Phoenix Policy Institute Blog

Put Me in Coach – Or, Can You? 

Kyle Warren-Love, like countless other children, grew up playing sports. In middle school, Kyle played soccer and tennis, amongst teams in which he felt “very included” by his fellow teammates and coaches. At the age of 12, Kyle openly came out as gay, and would later fully transition at the age of 20. Despite this time of vulnerability, Kyle found sanctuary in the athletic organizations that he was a part of. “On the team, it didn’t matter that I was an out LGTBQ person…it only mattered that we were there to play the game, enjoy each other’s company and work together as a team” , Kyle told North Carolina Health News. On June 14th, Kyle Warren-Love, a now 28 year-old transgender man, testified at the Senate’s education committee meeting against H.B 574, a bill that would restrict transgender student-athlete participation in athletics. “This bill only creates a scenario where trans children feel unsafe and are not able to enjoy and succeed in school,” Warren-Love told legislators. Kyle was the only audience member to speak out against the bill. 

Kyle Warren-Love is not the only individual who feels passionately about this issue. Payton McNabb, a former student at Hiwassee Dam School, shared her experience with lawmakers during a committee meeting in April regarding H.B 574. During her senior year, Payton was injured after being hit in the face by a volleyball that she says was spiked by a transgender athlete. After being hit, Payton immediately lost consciousness and then suffered from head injuries for months after the game. “I’m here for every biological female athlete behind me — my little sister, my cousins, my teammates,” McNabb told legislators at the committee meeting, “Allowing biological males to compete against biological females is dangerous. I may be the first to come before you with an injury. But if this doesn’t pass, I won’t be the last.” 
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Dilemma in North Carolina: Assessing Arguments of Voter ID Requirements

In April of this year, the North Carolina Supreme Court, with the addition of two conservative justices in early 2023, reversed two recent election-related decisions, one concerning legislative maps and the other a statewide voter ID requirement (Sanders, 2023b). These reversals, based on state-level arguments of constitutionality, prompted the court to rehear Harper v. Hall and Holmes v. Moore, raising questions about the state’s understanding of gerrymandering and voter identification (Sanders, 2023a). Remarkably, the new court granted as many rehearings in one day as had occurred in the past two decades (Sanders, 2023b). Given the influence of two Republican-backed legislative acts, coupled with a fresh conservative majority, concerns arise about the potential impact of the court’s actions on voter access and representation in North Carolina.

This article focuses on the case of Holmes v. Moore, which reinstated a statewide voter photo ID requirement, adding to the national discourse on voter accessibility and election security (Sanders, 2023a; SCSJ, 2019). The legal battle was triggered by the passage of S.B. 824, which amended the North Carolina Constitution to mandate in-person voters to show photographic identification at the polls (NCJB, 2023). This change, enacted during a special General Assembly session in late 2018, was challenged on the grounds of violating Section 19 of the state’s constitution and protections against discrimination (SCSJ, 2019). Although the prior court had invalidated the 2018 voter ID law in December 2022 due to racial discrimination under the state’s Equal Protection Clause, the April 2023 decision by the new court reinstated the requirement (Sanders, 2023a). Consequently, voters had to comply with the law in the state’s most recent municipal primaries.
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Black Pregnancy: Miracle of Life or Death Wish?

        With the recent unexpected death of 32-year-old Olympian Tori Bowie due to her complications during labor, conversations of the inequity Black women face in healthcare have sparked up, but these discussions are long overdue. Frentorish Bowie, or Tori, was famously known for once being regarded as the fastest woman in the world and for her multiple Olympic medals. Despite being in perfect health, Tori was Black and pregnant, which has become a fatal combination in America, and died alone in her bed during labor. While Tori’s story is tragic and heartbreaking, it is one of many, as Black women everywhere, regardless of class, income, and other demographic factors, are 3 times more likely to die due to complications giving birth or during their pregnancies.  This chilling statistic is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the issues of equity in healthcare that Black Americans face. From experience with doctors, vulnerability to heart and blood diseases, structural racism, and generational trauma, Black Americans are more likely to die while seeking healthcare. 

        Tori Bowie had been pregnant for 8 months before she died in her bed during labor on April 23rd of this year. In the biopsy report done by the Orange County Medical Examiner’s office, they found that despite having healthy organs and a steady pregnancy Tori likely died due to possible complications caused by respiratory distress and eclampsia. Eclampsia, like preeclampsia, is a disorder related to high blood pressure during pregnancy and both illnesses disproportionately affect Black women. 
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China’s Foreign Policy Efforts to Enhance Global Influence

In recent years, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been increasing its international profile in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and South America. China has been increasing their standing as a global power by using pre-existing strengths such as their vast manufacturing and trading capabilities, which they use to foster agreements and influence in the Global South. The PRC is also working to enhance their military and diplomatic capabilities through the construction of foreign naval bases and their leading role in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). As the United States (U.S.) and other traditionally powerful Western states become bogged down in the support of Ukraine and now Israel in their respective conflicts, China will likely further their foreign policy goals and attempt to supplant U.S. influence in various regions across the globe.
China has always been a major player in its home region of East Asia and has recently been making foreign policy moves to solidify itself in becoming a regional hegemon. In the summer of 2023, satellite images showed that China had nearly completed their Ream naval facility in Cambodia. China’s involvement in construction and future use of the base has been denied by both parties, with Cambodia citing their constitutional ban on foreign militaries operating on their soil. Despite the denial Cambodia has historically been aligned with Beijing, and the base is capable of docking aircraft carriers, ships that China has and Cambodia does not. This base could be used to expand their operational capacity and influence in the South China Sea, but also strategically situates them near the major international shipping lane in the Straits of Malacca. China’s activity in the South China Sea is also notable, with the PRC frequently harassing commercial and military ships of the U.S., Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The PRC has the largest claims in the South China Sea, overlapping with aforementioned neighbors as well as Taiwan and Brunei. An estimated 21% of global trade flows through this region; China presses its claims on this valuable maritime territory through harassment, incursions on other states maritime waters, and via the construction of military bases on the contested Spratly islands. With the world distracted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, American fears have risen over a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, a country claimed by the PRC as a rogue province. Recent uptick in the production of roll-on roll-off transport ships have further alerted Taiwan due to the possible military use of these transports for an amphibious invasion. While President Joe Biden has stated the U.S. will back Taiwan in the case of an invasion, China’s massive fleet and influence over the South China Sea will allow them to continue the harassment of Taiwan and other neighbors.
China has also emerged as an alternative to the United States when it comes to diplomacy and peace brokering in the Middle East. The PRC presents itself as a neutral power, allowing it to facilitate peace brokering in the Middle East, a region that has traditionally been heavily influenced as well as devastated by the United States. This image as a neutral yet economically powerful actor has allowed China to influence states the U.S. is unable to, such as Iran, to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia. This reconciliation between Saudi Arabia in Iran, which took place in Beijing, bolstered China’s reputation and influence in the Middle East while excluding the United States from the process, shifting the balance of power more in Chinese favor. The PRC’s push to be portrayed as a neutral peace broker is currently being tested by the current Israel-Palestine conflict, perhaps showing limits to their diplomatic capabilities. China did not publicly condemn Hamas, instead choosing to call for peace between both sides. By failing to condemn Hamas’s actions, China likely will not be able to persuade Israel to make peace, but by condemning Hamas China would likely suffer a loss of influence amongst Arab and Muslim states in the region. Therefore it is likely China will remain neutral, condemning both sides to an extent but ultimately falling short of their ambition to be a great peace negotiator in the region.
As U.S. focus has shifted to Ukraine and French influence wanes due to military coups in the Sahel, China finds itself with an opportunity to further expand its already massive influence across the African continent. As of 2022 China was already Africa’s largest trading partner, with trade value up to $200 billion a year. Thousands of Chinese firms conduct various construction and infrastructure projects, and the PRC provides vaccines and other aid to the continent which in turn boosts its soft power in the continent once dominated by Western colonizers. By providing these services and aid China is able to boost its relations with African states as well as control their debts, as seen with Djibouti. The PRC controls 70% of Djibouti’s debt as of 2022, and currently controls a strategic naval base in the country at the mouth of the Red Sea. This allows access for Chinese trade into Africa and the Suez Canal, and could potentially allow them to blockade trade in the outbreak of a war or hostilities.
Through massive investments in the BRI China is rapidly expanding its foreign influence, with the potential to gain even more when projects complete. The BRI is a Chinese-led infrastructure investment project that began in 2013. Taking place in 147 countries which accounts for over two-thirds of the world’s population, the BRI sees the construction of highways and pipelines aimed at recreating the ancient silk road into a modern superhighway that connects all of Asia. China rarely cancels debts, and many countries involved in the BRI may be unable to repay the PRC, falling into debt traps much like the Global South did to the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s. The BRI spans multiple continents, reaching the U.S. backyard of Latin America. China is South America’s largest trading partner, and the U.S. has confirmed that China has been operating a spy base in Cuba for a few years now. As the wars in Ukraine and Israel continue to wage on, more states may turn to China for monetary and diplomatic support that the United States may not be able or willing to provide.

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Physician-Assisted Death: The Oath to Do No Harm in a Complex Medical Landscape

In medical school doctors are taught that the cardinal rule of being a doctor is “Do no harm”. This originated from the Hippocratic oath that all medical providers used to take at their white coat ceremony. Alongside the modernization of medicine, the oath has been updated to more accurately reflect the values of 21st century physicians. “While nearly all U.S. medical school graduations include a public promise, and some use an updated version of Hippocrates’ words, not a single student utters the original Hippocratic Oath.” (Weiner, 2018). Some schools allow students the opportunity to create their own oath and others are voted on by the entire class. 

Doctors uphold this oath very seriously, why would you become a doctor with the intent to harm others? But what should they do when faced with a patient who wishes to end their own life. Physician – assisted death has been a long debated issue in the medical community; being weighed in on by doctors, bioethicists, judges, patients’ families and even the everyday civilian. Historically, this has been referred to as physician assisted suicide or mercy killing, however leading organizations such as “Death with Dignity” have been trying to move away the term due to its inherent negative connotation. But there is no clear cut answer and the decision differs from person to person and patient to patient. 
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Towards a Healthier Future with SNAP

The United States is facing a poverty crisis. Over 40 million Americans live below the federal poverty line and are unable to consistently put food on the table without government assistance.[1] As income inequality worsens and low-income families feel an increasing strain on their pockets, further government intervention may be needed to help families make more money and put food on the table. But poverty is not the only crisis faced by the United States: obesity is an issue that needs to be addressed. Today, over 40% of Americans are obese, which marks an 11% increase since 1999, and obesity-related deaths caused by heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, or cancer have skyrocketed during this same period.[2] Both issues need to be combated by robust government action, and the federal government’s administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) marks an avenue that can be used to address them. By decreasing SNAP benefits gradually as income increases instead of cutting them off altogether, the federal government will encourage upward mobility by ensuring individuals and families do not lose access to food when they get a raise or promotion. The federal government can also put strict guidelines around what SNAP recipients can purchase to prevent over-consumption of highly processed and unhealthy foods that lead to detrimental health outcomes and prevent people from working.
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Necessary Reforms to Our Broken Government

Introduction

The public’s trust in government has fallen to lows never recorded, with only 16% of Americans stating the government does what is right “just about always” or “most of the time” (Public Trust in Government: 1958-2023, 2023). With 65% of Americans saying that they feel exhausted and 55% stating that they feel angry when thinking about politics in general, something must change (Americans’ dismal views of the nation’s politics, 2023). There are two distinct reforms that should be implemented to not only restore public trust in government, but also to ensure that the government remains efficient and responsive to the needs of the people. Plans to reform the Supreme Court and Electoral College reform both are undertakings that can revitalize public opinion and create a stronger government for all.

Supreme Court Reform

The Supreme Court of the United States is integral to the checks and balances inherent to our country’s government and founding ideals, yet it too has fallen to historic public opinion records with only 25% of Americans expressing that they have either a “great deal” or “quite a lot of confidence” in the institution (Jones, 2023). While, numerous controversial Supreme Court rulings, such as the overturn of Roe v. Wade, have likely contributed to the historic low public opinion. There is also an issue with the nomination of Supreme Court Justices. A survey by NBC found that 60% of Americans view the Supreme Court Justice confirmation process is too partisan thus meaning that public opinion is marred by more than just controversial rulings (NBC News | SurveyMonkey Poll Results, 2018). Given the falling public opinion, it is time for a change.
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Facing the Music Monopoly – Ticketmaster and Antitrust Laws

Anyone who’s been to a concert in the last decade has almost certainly purchased tickets through the live entertainment industry’s biggest company, Ticketmaster. As Ticketmaster maintains its near total control on ticketing and live events – with more than 80% of the marketing for primary tickets since 1995 – consumer experience has suffered and artists have lost control over ticket prices. This blog post examines how Ticketmaster gained a monopoly in the live entertainment industry, the consequences of its monopolistic control, and the need for policy reform within the industry.

Understanding Antitrust Laws

Antitrust laws date back to the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 which Teddy “the Trust Buster” Roosevelt used to break up monopolies in the oil and rail industries. Antitrust laws prevent unlawful mergers and business practices in order to promote fair competition and prevent monopolistic control. During this period and much of the 20th century, America’s antitrust laws were effective in slowing the “cutthroat competition” of the era. The antitrust laws from the Roosevelt era were significantly weakened during the Reagan administration when the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission, the two main enforcers of federal antitrust laws, remade the existing philosophy of antitrust laws to promote mergers and discourage practices that led to the limited availability of goods.
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AI on the Battlefield, how Autonomous systems will change the way America wages war

On July 13, 2021, the U.S Secretary of Defense Llyod Austin gave an address to the Global Emerging Technology Summit of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence in Washington D.C.. During his speech, Secretary Austin laid out the Department of Defense’s official policy on the implementation of AI as a force-multiplier within its arsenal, discussing how it has become “central to our innovation agenda, allowing us (D.O.D.) to compute faster, share better, and leverage other platforms.” (Austin, 2021) In the D.O.D.’s eyes, the implementation of AI into its arsenal vital, investing over 2 million dollars across 600+ AI efforts in the department as of 2021.  While this investment was an immense one and has helped Artificial Intelligence as a field develop massively in the intervening years, these innovations represent only the tip of the iceberg. (Morgan, 2020) Even in only the two years since Global Emerging Technology Summit was held AI has gone from a highly-experimental technology that many had never truly interacted with to an easily-accessible tool that’s application has begun to change society itself.

One of the more interesting arguments about the application of AI in military operations has been centered around whether it can be used to speed up the decision-making process. The main crux of this position is the idea that by speeding up his or hers decision-making process, a commander could theoretically outmaneuver his or her enemy before they could effectively organize countermeasures to a given attack. (Morgan, 2020; Mchale, 2022) While this might not be very applicable on a strategic level, considering the other logistical factors such as moving troops and equipment to staging areas as well as operational planning needed for larger strategic movements. Despite these limitations, AI does show more potential for implementation at the tactical level. (Morgan, 2020; ‌Huisenga, 2021) From a tactical perspective, the D.O.D. believes that by using AI to augment human decision making on the battlefield could provide extensive battlefield advantages. This is because unlike larger, multi-element operations that require multiple forces with differing logistical needs, tactical AI would only require information from the battlefield it is operating on. In essence, by applying AI in on-the-ground engagements rather than in a command tent, the military would remove the factors of the operational timeline which AI cannot affect and instead apply it in a space were making decisions fast is the difference between life in death.
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Deepfakes and Democracy: A Context of AI and Deepfakes in U.S. Elections

As we approach the 2024 Presidential Elections, the landscape of political campaigning and election security is rapidly evolving. Among the many challenges that elections face today, one topic experiencing a growth of discussion is the threat of change and ethical controversy posed by Artificial Intelligence (AI). While AI was a topic once confined to the realm of science fiction, today we find its use in society creeping into spaces the average citizen might never have considered. Democratic elections are dependent upon communication between citizens, campaigns, the media, and the government. With AI tools now poised to change how important election information is created and disseminated, we face the fact of a change to status quo and questions of informational integrity amidst a conversation concerning the spread of disinformation.

Proliferation of Disinformation

Disinformation is defined as false or misleading content, intentionally planted, or spread for a specific purpose—in some cases for political gain (Starbird et al., 2023). An instance of politically motivated disinformation that has gained attention in both academic and popular literature was the sustained effort to construct and spread a false narrative of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 United States Presidential Election (Sharma et al., 2022; Starbird et al., 2023). When it comes to understanding how disinformation gains traction, it is important to note that a single narrative or piece of content is often not enough to constitute widespread manipulation. Rather, a campaign of disinformation sparked by a single actor and promulgated by viewers and media participation is what works to cultivate the ungrounded misleading conversations we refer to as disinformation (Starbird et al., 2023).
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