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Final open thread of 2016: It was a very tough year. But here are a dozen good things that happened

It’s mighty tempting to say good riddance, 2016, don’t let the door hit you on the way out of here. But the past 366 days weren’t a total loss. Some great things happened and we shouldn’t forget them. Here are a dozen.

• 4.4 million minimum wage-earning Americans are or soon will be making more money in 20 states and the District of Columbia. There will be a phased-in raise to $15 by 2019 in New York City, with the rest of the state on a path to that level in the future. The state’s fast-food wage board set the minimum for workers in that industry at $12 an hour for 2017. Washington state raised its minimum as of January 1 by $1.53 to $11 an hour. On the same day in Arizona, the minimum goes up by $1.95 to $10 an hour. California is raising its minimum by 50 cents in 2017 and again in 2018, and then a dollar a year through 2022 to reach $15 an hour, a rate some California cities have already set. Here are the states (plus D.C.) that are raising their minimum in 2017: D.C., Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawai’i, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York,  Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington.

 • In a 5-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of reproductive rights in the case of Whole Women’s Health v. HellerstedtA Texas law required doctors at clinics providing abortions to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles and that the clinics have facilities equal to a mini-hospital.  Writing for the Court majority, Justice Stephen Breyer said that “both the admitting privileges and surgical center requirements place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a pre-viability abortion, constitute an undue burden on abortion access, and thus violate the Constitution.”

• Thanks to activist efforts, the Treasury will be replacing Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. 

• For the first time in a century, the number of tigers in the wild increased. The count is now 3,820 compared with 3,200 in 2010. Nations pledged that year to double the world’s wild tiger population by 2022.

• Sri Lanka’s bold 2009 plan to wipe out malaria worked. The country is now malaria free. At the end of the nation’s devastating civil war, it was decided to try something no other country had ever done—track down every malaria case and treat the people who had it, test members of their families, and wreak havoc on the mosquitoes that carry the killer disease.

• U.S unemployment fell to 4.6 percent, the lowest level in nine years. Some of the acute problems of the Great Recession and most of the chronic problems of the economy are still with us. But seven years ago, the unemployment rate was 10 percent.

• The Cubs won the World Series.

• After 50 years of civil war, the Columbian government and FARC guerrillas signed a peace agreement.

• The Paris climate agreement came into force. It took 25 years to get a solid agreement, but in October, 55 countries representing 58.85 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions ratified the Paris pact with the goal of cutting those emissions quickly enough and deep enough to keep the world’s average temperature from rising more than 3.6° Fahrenheit by the turn of the century. Hard work with many obstacles lie ahead, but Paris was a major hurdle overcome.

• Researchers developed a vaccine against ebola that is 100 percent effective.

• 300 West African communities pledged to end female genital mutilation. The communities are in the four countries that have the highest levels of the practice: Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Mauritania. 

•  U.S. gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian won a record nine Olympic medals among them.

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 BLAST FROM THE PAST

At Daily Kos on this date in 2005Know Your Creationists: Kent Hovind:

Kent Hovind is an old fashioned fire and brimstone operator who tours the nation tirelessly giving Young Earth Creationism pep talks and offering to debate scientists who support evolution, in a manner disturbingly similar to traveling evangelical revival-n-heal’n schemes. His distortions of science and his underhanded tactics are legendary, even among his fellow Young Earthers.

Ken Ham of the Young Earth Creationist organization Answers in Genesis (AiG) has published a point-by-point critique of Hovind, where Ham goes on to conclude that fellow creationists should avoid using Hovind’s arguments as they’re riddled with errors and/or dishonesty. Allow me to put that into proper context: AiG is building a museum which depicts men and women living side by side in harmony with dinosaurs “Flintstones style” 6000 years ago, and has built several large dioramas of the Ark at considerable cost as part of their research into how Noah got all them critters on one boat … So if Ken Ham is advising people that Hovind’s claims are of dubious scientific value, can you imagine how far beyond the pale Hovind must be?

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