How an ‘ugly,’ unwanted weapon became the most popular rifle in America

(CNN)Larry Hyatt had never seen such a frenzy.

The lines at Hyatt Guns, his shop in Charlotte, North Carolina, snaked out the door. The deep, green-walled warehouse bills itself as the largest gun shop in America, but even then Hyatt had to stretch to meet the demand.
At one point, he dispatched 37 salespeople to man the cash registers. He put up velvet ropes and hired a police officer. He even put a hot dog stand outside.
It was just after the Sandy Hook massacre — and customers were lined up to buy AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, like the one the shooter Adam Lanza used.
Mass shootings, rather than temper gun sales, only feed the hunger.

That the boom in business happened after one of the most heinous mass shootings in American history was no coincidence. Mass shootings, rather than temper gun sales, only feed the hunger.
And AR-15 style rifles have become a favorite among mass shooters, used in some of the most notorious and deadly mass killings in recent history: Aurora, Vegas, Texas, San Bernardino.
This is the story of how media hysteria and failed policy; industry pressures and consumer demand; blood and money helped turn an ugly, unwanted semi-automatic rifle into the most popular rifle in America.

How a weapon of war was born

    History of the modern assault-style rifle

The AR-15’s journey into the hands of gun enthusiasts and mass murderers alike started in the jungles of Vietnam. It was the 1960s, and the landscape of warfare had changed. In Vietnam, rather than clear-cut enemy lines, combatants were fighting in close combat in city streets and dense forests. Viet Cong guerillas and North Vietnamese soldiers carried AK-47s. The US Army needed its own answer.
Enter the AR-15, developed for military use by Armalite, an arms company from which the gun takes its name (“AR” stands for “Armalite Rifle“).
The rifle combined rapid fire with a lighter weight. It replaced higher-caliber bullets with lighter ammunition that made up in speed what it lacked in size.

Rather than relying on marksmanship, the AR-15 used rapid fire. The lightweight rifle maximized its kill rate by raking enemy soldiers with high-velocity rounds. As the original designers explained, the speed of the impact causes the bullet to tumble after it penetrates tissue, creating catastrophic injuries.
Armalite didn’t manage to sell the gun to the military. Faced with money woes, it instead sold the rights to Colt Industries in 1959.
Colt was more successful in its efforts, and in 1962, Congress authorized an initial purchase of 8,500 AR-15s for testing. The fully automatic version–capable of being set to semi-automatic–was given a new name for military use: the M-16.
It became the standard-issue rifle during the Vietnam War.

How it was marketed to civilians

Not long after it started selling M-16s to the military, Colt began marketing the semi-automatic AR-15 to civilians. The company gave it the gentler name of the “Sporter,” and described it as a hunting rifle.
But the gun, designed for close, confusing combat, was not an immediate hit. In the eyes of many gun enthusiasts, the “black rifle” — as it was nicknamed — was ugly and expensive.
“To its champions, the AR-15 was an embodiment of fresh thinking. Critics saw it as an ugly little toy,” wrote C.J. Chivers in his book, “The Gun.”
In July 1981, the fan magazine Guns and Ammo waxed eloquent about the Sporter’s unappealing reputation.
“Most shooters and veteran riflemen look down their noses at these steel-stamped rifles as remnants from an erector set. The turn-bolt aficionado looks with a great deal of disdain at anybody toting one of these space-age rifles with plastic stocks and fore-ends. The dyed-in-the-wool deer hunter watching his domain being infiltrated by these black and gray guns assumes that these ‘new generation’ hunters are merely fantasizing ‘war games’ and are playing ‘soldier.'”
Instead, the gun was mainly sold to law enforcement and other narrower demographics — notably, “survivalists” who imagined they would one day face combat situations in an apocalyptic future, according to Tom Diaz, a gun expert and author of “Making a Killing: The Business of Guns in America.”

How a mass shooting made it a celebrity

On a dark day in 1989, the public awoke to the notion that civilians could own semi-automatic rifles.
On January 17 of that year, a 24-year-old drifter wearing combat clothes and a flak jacket walked up to his old grade-school playground in Stockton, California, and pumped bullets on a crowd of children with his AK-47 rifle, a semi-automatic version that had been imported from China.
Within minutes, Patrick Edward Purdy squeezed the trigger at least 106 times. He then aimed a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger one last time. Five children lay dead; 29 other children and one teacher were wounded.
The massacre was so horrifying, Colt Industries, then the manufacturer of the competing AR-15, did something unfathomable today. It suspended civilian sales of the AR-15 for a year while the Bush administration weighed whether to ban the weapon.
Before Stockton, most people didn’t even know you could buy those guns.
Chris Bartocci, a former Colt’s employee and author of Black Rifle II

Chris Bartocci, a former Colt employee and author of the book “Black Rifle II,’ says it was the first time many in the general public had heard about the availability of such weapons.
“Before Stockton, most people didn’t even know you could buy those guns,” he said. The media coverage, he said, helped glamorize semi-automatic rifles to the buying public. “This stuff has been around forever; this is not new technology.”
The term “AR-15” is now considered a style of rifle, rather than a specific brand of one.

By 1990, Guns & Ammo reported that sales of the AR-15 were soaring, although that seems to have been a rather relative term. In 1990, Colt made only 36,000 Sporters for domestic use, according to the Hartford Courant.
The patent on the AR-15 by then had expired, opening the door for several new competitors, which is why the term “AR-15” is now considered a style of rifle, rather than a specific brand of one.

How a ban increased demand

As the profile of the AR-15 rose, talk continued of banning “assault weapons,” a term used by lawmakers to denote certain types of semi-automatic firearms. President George H.W. Bush, a lifetime NRA member, proposed banning all magazines holding more than 15 rounds.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton pushed the assault weapons ban through Congress with some bipartisan support. Presidents Reagan, Carter and Ford co-authored a letter to the House of Representatives expressing their support.

“This is a matter of vital importance to the public safety,” it read. “We urge you to listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of these weapons.”
Hyatt, whose store was started by his father in 1959, recalled a surge in sales then, too.
There’s something about human nature, he says. “You tell a man he can’t have something and suddenly he wants 12.”
You tell a man he can’t have something and suddenly he wants 12.
Larry Hyatt, owner of Hyatt Guns

Ironically, the ban didn’t do much to deter the production of the now-generic AR-15.
Clinton’s ban outlawed Colt’s AR-15 by name. But the ban didn’t cover versions of these weapons unless they had two of these purely cosmetic features: a folding stock, a bayonet mount, a “conspicuously protruding” pistol grip, a flash suppressor or a grenade launcher. Grenades aren’t even legal to own.


of total rifles sold in 2016 were

AR styles/modern sporting rifles.

Source: National Shooting Sports Foundation

“It makes no sense, banning something based on appearance,” said Bartocci. “It’s the same weapon; one just looks meaner.”
Manufacturers quickly found a way to redesign around these constraints.
In its August 2003 issue, while the ban was still in effect, Guns & Ammo ran a feature story titled “Stoner’s ‘Black Rifle’ Marches On,” subtitled “The basic AR platform has been refined, improved, upgraded, power-boosted and accurized.”
Sales figures for the AR-15 aren’t made public. But as the ban was about to expire in 2004, the NRA told members “hundreds of thousands of AR-15s have been made and sold since the ban took effect.”
In fact, the ban became a powerful tool for the NRA, both politically and for its promotion of gun manufacturers.

Until the ban, sales of firearms had been fairly flat. In the eight years preceding the ban, gun makers produced an average of 1.1 million rifles a year, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. During the ban, production rose to 1.4 million a year.
That increase is widely attributed to the growing popularity of semi-automatic rifles, now called “modern sporting rifles” by the industry and gun enthusiasts.

How it became ‘king of the industry’

Through a combination of tragedy, profit, fear, curiosity and mysterious human psychology, the AR-15 shed its early reputation as an ugly misfit and found a new place as a nimble, versatile fan favorite.
Among sporting rifles, “AR-15 is the king of the industry, so to speak,” said Michael Weeks, owner of Georgia Gun Store, which boasts “the best selection of firearms in North Georgia.”
Veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were comfortable with the weapon. It’s also lightweight, adaptable, and relatively easy to maintain.

More than

15 million

The number of AR-15s owned

by Americans today

Source: The National Rifle Association

Owners can remodel the guns themselves, or they can construct one from scratch with their favorite features.
“It’s everything you want,” said Bartocci, the “Black Rifle II” author. “You want a hunting rifle? It does it. You want a target rifle? It does it. You want a law-enforcement rifle? It does it.”
The AR-15 is now the most popular sporting rifle in the U.S. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, AR-15 style rifles accounted for an estimated 61 percent of all US civilian rifle sales in 2016. The National Rifle Association reports that Americans own more than 15 million AR-15s today.
As more AR-15 style rifles entered the market, the competition caused the price to drop. During the ban, Weeks said an AR-15 could have cost well over $1,000. But an AR-15 from his store costs as little as $400 today.

How Obama’s election stoked sales

By now the relationship between gun sales and anti-gun rhetoric was well-established. So after the assault-weapons ban became defunct in late 2004, rifle production numbers remained relatively flat.

Then, in early 2009, President Barack Obama took office. Conservative gun owners feared a ban from Democrats in the White House and the Capitol, and the numbers went wild.
According to the ATF, gun makers began cranking out 2.4 million rifles annually in Obama’s first term — a 52 percent increase from the previous four years of the Bush administration.
In 2008, The Shooting Wire published a feature titled, “Industry Hanging on to a Single Category.”
“For the past few weeks, it may be that we’ve given a false impression as to how well the firearms industry is really doing,” it read. “The net of all the numbers is that if you’re a company with a strong line of high-capacity pistols and AR-style rifles, you’re doing land office business. If you’re heavily dependent on hunting, you are hurting.”

This illustrated a fundamental shift taking place among gun owners. Gun ownership has declined over the last decades, and many gun owners’ motivations have changed.
“There are far fewer hunters now than there ever have been,” said Weeks.
In 1999, a Pew survey asked gun owners why they owned a gun. Almost 50 percent said “hunting”, and 26 percent said “protection.” By 2017, those numbers had reversed — 67 percent said they had a gun for protection and only 38 percent said hunting.

How history is repeating itself

Five years ago this week, Sandy Hook devastated the nation. It was Stockton writ larger — including the threat of a new ban. The fear that had elevated gun sales during the Obama administration was now on the horizon, and so up again they went. In 2013, total rifle production exploded to nearly 4 million, according to the ATF.
The ban never materialized. Despite strong public support for expanding background checks, President Obama failed to get even that legislation through Congress. The attack shattered the nation and raised cries for action. But the shooting that was supposed to change everything changed little.

As gun sales kept climbing, so did the body count.
  • The shooter who killed 58 people and injured more than 500 in the Las Vegas massacre on October 1, 2017, used several AR-15 style rifles equipped with bump stocks to mimic fully-automatic rifles.
The gun that had been created to mow down combatants in the Vietnam jungles was now a de facto calling card of some of the country’s most heinous mass shooters.

When President Trump was elected in 2016, gun owners rejoiced and the president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation called him the “most pro-Second Amendment President in recent history.”
So when the Las Vegas massacre happened, the deadliest shooting in modern American history, the frenzy wasn’t as great.
The shooting that was supposed to change everything changed little.

“When you have a president that says, ‘It’s not the gun, it’s mental illness,’ people are a lot calmer about it,” says Weeks, the Georgia gun shop owner.
While the impact of the shooting is too recent to measure through production numbers, anecdotally, gun sales didn’t see as sharp a rise.
But something else did: Bump stocks.
Sellers said people who hadn’t heard of them before the Vegas shooting rushed in to get one — suspecting they would soon be banned.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates v Cornel West: black academics and activists give their verdict

One of the foremost black intellectuals in the US has deleted his Twitter account after a public row. Commentators Melvin Rogers, Patrisse Cullors, Carol Anderson and Shailja Patel discuss the impact on the debate and struggle for racial equality

In a blistering Guardian article last Sunday, Harvard scholar Cornel West labelled award-winning African American author Ta-Nehisi Coates the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle. A furious debate raged all week among black academics and activists.

The disagreement between Coates and me is clear, said West. Any analysis or vision of our world that omits the centrality of Wall Street power, US military policies, and the complex dynamics of class, gender, and sexuality in black America is too narrow and dangerously misleading. So it is with Ta-Nehisi Coates worldview.

Coates hit back on Twitter, listing the articles he has written criticising US foreign policy, before quitting the social media site and deleting his account of 1.25 million followers.

So did this row between two of the best-known African American thinkers set back, or advance the struggle for black equality? We asked black academics and activists for their verdict.

Melvin Rogers: Criticisms of our allies are valid, but must be properly pitched


The disagreement between Cornel West and Ta-Nehisi Coates takes place against the backdrop of a long and rich tradition of struggle and internal conflict among African American intellectuals and activists regarding the quality and form that resistance to white supremacy should take. And there is much value in this. As WEB Du Bois noted in 1903: The hushing of the criticism of honest opponents is a dangerous thing Honest and earnest criticism this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern democracy.

Rather than treating the West-Coates disagreement as a feud, we would do better to ask what might we learn from it and how might it provide direction. First, the criticisms we direct to those who are rightly viewed as our allies must be properly pitched. Those of us who are committed to racial justice achieve nothing by alienating those who otherwise are standing with us. In the face of our criticisms, we mean for them to lean in and learn from, rather than pull back and opt out of, intellectual debate.

Second, once we inhabit the space of the social critic and, in truth, there is a little bit of a social critic in all of us we cannot simply abandon debate when it has become intense. Nor should we allow others, seeking to foment division for their own ends, co-opt the conversation.

Melvin Rogers is associate professor of political science at Brown University

Patrisse Cullors: The spotlight is on two men whose debates are not definitive of our communities


Revolutionary Unity

gained only thru struggle

long sought for

must be fought for

`Revolutionary Unity

So wrote Amiri Baraka in 1979. The exchange between Cornel West and Ta-Nehisi Coates is evidence that black political debate in the US is at a historic low. I was trained within a black radical tradition that encouraged struggle within our own movements because it sharpens collective analysis bringing us closer to the tools we need to achieve liberation.

Freedom for black people (and by extension, everyone) looks like a world without policing and incarceration, a world where black people live to raise their children, where our country doesnt rely on corporations, and where our nation is primarily concerned with the livelihood and dignity of our communities. Freedom means the US government not being the main threat to countries around the world.

Wherever there are communities fighting for freedom and liberation, there are serious tensions. Lets quote Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr and Ella Baker without romanticising them, but rather acknowledging that they had legitimate arguments about tactics and strategy.

Another key element missing from the West-Coates conversation is the role, analysis and wisdom of black women and black queer folks. Again, our narratives and analyses are erased. The countrys spotlight is on two black cis-gendered men whose debates are not definitive of our communities or movements.

The culture we have created today is one where debates fall into call-out tropes; where we silo our conversations to social media. While this is an incredible tool, can we facilitate healthy debate off social media? Do we have the interest, ability, patience and compassion to have face-to-face conversations? Social media is not the only space we should rely on.

And finally, when we are calling for black political debate, I ask, is it fundamentally changing the material conditions for black people? Here, I dont see it; and black life is at stake.

Patrisse Cullors is an African American advocate for criminal justice reform and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement

Carol Anderson: The real radical is the man who hits power in high places


It was the 1920s. A morally and sexually compromised president had come to power promising a regime fundamentally different to his predecessors. The new administration was packed with conmen, hucksters, and unqualified shills raiding the public treasury and selling public lands to Big Oil. There were also those in the cabinet with an agenda that would place inordinate, unbridled power in the hands of corporations while millions of poor Americans took the brunt of a Great Depression that hit before anyone knew what to call it.

Greed fever ran like an epidemic in the financial sector giving the illusion of prosperity and wealth when, just underneath, the economy had major fissures and faultlines that threatened to topple the American behemoth. Meanwhile, black people were being terrorised in Tulsa, the Ku Klux Klan was gaining political power in key states in the north, voting rights were under attack, and a new racist immigration law effectively shut the door on anyone not Anglo-Saxon.

The international scene was just as vexing. The rise of fascist regimes in Europe and Japan ran headlong into an American retreat from the League of Nations, and by the 1930s there was a growing internal fifth column, marketing itself as America First, that undermined any effective response to regimes that threatened US national security.

In the midst of the maelstrom, an intellectual brawl broke out among African Americans. Unbelievably, the real issue was not the political and economic horror that confronted the nation and black people, who were dealing with massive disparities in access to constitutional rights and wealth. Instead, one African American intellectual openly and mercilessly challenged another over what was essentially ephemera. Du Bois looked on at the row within Fisk University, Tennessee, and shook his head. This peacock display was merely the effervescence of faux bravery. The real radical, he noted, is the man, who hits power in high places, white power, power backed by unlimited wealth; hits it and hits it openly and between the eyes.

Its 2017. A morally and sexually compromised man has assumed the presidency of the United States. His regime is attacking black and brown people with reckless abandon while, under the guise of America first, shielding Nazis and other white supremacists, and providing no defence against a government that threatens US national security. He and his minions have also unleashed wanton corporate greed, reduced public lands, attacked voting rights, and imposed or threatened immigration restrictions to warm the cockles of any eugenicist.

In the midst of this maelstrom

Carol Anderson is Charles Howard Candler professor and chair, African American studies, at Emory University

Shailja Patel: An unrealistic and ahistorical code has been invoked to silence debate


Imperial privilege is reducing a vital assessment of Barack Obamas devastating harm to black and brown peoples outside the US to a personal beef between two African American men.

Its painful to us, in the global south, to see that American writers that we read assiduously, and take seriously, are not reading us. They are not listening when we say: Please ask your president to stop killing us. They appear to simply not see black and brown bodies beyond US borders.

Obamas bombs took tens of thousands of civilian lives. His military intervention in Libya destroyed the country with the highest standard of living in Africa. To resist a public discussion of these crimes, for fear that our political differences will be deployed against us by racists, exemplifies what writer Mmatshilo Motsei calls colonial hangover. Arent we full, complex, thinking, sovereign human beings? Didnt we fight liberation battles, mount civil rights struggles, for the right to engage in public life? Dare we not, still, claim equal space in the forum?

An unrealistic and ahistorical code has been invoked, of global solidarity among people of colour, to silence debate on the actual mass slaughter of black and brown bodies by the first black head of Empire. Gabeba Baderoon, South African professor of gender and African studies at Penn State University, calls this the imperialism the US engenders, even in its citizens of colour.

Why should it concern us if Nazis retweet us? White supremacy, imperialism, patriarchy, neoliberalism, are inherently parasitic. We will never be human within these systems. Were not here to perform for their gaze. Were here to be fully human to ourselves, fully accountable to each other.

Shailja Patel is a Kenyan writer currently based in Johannesburg. She is the author of Migritude

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All The Eligible Royals You Can Still Marry To Become A Princess

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because we had 20 years of fantasizing about marrying Prince Harry. If somebody had to take him off the market, at least we can have some pride that it was an American. If the American Girl Doll franchise doesn’t immediately release a special edition doll, their CEO is wasting a golden opportunity. But before you start a pity party at happy hour that you’re no longer in the running to become Mrs. Prince Harry (that will be her official title, right?), read through the list of still royally eligible bachelors. You can snag a better title than the Duchess of Sussex.

Prince Sébastien of Luxembourg

Age: 25
How Many People Need to Die Before He’s King: 7
Education: Franciscan University – International Business and Marketing and Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
Career: Officer Cadet in Luxembourg Army
Highlights: Sebastian went to college in Ohio and played rugby, so he’s bringing beer pong to the palace.

Felipe Juan Froilán de Marichalar y Borbón of Spain

Age: 19
How Many People Need to Die Before He’s King: 5
Education: The College for International Studies – Business
Career: Being a professional asshole
Highlights: He is the Chuck Bass of European Royalty—he gave an official speech about Dr. Pepper, shot himself in the foot when he was 13, was expelled from multiple high schools for not taking his finals, was exiled to the US to finish high school, and his nickname is Pipe. So if you’re really into fixing “bad boys” (please see a therapist), then he’s the one for you.

Prince Joseph of Liechtenstein

Age: 22
How Many People Need to Die Before He’s King: 2
Education: Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
Career: Intern at the US Senate
Highlights: He took a gap year to backpack through South America, his favorite hobby is skiing, and he wants to get an MBA—so his real title is Prince Finance Bro.

Louis Ducruet of Monaco

Age: 24
How Many People Need to Die Before He’s King: 13
Education: Western Carolina University – Sports Management
Career: Scout for Association Sportive de Monaco Football Club (you can find him on LinkedIn)
Highlights: He’s the love child of his royal mother and her body guard, so he’s definitely got some daddy issues going on. But the deal breaker: He has no official title, so you wouldn’t be a Princess.

Hussein, Crown Prince of Jordan

Age: 23
How Many People Need to Die Before He’s King: 1
Education: Georgetown – International History and Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
Career: Second Lieutenant in the Jordanian Armed Forces, Director of Crown Prince Foundation
Highlights: He’s the youngest person to ever chair a UN Security Council meeting and takes the royalty thing super seriously. Chasing after him would mean a lot more than wearing jewelry well and going to charity galas, but you’d also be Queen of Jordan one day, so it seems like a decent trade-off. He has 1.1 million Instagram followers, so your engagement photos would get a shit ton of likes. 

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Paying mothers can ‘incentivise breastfeeding’

Image caption Fiona Sutcliffe, 29, from Sheffield took part in the scheme with her baby girl

Offering shopping vouchers to new mothers can encourage them to breastfeed their babies, a study published in JAMA Pediatrics has found.

About 10,000 new mothers in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire were offered up to £200 in vouchers as an incentive.

Breastfeeding rates increased in these areas, which typically have low uptake.

The vouchers gave mums a “lift” and helped them feel part of a network, according to the researchers.

They could be used to buy food, household items, toys, clothes, books, DVDs or music in supermarkets and other shops.

Overall, 46% of all eligible mothers signed up to the scheme and more than 40% claimed at least one voucher.

Fiona Sutcliffe, 29, from Sheffield, took part in the scheme with her baby girl.

She had considered breastfeeding while she was pregnant but was nervous that a caesarean would make it tricky: “There were definitely times when I was thinking ‘this is really difficult, I’m really struggling’.”

Breastfeeding reduces a baby’s chances of:

  • Diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Chest and ear infections
  • Becoming obese
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Type 2 diabetes in later life
  • Childhood leukaemia
  • Eczema
  • Cardiovascular disease in adulthood

Source: NHS Choices

Fiona said being part of the scheme encouraged her to breastfeed, and to do so for longer.

“The scheme is a really good way of keeping going – keeping motivated to stay on track rather than giving up and going for the bottle.

“It provides little milestones, little stepping stones and helps you get breastfeeding established.”

Fiona and her partner saved the vouchers and spent them on presents for their daughter’s first birthday.

Breastfeeding levels in the UK are some of the lowest in the world – in some areas only 12% of six to eight week-old babies are fed in this way.

One of the study’s authors, Mary Renfrew, of the University of Dundee, said: “It can be particularly difficult for women to breastfeed without strong family and community support, because of strong societal barriers.”

She said some women encounter barriers when breastfeeding in public and that there is “widespread misleading marketing that formula is equivalent to breastfeeding”.

Abigail Wood from the National Childbirth Trust said it was important that women feel supported not pressurised to breastfeed.

“It’s good to see the mothers involved in this scheme appear to have had a positive experience.

“We know that most women want to breastfeed yet many stop because they don’t get the information and practical help they need.”

Related Topics

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How a Shy Jewish Boys Nose Issues Gave America Rudolf for Christmas

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeers creator didnt have a very shiny nose, but he was a Jewish guy with a very, ahem, prominent beak.

Some of the Wests ugliest, most foundational, stereotypes haunted Robert Lewis Mays life. Yet his saga tells a lovely Yuletide tale about a best-selling Christmas song romanticizing a rescued underdog, that actually rescued a hopelessly romantic underdogMay himself.

Twas the month after Christmas, 1938, and the great retailers at Montgomery Ward department stores were already preparing for Christmas 1939. Robert May was an advertising editor for the company famous for coining the phrase satisfaction guaranteed or your money back in 1875.

Founded in 1872 as a mail order business, Montgomery Ward opened more than 500 department stores during the Roaring 20s. This overexpansion threatened the company when the Great Depression began. But by 1936, the company had recovered, becoming Americas largest retailer.

Back then, department stores were not only grand shrines of shopping, they were cultural phenomenaas defining as Disney or Apple or Facebook is today. The great retailers werent just moving goods. They werent just entertaining customers. They were shaping Americans identities: their likes and dislikes, their emotions and memories, their deepest desires and highest aspirations. The essential tour guides to this experience were the ad-menand they were menAmericas id ticklersand expanders.

May knew he was a walking clich. This 34-year-old husband with a 4-year-old daughter and a mediocre job felt saddled by debts and doubts. Instead of producing the great American novel he dreamed of writing while at Dartmouth, class of 1926, he was churning out forgettable sales promotions for white shirts and silky sheets. And on that depressing January day when his boss summoned him, May felt particularly crushed because his wife was dying of cancer.

Bob, he later recalled his boss saying. Ive got an idea. For years our stores have been buying those little Christmas giveaway coloring books from local peddlers. I think we can save a lot of money if we create one ourselves. Could you come up with a better booklet we could use? The boss wanted a cute animal like Ferdinand the Bullthe hero of a childrens story written in 1935, selling 3,000 a copies weekly by 1938.

May combined three elements. First, his daughter Barbara loved the deer at the Chicago zoo. Second, crafting a parable, he remembered the taunts he endured as a shy, short, awkward Jewish kidand his ongoing insecurities. Why not make an underdoga loser triumphant in the end, he thought, imagining an Ugly Duckling-type stepping up to power Santas sleigh. Then, looking out onto the flickering street lights on a foggy winter night, Eureka: Suddenly I had it! A nose! A bright red nose that would shine through fog like a floodlight.

The boss first reaction For gosh sakes, Bob, cant you do better than that?

Looking at photos suggests why May hit this idea on the nose: his, while not huge, stood out. May was pretty tight-lipped about his physical self-image and his Jewish heritage. One of the men who would popularize the Rudolph phenomenon, the publisher of the now-classic poem, Harry Elbaum, was franker: All my life Ive been kidded about my own nose, he later recalled, so Rudolph won my sympathy from the start.

There is no scientific evidence that Jews have bigger noses than most Mediterranean peoples. Two other things, however, are certain. When a Jew has a big nose, confirmation bias kicks in, its interpreted as demonstrating Jewishness not randomness. Second, medieval demonization not anthropological observation linked Jews with big noses.

Jews have always been a peculiar target, because they look like other Westerners yet act so differently, when they wish. Jews frustrate the haters when they fit in too muchand when they stand out too much. Caricaturing them as physically different, as visibly exotic, makes them easier targets.

When anti-Jewish caricatures first emerged in Christian art more than a thousand years ago, doctrinaire artists depicted Jews wearing peculiar pointed hatswhich they never actually wore. In Demonizing the Other: Antisemitism, Racism, and Xenophobia, the late historian Robert Wistrich explains that by the 13th century, hooked-nose Jews started appearing in imagined scenes of Jesus crucifixion. These ugly beaks linked Jews to witches, devils, heretics, Muslims, and blacksthis pileup of prejudices is what modern scholars call intersectionality.

In this Rudolph story, May, Elbaum, and Johnny Marks, who wrote the Rudolph lyrics we all know, executed a Jew-Jitsu. In an instinctive U-turn other victims of discrimination should learn, they turned a mark of shame into a point of pride. Jimmy Durantean Italiandid it with his schnozzola. Jack Benny did it with Jews supposed cheapness. And Reese Witherspoon did it in Legally Blonde with her smarts despite her looks. By exaggeration, validation, then veneration, May and company made the Jewish nose noble at Christmas-time decades before Barbra Streisand made it beautiful in Hollywood.

Rudolphs red nose first has other reindeer laughing, calling him names, never letting poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games. Then one foggy Christmas Eve Rudolph with his nose so bright helps guide Santas sleigh tonight.

That song, however, came a decade later. First, in July, 1939, Mays wife died. By August, his boss was sympathetically encouraging him to drop the projectbut May sought distraction and salvation. That Christmas, improved by Denver Gillans illustrations and young Barbara Mays feedback, Rudolph debuted, appearing in 2.4 million copies of a coloring book. After a break to respect wartime paper shortages, in 1946, Montgomery Ward distributed 3.6 million copies.

Then, Mays personal Christmas miracle. His boss, the Scrooge-like, Franklin-Roosevelt-hating, Liberty Leaguer Sewell Avery, suddenly gave May all the rights to Rudolph. In 1947, Elbaum, the admittedly big-nosed and big-hearted publisher, mass marketed the Rudolph poem. In 1948, Mays brother-in-law Johnny Marks wrote those memorable lyrics. Alas, neither Bing Cosby nor Dinah Shore wanted to record them. In 1949, the singing cowboy Gene Autry did, ultimately selling over 25 million copies, second only to Irving Berlins White Christmas.

Its a lovely American mystery: Why did Jews write so many of the greatest Christmas songsJohnny Marks also wrote Rockin Around the Christmas Tree and A Holly Jolly Christmas. Its an inspiring immigrant story, about Americas welcoming arms, telling the world, as Emma Lazarus did: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Its a typical Jewish story, about the wandering Jews sensitive ears, learning how to master the cultural lingo of their different habitats over the millennia. And, frankly, its a complicated Christian story, about justified religious finger-wagging, warning that Christmas today has become so commercialized, so universalized, even Jews who dont believe in Jesus can become high priests of American Christmasdom.

May, whose second wife was Catholic, dodged the ecumenical questions. He simply was proud that Today children all over the world read and hear about the little deer who started out in life as a loser, just as I did. But they learn that when he gave himself for others, his handicap became the very means through which he received happiness.Thus, Rudolphs mass marketing and altruistic message, not just Rudolphs gift-delivering-heroics, will go down in history.

For Further Reading

Robert L. May, Robert May Tells How Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Came into Being, 1975.

Jessica Pupovac, Writing Rudolph: The Original Red-Nosed Manuscript, 2013.

Sara Lipton, Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of anti-Jewish Iconography, 2014.

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The embryo is just a year younger than the mother who birthed her

(CNN)The longest known frozen human embryo to result in a successful birth was born last month in Tennessee.

Emma Wren Gibson, delivered November 25 by Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, medical director of the National Embryo Donation Center, is the result of an embryo originally frozen on October 14, 1992.
Emma’s parents, Tina and Benjamin Gibson of eastern Tennessee, admit feeling surprised when they were told the exact age of the embryo thawed March 13 by Carol Sommerfelt, embryology lab director at the National Embryo Donation Center.
    “Do you realize I’m only 25? This embryo and I could have been best friends,” Tina Gibson said.
    Today, Tina, now 26, explained to CNN, “I just wanted a baby. I don’t care if it’s a world record or not.”
    Sommerfelt said the birth is “pretty exciting considering how long the embryos had been frozen.” Previously, the oldest known frozen embryo that came to successful birth was 20 years old.
    Weighing 6 pounds 8 ounces and measuring 20 inches long, Emma is a healthy baby girl, and that’s the only thought on her parents’ minds.
    “We’re just so thankful and blessed. She’s a precious Christmas gift from the Lord,” Tina said. “We’re just so grateful.”
    Despite not sharing genes, Benjamin, 33, said that Emma feels completely like his own child. “As soon as she came out, I fell in love with her,” he said.
    Emma’s story begins long before the Gibsons “adopted” her (and four sibling embryos from the same egg donor). Created for in vitro fertilization by another, anonymous couple, the embryos had been left in storage so they could be used by someone unable or unwilling to conceive a child naturally.
    These are “snowbabies,” lingering in icy suspension, potential human lives waiting to be born.

    Infertility and fostering

    Seven years ago, the Gibsons married, refusing to allow a dark cloud to shadow their love. “My husband has cystic fibrosis, so infertility is common,” Tina said, adding that they had found peace with it. “We had decided that we were more than likely going to adopt, and we were fine with that.”
    Before trying to implant an embryo, they fostered several children and enjoyed doing so.
    During a break between fosters, they decided to take a week-long vacation. As they were dropping off their dog at her parents’ house, Tina’s father stopped them.
    “I saw something on the news today. It’s called embryo adoption, and they would implant an embryo in you, and you could carry a baby,” he told his daughter.
    “I was like, ‘Well, that’s nice, Dad, but we’re not interested. We’re knee-deep in foster care right now,’ ” Tina recalled with a laugh. “I kind of blew it off. I had no interest in it.”
    But during the eight-hour car trip, Tina could not stop thinking about her father’s words. “It was playing in my mind over and over and over,” she said. Hours into her journey, she turned to Benjamin and asked what he thought about “this embryo adoption.” He too had been thinking about it “the whole time.”
    Tina started researching on her phone, sharing information with Benjamin as he drove. “I knew everything about it before I got off that vacation,” she said. She knew, for instance, that the National Embryo Donation Center was based in Knoxville, Tennessee, and could facilitate a frozen embryo transfer.
    Still, she was not immediately ready. Weeks passed.
    “During August of last year, I just came home one day; I looked at Benjamin, and I said, ‘I think we need to submit an application for embryo adoption,’ ” she explained. “On a whim, we filled out an application and submitted that night.”

    ”It’s a world record!’

    By December, she was on medication to do a “mock transfer”: essentially a series of medical examinations to see whether her uterus would be physically capable of receiving an implanted embryo. In January, the tests were complete, and though Tina required a small procedure to remove a polyp from her uterus, she was eligible for implantation.
    Next, a home study was performed, said Mark Mellinger, marketing and development director for the National Embryo Donation Center. This part of the process, conducted by a partner organization run by a social worker, is “just the standard home study that mimics any home study that anybody would go through in a traditional adoption process.”
    Families who have been approved by the state generally pass the requirements set by the donation center. “Very rarely does a review find a red flag,” Mellinger said.
    Finally, the Gibsons were ready for the implantation procedure in March. But they had to choose an embryo, which required viewing donor “profiles” listing the basic genetic information about the genetic parents.”We literally had two weeks to go through 300 profiles,” Benjamin said.
    “It was overwhelming,” Tina said. “There was so many, and it’s like, how do you pick?”
    The couple started with one small detail just to “narrow it down in an easy way,” she said. Since she and Benjamin are physically small, they began by looking at profiles based on height and weight. “Then we started looking at some of the bigger things, like medical history.
    “Long story short, we picked our profile,” Tina said, but that embryo was not viable, so their second choice was used.
    Only when they “were fixing to go for the transfer” did her doctor and Sommerfelt explain “It’s a world record!”
    “I didn’t sign up for this,” Tina said, laughing.
    In fact, no one knows that it’s definitely a record.
    “Identifying the oldest known embryo is simply an impossibility,” said Dr. Zaher Merhi, director of IVF research and development at New Hope Fertility Center, which is not involved to the Gibson case. American companies are not required to report to the government the age of an embryo used, only the outcome of the pregnancy, so “nobody has these records.”
    Other experts, though, cited the study on a 20-year-old frozen embryo that came to successful birth.
    Sommerfelt said she had unthawed three “snowbabies,” all of them adopted from the same anonymous donor. Surprisingly, all three survived. Normally, there’s about a 75% survival rate when unthawing frozen embryos.
    Though Keenan transferred all three to Tina, only one implanted. This is normal, since successful implantation rate “normally runs about 25% to 30%,” she said.
    The transfer “worked out perfect,” Tina said. “It’s a miracle. First time.”
    Problems encountered during pregnancy were due to Tina having a short cervix, which could have prevented her from successfully carrying her baby. That did not happen, and just after Thanksgiving, Tina began 20 hours of labor. All the while, Emma’s heart beat normally.
    “So it all just fell into place,” said Tina. “It’s our new normal; it’s crazy to think about it.”

    Odds of success

    Dr. Jason Barritt, laboratory director and research scientist at the Southern California Reproductive Center, said that only about “15% to 20% of the time there are additional embryos” not used in IVF. Due to the high success rates of the IVF process, which has been scientifically explored in animals for more than half a century, fewer embryos are now created. Louise Brown, the first human resulting from an IVF procedure, was born in July 1978.
    “Usually, couples have leftover embryos because they have completed their families and no longer need additional embryos,” Barritt said. His center was not involved in the Gibson case. “They remain frozen until the patient asks for some other disposition.”
    Disposition options — what is done with the additional embryos — include simply leaving them cryopreserved in liquid nitrogen storage tanks, disposing of them in an appropriate way, donating them to research or training for the advancement of the field of reproductive medicine, or donating them to another couple.
    The final option is rare, Barritt said, “due to a variety of additional steps and guidelines that must be met,” such as infectious disease screening and meeting US Food and Drug Administration donor eligibility regulations, “and significant legal documentation that must be met.”
    Mellinger said the National Embryo Donation Center is a faith-based organization founded in 2003. “We say that our reason for existence is to protect the sanctity and dignity of the human embryo,” he said. “We are big advocates of embryo donation and embryo adoption.”
    If you want to donate an embryo, it will handle the details for free.
    “We will contact the fertility clinic where the embryos are stored, and they are happy to work with us,” Mellinger said. A special storage container is shipped, the fertility center places the embryos inside and sends it to the the donation center, and then the embryos are stored in the lab in Knoxville.
    “We will adopt out an embryo whenever,” he said. “Sometimes, embryos have been in storage for a few weeks, maybe a few months. Sometimes, it’s literally been decades.”
    The adopting couple pays all the fees, amounting to less than about $12,500 for a first try, according to Mellinger.
    Recalling the birth of her special daughter, Tina’s voice dissolves into tears.
    “We wanted to adopt, and I don’t know that that isn’t going to be in our future. We may still adopt,” she said. “This just ended up being the route that we took. I think that we would have been equally elated if were able to adopt. “

    See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

    Asked whether they might try again with the remaining two embryos — Emma’s sisters or brothers — Tina said she absolutely would have said “yes” two months ago.
    “But after having natural childbirth, I’m like, ‘I’m never doing that again!’ ” she said. “But I’m sure in like a year, I’ll be like, ‘I want to try for another baby.’ “

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    This New Year’s Eve Flight Takes You Around The World For A 24-Hour Party

    An evening at home with takeout containers and sips of bubbly is for quitters if you ask a particular group of travelers. For those who are looking to ring in 2018 on an adventurous note, you have to do so . This New Year’s Eve flight allows you to relieve the holiday magic with a 24-hour party, and it’s a celebration like no other (with a price tag like no other as well).

    While most of us are preoccupied picking out NYE dresses and cleaning champagne flutes, free spirits are packing their bags for a flight of a lifetime. PrivateFly offers an exclusive trip so thrill-seekers have two shots at a NYE get-together. “You can enjoy a full evening of celebrations and the stroke of midnight in Sydney,” the PrivateFly site reads. “Then — if you have the stamina (and the budget) — jump onboard your private jet and fly to Hawaii, to do the same all over again.”

    Dinner Down Under (with fireworks) followed by an afternoon on the Hawaiian beach and round two? If I had an extra $290,000 lying around (the whole aircraft charter cost) I’d want the chance to do a double whammy —though I’d be slightly concerned about missing marathon on Pix.

    “This is the ultimate way to see in 2018, in two of the world’s most glamorous locations,” according to Carol Cork, marketing director of PrivateFly. “The flight time from Sydney to Honolulu in a Gulfstream G650ER is 9 hours and 40 minutes, so with the 21-hour time difference, you get to replay over 11 hours of party time, by flying eastwards.”

    Do you have what it takes to handle PrivateFly’s ultimate NYE celebration? Can you handle NYE ?

    If you’re not up for this intense and expensive challenge, fear not. There are plenty of other exciting options available (and ones that are kinder on your wallet). According to Kayak, there are particular locations that many travelers have been buzzing about for their Dec. 31 trips, so if you haven’t booked your getaway, now is the time to start taking notes. The travel site rounded up the top 10 trending New Year’s Eve destinations picked by fans, and it’s certainly inspiring (and allows for a little bit of a breather, unlike PrivateFly’s trip).

    Curious about where you and your special someone should share a midnight kiss? Have a look at Kayak’s findings:

    1. Guadalajara, Mexico
    2. Kingston, Jamaica
    3. Mexico City, Mexico
    4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
    5. Lisbon, Portugal
    6. Barcelona, Spain
    7. Paris, France
    8. Madrid, Spain
    9. Montréal, Canada
    10. Athens, Greece

    “The 10 destinations on the list are the ones seeing the greatest increase in New Year’s Eve searches year-over-year. Overall, we continue to see warm weather destinations make the top trending New Year’s Eve lists as people look to escape the cold before going back to work and reality,” Kayla Inserra, Kayak’s PR manager for North America tells Elite Daily. “Europe also continues to be a hotspot for New Year’s Eve travelers.”

    If you’re more inclined to start the new year at home and wait for the summer before embarking on a plane trip, that’s totally cool, too. Grab your loved ones, get ready for a movie marathon, and get your champagne jello shots ready. There is no right or wrong way to bid adieu to 2017, so whatever works for you, embrace it.

    Regardless of how you celebrate Dec. 31, 2017, make sure you do . This year has been tumultuous, and we can all use new beginnings for 2018. Cheers!  

    Check out the entire Gen Why series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.

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    What do you do with wild commercial success? If you’re Ava DuVernay, you pass it on.

    In 2010, director Ava DuVernay was not the Golden Globe-nominated success that she is today.

    In fact, she had just finished her first narrative film, called “I Will Follow.”

    DuVernay on the red carpet at the 2017 Oscars. Photo via Tyler Golden/Disney | ABC Television Group/Flickr.

    Inspired by DuVernay’s own life experiences, the film tells the story of a young artist who moves in with her eccentric, ailing aunt and is then forced to contend with her death.

    It was a labor of love for a filmmaker who had, until then, only worked in journalism or on documentary projects. After studying English and African American studies at UCLA, DuVernay made the film in between working in public relations in the film industry. Made on limited time and a limited budget — just $50,000 and 15 days — it was spectacular.

    The only problem: DuVernay couldn’t find anyone to release it.

    A still from the trailer for “I Will Follow.”

    She spent months pitching her film to production studios, meeting with distribution companies, and contacting representation. But no one believed the film could be commercially successful.

    Like many women of color, she finally decided that if no one would give her the opportunity she needed, she would create that opportunity herself.

    Since she couldn’t get anyone to market her movie, she founded a distribution collective of her own: the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, or AFFRM.

    With a team of just three people, DuVernay took on the project of distributing her film herself. She created marketing materials, launched a social media campaign, recruited volunteer photographers and videographers, and formed partnerships with theaters and small film collectives willing to give “I Will Follow” a screening.

    A movie poster for a screening of “I Will Follow” in New York City.

    Finally, in 2011, “I Will Follow” was released, and was met with rave reviews from audiences and critics alike.

    Roger Ebert called it a “wonderful independent film.” Though it never received a massive audience, it resonated with the people who saw it, and ultimately, it launched DuVernay’s career.

    Just three years later, she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director on the 2014 film “Selma.”

    DuVernay with stars Colman Domingo (left) and David Oyelowo at a screening of “Selma” in Berlin. Photo via U.S. Embassy/Flickr.

    Now, DuVernay no longer needs a grassroots effort to bring attention to her projects.

    But rather than walking away from the collection she founded, she’s repurposed it to help other budding filmmakers like herself find their first steps toward success.

    DuVernay accepts a Peabody Award for her film “13th.” Photo by Stephanie Moreno/Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications for Peabody Awards/Flickr.

    “Ava really felt that there was a wider need for filmmakers of multiple ethnicities that didn’t have distribution options available for their works to be seen by larger audiences,” says Mercedes Cooper, director of marketing for the film collective.

    It’s DuVernay’s philosophy that she should use her success to bring others into the industry.  She calls it “lifting while she climbs” — in other words, using every possible opportunity to pass her success onto others.

    “Ava often says that she doesn’t want to be alone in the room,” Cooper says. “She doesn’t want to be the only person of color in the room. She doesn’t want to be the only woman in the room.”

    That’s why DuVernay expanded the focus of her company, now called Array, to seek out talent and invite them into the room with her.  

    “If you’re a person in the room that has an opportunity to let someone else in,” Cooper says, “then it’s kind of important to do so.”

    Array works to identify independent films made by women and filmmakers of color, then acquires them and uses its resources to find places for those films to be seen.

    An audience awaits a screening of Ousmane Sembène’s “Black Girl,” an independent film distributed by Array. Photo via Array/Twitter.

    Today, Array has launched dozens of films, and, along with them, the careers of dozens of filmmakers who may never have gotten started without DuVernay’s help. And it is always adding more films to its roster.

    By distributing films, Array shines a light not just on the work, but on the directors and their lives.

    Consider, for example, Array’s recent release by up-and-coming filmmaker Heidi Saman.

    “In March we released a film called ‘Namour’ from an Egyptian-American filmmaker. We don’t get to see Egyptian-American families portrayed very much on U.S. screens,” Cooper says.

    A still from “Namour,” a film about a Los Angeles valet caught between the pressures of his job and of his Arab-American immigrant family. Photo via Array.

    The film follows a Los Angeles postgrad struggling with common problems — motivation, his career, his relationships, and his future — but also showcases the added dynamic of what it’s like to come from an Arab-American immigrant family.

    “Everybody wants to see someone that looks like them, that has the same experiences,” Cooper says. “To have that reflected on screen just makes you feel even more a part of this world.”

    And now, more people have the opportunity to see themselves on-screen: “Namour,” along with a handful of other films distributed by Array, are now available on Netflix.

    Photo via Array.

    Ultimately, Array’s goal is to expand people’s perspectives by exposing them to works by people who are different from them.

    “Take a chance,” she says. “Hit that ‘play’ button on something small that you’ve never heard about, that may not have people in it that look like you.”

    Either way, you’ll learn something new about someone who’s different from you. But there’s also a chance that you’ll discover the first title from the next Ava DuVernay.

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    Too right it’s Black Friday: our relentless consumption is trashing the planet | George Monbiot

    Growth must go on and its destroying the Earth. But theres no way of greening it. So we need a new system, writes Guardian columnist George Monbiot

    Everyone wants everything how is that going to work? The promise of economic growth is that the poor can live like the rich and the rich can live like the oligarchs. But already we are bursting through the physical limits of the planet that sustains us. Climate breakdown, soil loss, the collapse of habitats and species, the sea of plastic, insectageddon: all are driven by rising consumption. The promise of private luxury for everyone cannot be met: neither the physical nor the ecological space exists.

    But growth must go on: this is everywhere the political imperative. And we must adjust our tastes accordingly. In the name of autonomy and choice, marketing uses the latest findings in neuroscience to break down our defences. Those who seek to resist must, like the Simple Lifers in Brave New World, be silenced in this case by the media.

    With every generation, the baseline of normalised consumption shifts. Thirty years ago, it was ridiculous to buy bottled water, where tap water is clean and abundant. Today, worldwide, we use a million plastic bottles a minute.

    Every Friday is a Black Friday, every Christmas a more garish festival of destruction. Among the snow saunas, portable watermelon coolers and smartphones for dogs with which we are urged to fill our lives, my #extremecivilisation prize now goes tothe PancakeBot: a 3D batter printer that allows you to eat the Mona Lisa, theTaj Mahal, or your dogs bottom every morning. In practice, it will clog up your kitchen for a week until you decide you dont have room for it. For junk like this, were trashing the living planet, and our own prospects ofsurvival. Everything must go.

    The ancillary promise is that, through green consumerism, we can reconcile perpetual growth with planetary survival. But a series of research papers reveal there is no significant difference between the ecological footprints of people who care and people who dont. One recent article, published in the journal Environment and Behaviour, says those who identify themselves as conscious consumers use more energy and carbon than those who do not.

    Why? Because environmental awareness tends to be higher among wealthy people. It is not attitudes that govern our impact on the planet but income. The richer we are, the bigger our footprint, regardless of our good intentions. Those who see themselves as green consumers, the research found, mainly focused on behaviours that had relatively small benefits.

    I know people who recycle meticulously, save their plastic bags, carefully measure the water in their kettles, then take their holidays in the Caribbean, cancelling any environmental savings ahundredfold. Ive come to believe thatthe recycling licences their long-haul flights. It persuades people theyvegone green, enabling them to overlook their greater impacts.

    None of this means that we should not try to reduce our footprint, but we should be aware of the limits of the exercise. Our behaviour within the system cannot change the outcomes ofthe system. It is the system itself thatneedsto change.

    Research by Oxfam suggests that the worlds richest 1% (if your household has an income of 70,000 or more, this means you) produce about 175 times as much carbon as the poorest 10%. How, in a world in which everyone is supposed to aspire to high incomes, can we avoid turning the Earth, on which all prosperity depends, into a dust ball?

    By decoupling, the economists tell us: detaching economic growth from our use of materials. So how well is this going? A paper in the journal PlosOne finds that while, in some countries, relative decoupling has occurred, no country has achieved absolute decoupling during the past 50 years. What this means is that the amount of materials and energy associated with each increment of GDP might decline but, as growth outpaces efficiency, the total use of resources keeps rising. More important, the paper reveals that, in the long term, both absolute and relative decoupling from the use of essential resources is impossible, because of the physical limits of efficiency.

    A global growth rate of 3% means thatthe size of the world economy doubles every 24 years. This is why environmental crises are accelerating at such a rate. Yet the plan is to ensure that it doubles and doubles again, and keeps doubling in perpetuity. In seeking to defend the living world from the maelstrom of destruction, we might believe we are fighting corporations and governments and the general foolishness of humankind. But they are all proxies for the real issue: perpetual growth on a planet that is not growing.

    Those who justify this system insist that economic growth is essential for the relief of poverty. But a paper in the World Economic Review finds that the poorest 60% of the worlds people receive only 5% of the additional income generated by rising GDP. As a result, $111 (84) of growth is required for every $1 reduction in poverty. This is why, on current trends, it would take 200 years to ensure that everyone receives $5 a day. By this point, average per capita income will have reached $1m a year, and the economy will be 175 times bigger than it is today. This is not a formula for poverty relief. It is a formula for the destruction of everything and everyone.

    When you hear that something makes economic sense, this means it makes the opposite of common sense. Those sensible men and women who run the worlds treasuries and central banks, who see an indefinite rise in consumption as normal and necessary, are beserkers: smashing through the wonders of the living world, destroying the prosperity of future generations to sustain a set of figures that bear ever lessrelation to general welfare.

    Green consumerism, material decoupling, sustainable growth: all areillusions, designed to justify an economic model that is driving us to catastrophe. The current system, basedon private luxury and public squalor, will immiserate us all: under this model, luxury and deprivation areone beast with two heads.

    We need a different system, rootednot in economic abstractions butin physical realities, that establishthe parameters by which we judgeits health. We need to build a world in which growth is unnecessary, aworld of private sufficiency and publicluxury. And we must do it beforecatastrophe forces our hand.

    George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

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    Facebook to create 800 jobs in UK

    Image copyright PA

    Facebook is opening a new London office that will allow it to create 800 new UK jobs in 2018.

    By the end of next year about 2,300 people will work for the social media company in the UK.

    The office will be Facebook’s biggest engineering hub outside the US, and opens during its tenth year in the UK.

    Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s Europe, Middle East and Asia vice-president, said the company was “more committed than ever to the UK”.

    She said Britain’s “entrepreneurial ecosystem and engineering excellence” made it an ideal location for technology firms.

    The seven-floor building at Rathbone Place, near Oxford Circus in central London, was designed by Frank Gehry, the architect best known for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

    Image copyright PA

    It will accommodate engineers and developers as well as marketing and sales teams.

    The building will also house a dedicated incubator space for start-ups, called LDN-LAB.

    UK-based start-ups will be invited to take part in three month programmes designed to help kickstart their businesses.

    Facebook experts from disciplines including engineering, product and partnerships will work with the companies as part of the initiative.

    Image copyright PA

    Julian David of techUK, which represents 950 technology firms in the UK, welcomed a world-leading company such as Facebook investing in London despite the uncertainties surrounding Brexit.

    Chancellor Philip Hammond said Facebook’s decision to expand in London was a “sign of confidence” in Britain.

    “The UK is not only the best place to start a new business, it’s also the best place to grow one,” he added.

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