to take care of themselves and their babies. It becomes imperative to protect babies from the harsh season. The immune system of newborn babies is developing, which makes them susceptible to respiratory infections. But, you can take preventive measures to keep your child warm and safe. Newborn babies need extra care until their immune system becomes stronger to protect their bodies from the harmful effects of viruses and bacteria that usually become more active in the winter season. A drop in the temperature can aggravate different processes in the body, therefore, moms need to take extra care of newborn babies during winters.
New moms can follow the given tips to take care of their little ones and protect them from the harmful effects of harsh winds blowing outside.
Keep the temperature warm in the baby's room: Use a portable heater in the baby's room to keep the temperature warm. The air becomes dry due to the excessive use of a heater. Therefore, keeping a humidifier to balance the moisture levels.
Apply moisturizer: The baby's skin is very sensitive and the harsh, dry, and cold air can make the skin dry. Therefore, apply a good moisturizer to keep it soft and smooth. Choose a moisturizer made of milk cream and butter, especially for children. This will keep the skin of your baby soft.
Massage: Massage is important to keep your baby's skin soft and healthy. Massage helps to improve the blood circulation in the body that helps in boosting strength. Use a natural oil to massage the body of your child. Make sure the room is warm where you massage the baby.
Massage helps to improve the blood circulation in the body that helps in boosting strength. | Photo by Khoa Pham on Unsplash
Avoid using heavy blankets: You can comfort your baby by laying a light blanket to keep your baby warm. Avoid using a heavy blanket to cover your baby during winters because your baby would not be able to move his arms and legs while sleeping. In this process, your baby may pull it up on its face and this can cause respiratory distress. Thus, use a light blanket and keep the room temperature optimum.
Dress your baby comfortably: Choose comfortable dressing for your baby. Avoid wrapping your baby in thick sweaters, gloves, and socks. This will restrict its movement and he/she will become irritable. Choose clothes depending on the room temperature. The clothes should cover his/her baby but should not restrict movement. You can use light gloves and socks to cover your hands and feet to keep your baby warm at night.
Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding is the most important activity that can keep your baby healthy. Breast milk consists of required nutrients and antibodies that will enhance the immune system of your baby and will protect him/her against diseases. During breastfeeding your baby will feel warm and cosy that will also give him comfort.
Avoid using a heavy blanket to cover your baby during winters because your baby would not be able to move his arms and legs while sleeping | Flickr
Maintain proper hygiene: Mothers should be careful when handling newborn babies in winters. You will be the first point of contact for your baby. Therefore, make sure you keep yourself clean and healthy. Wash your hands before handling your baby. Germs can easily enter your baby's body through your dirty hands. Therefore, make sure you wash your hands or sanitize them before attending to your baby. Also, ask visitors to wash their hands.
Take care outdoors: If you want to take your child outdoors make sure it is not freezing temperature. Take your child out for fresh air only if the temperature is not too cold and remember to cover your baby properly before taking them out. Taking your baby out will help to give fresh air and will improve their health.
Common issues that may arise in newborn babies during winters:
Winter brings flu and other viruses that can easily spread and affect anyone. Common issues that may arise in newborn babies during winters include the following:
- Skin allergies
- Digestive issues
Parents can take care of their newborn babies from various diseases that may affect them in the winters in the following ways:
* If your baby suffers during the winter season, you should consult a pediatrician.
* You can give a homemade solution if your baby suffers from a cold. Check with the doctor and you can only give a saline solution or nasal drops.
* Keep your baby well hydrated. Keep breastfeeding your baby and also give water if necessary.
* Cuddle your baby lovingly and give him warmth along with other precautions.
* In the first winter, you can take preventive measures to take care of your little ones and keep them safe. Maintain proper hygiene and keep your house warm. Avoid visitors if your child is not feeling well.
It is not necessary to give a bath to your baby every day. You can bathe your baby after 2-3 days in winter. | Photo by Aditya Romansa on Unsplash
How often to give a bath to your baby in winter?
It is not necessary to give a bath to your baby every day. You can bathe your baby after 2-3 days in winter. You can sponge bathe your newborn every other day in winter. Check the temperature of the room before giving a bath to your baby. The room temperature should be warm and comfortable for your baby. Check the temperature of the water. Make sure the water is not too hot or cold. The temperature of the water should be right for the body of your baby. Check the temperature by touching the water with your elbow or wrist. Use mild soap and shampoo to bathe your baby in winter. Also, apply oil and moisturizer to the skin to keep it soft and prevent skin allergies. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Winter, care tips, newborn, baby, hygiene, breastfeeding, blanket