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Keep Your Eye Out For Smoky Mountain Life Center!

in Blog/Charitable Campaign/Current Events/Get Involved/News/Social Commentary by

Try growing up having summers where the temperature is 114 degrees for week straight, to going to a place that actually experiences a winter. I’m talking, it has snowed at my home in Sevierville at least 5 times since October. Like, BIG snows; big enough to build a snowman, and his wife and two children! This is very…different for me. I wouldn’t call it difficult though; not in comparison to those of our community who don’t have a warm bed to snuggle up in to write articles, like me. The contrast between my situation and theirs ignites the fire in my heart to want to bring warmth to those who struggle more than I have ever had to.

The opposition between my situation and that of the street-people reminds me of Samuel Coleridge’s Kubla Khan. In his poem, Coleridge masterfully describes an underground dome as beautiful as the Bible’s garden of Eden.

“So twice five miles of fertile ground /
With walls and towers were girdled round; /
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, /
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; /
And here were forests ancient as the hills, /
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.”

The comfort that I enjoy is like that! Sure, I have worries, stresses, anxieties, struggles. But -let me just do a little privilege check here- I have never been in a situation where I have had no other choice than to ask someone for help paying for my food, or my utility bills, or clothing for my children (if I had them). Did I do anything to deserve this? Absolutely not. So, do I therefore have a responsibility to my community to ease the suffering of those who are less fortunate? Absolutely. IF you ask me.

As in life, in Coleridge’s poem, there is a bit of trouble in paradise. There is a river running through the lush land that encounters some rough waters.

“A mighty fountain momently was forced: /
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst /
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail, /
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail: /
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever /
It flung up momently the sacred river.”

I see the rapids…I can use my empathy to try to understand what it would be like to try and stay afloat on such a rushing river, and so I want to help.

I am not the only one.

That brings us to last Monday, where I found myself at the third-ever meeting of a local group called “Smoky Mountain Life Center.” This is a group who wants to provide warm, safe, temporary housing for the homeless population in our community.

The organization is getting the ball moving, as I learned from the meeting! They are working with churches to secure emergency shelters, so that folks seeking immediate help on the coldest and wettest of nights can have a warm and dry place to sleep. They are working with realtors to find a place that can provide a little bit more long term assistance for folks who may need to develop some skills such as resume building, need job-appropriate clothing, or financial advise. They have even contacted beauticians willing to donate their time to offer free haircuts to folks who are down on their luck.

The idea is to network with existing organizations such as SMARM (Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Mission) in order to help the homeless folks in our community reintegrate into a self-sustaining situation for themselves and their families.

Ideas on how to raise funds in order to secure the 501C3 licensing are going around the group of about fifteen people. It is a dream (unlike Coleridge’s pipe-dream) that is currently being built. All it will take is time, dedication, and persistence. Plus, a lot of compassion. But, if I know anything about the people of Tennessee, it is that you have to be tough to weather these cold winters, and that you have to do it by relying on each other.

“That with music loud and long, /
I would build that dome in air, /
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!”

Creating a warm place for the least fortunate of our human brothers and sisters around us is a cause that I am happy to be a part of. I have plenty enough to share.

This was the first meeting that I attended for the organization, and the next one is on the 19th of this month. I absolutely look forward to continuing to brainstorm about what comes next, and I will be there the whole time, chronicling the building of a paradise in my home not just for some, but for all.

Safely Surfing the Web

in Blog/News/Science & Technology/Social Commentary by

Without it, you would not be able to read this article.

I wouldn’t have been able to research the information contained within, and further, folks worldwide would be disconnected in a way that most people my age can hardly even imagine.

I’m talking about the Interwebs, of course!

Fellow web-crawlers, our dear Internet is 28 years old as of this year, 2017. It has been twenty-eight glorious years of sharing information faster than anything else human history can recall.

With all of that information floating around in cyberspace, I figured it was time to educate myself on how to keep my own information secure from criminals, hackers, unwanted solicitation, and agencies that I never gave permission to. The following is what I found!

Before you proceed, I would like to give you a mission as you read. I challenge you, dear deep web surfer, to take the time to complete each point as you read it. Don’t just read this article and feel all safe and educated afterwards. The information will do you no good unless you actually utilize it.

You have a mission. I believe in you.

INFORMATION TO PROTECT:

1-Personal Information

Personal information is just that: information that you alone should have knowledge of, until you decide to give it away. That information should be given away to loved ones and friends and your own discretion.

This information is at risk in that if you leave it lying about, anyone could come around and do with it whatever they wish. You wouldn’t hand a stranger a piece of paper with your name, phone number, home address, kids’ names and where they go to school written on it. It’s much the same on the world wide web, you have to take extra steps to safeguard it from the hands of strangers.

2-Location

Whether it’s a stalker, a company, or an agency, some folks just don’t want others to have a tab on where they are at all times. Enabling your location data to be tracked on your phone or social media accounts is basically like giving the entities that own them the ability to know when you are doing, pretty much anything.

3-Credit Card Information

This one is simple to explain. Putting your credit card information on sites that aren’t known, trusted, or secured greatly increases the chances of that information being stolen and money taken from you. Even secured sites are at some amount of risk. Just know that anytime you shop online or in a store with your credit card, there is a risk involved, same as carrying money around.

4-Messages

Like location, keeping your messages secure is a matter of privacy. Even if you are simply talking about how your day went, it’s not anyone else’s business what the content of your conversation is, unless you choose to reveal it to them. If you are talking about things better left private, such as business ideas, surprises, embarrassing information, or personal details, do you really want it to fall into the wrong hands?

5-Software/Hardware

Viruses are malicious creations that serve to steal information, ruin your computer, and disrupt internet infrastructure systems like email services and various servers.

 

WHAT YOU’RE YOUR INFO FROM

1-Criminals

Thieves stealing money and identities, predators preying on vulnerable individuals, companies and agencies abusing our right to privacy.

2-Hackers

Hackers are the ones creating viruses that destroy your computer and take information.

3-Unwanted Solicitation

If you’re not careful about where you post information and pictures about yourself, you could end up seeing your photo on an advertisement one day, and unable to do anything about it.

4-Agencies

You may not realize it, but your phone service provider or favorite websites/services may be required by law, or voluntarily, giving government agencies what you thought was your private information.

 

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR INFO

1-Settings

a) Phone

Adjusting the security settings of your phone is a very important way to secure the data contained within. When you first set up your new phone, you will usually have the ability to choose many of your own security settings right then and there. Even if you have had your phone for a while, you still have the option of going in to your phone’s security settings and personalizing them. Every phone is different, but in general to get to these settings, you will find the settings tab (usually will look like a gear), then go to the tab that says “security.”

Some examples of how to set up these settings to the maximum security: not allowing your device to access your location, setting up a passcode to unlock your phone (can be a numerical code, a fingerprint, both, even an eye scan), then having your phone erase all saved data after a certain number of failed attempts on the passcode.

Anti-virus software is another way to secure your phone (here are some good ones). Androids need this more so than iPhones since Apple only allows you to download apps from the iTunes store. That being said, please note that jailbreaking your phone will increase your chances of obtaining a virus if you aren’t careful.

Update your phone’s software as soon as the updates are available. Oftentimes, these updates occur primarily in order to make sure that your phone’s security is up to date and able to handle the latest threats. The same advice is recommended for any apps you are using; update them.

Back up your files. I use OneDrive and DropBox to back up the files from my phone. Then, whenever those are full, I move them all to my external hard drive. Backing up your files ensures that if your phone is lost, stolen, or crashes, you won’t lose your memories or your files used for business purposes.

The most secure thing you could possibly do if you are not a tech-guru is to purchase the purported ultra-safe Blackphone.

b) Computer:

Firewalls are one great way to keep your computer from accepting information from the internet that is considered a high risk for being unsafe. Here are some that you can consider. Most good firewalls will cost you a little bit of money.

Anti-malware can be used to protect your computer from “malicious software.” Even if you have a firewall, it may not always be enough to protect your computer from attachments sent in emails and other threats. Here are some anti-malware options that come highly recommended.

Update everything. Just like with your phone, your computer’s updates mostly serve to fix security issues.

Back up your data. I personally use an external hard-drive to save all of my files that I am finished editing or working with. Then I delete them from my computer. This saves space on my computer and makes sure that all of my files are safe in the event that my computer crashes or is attacked.

Here is an article for more information:

ASK LEO

2-Knowing the law

It’s such an exciting time to be an internet-using, active & informed voting citizen of the United States right now, as policy is being created AS WE LIVE AND BREATHE RIGHT NOW as to how to govern the world of the wide web.

I *firmly* believe that as someone who enjoys utilizing the tools that the internet has to offer, I deserve to have a say in how it is regulated, and you do too!

The Federal Privacy Council is a name to know. It has a legislative membership list of committees and subcommittees related to privacy and surveillance issues.

There are a couple bills to keep an eye on:

-Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008

-The Email Privacy Act

As it stands now, internet and phone service providers do not have to have permission to give your information out to be used for advertising purposes.

Not to mention the fact that the information can also be given up if it is thought that it is going to be used to stop any illegal activities. Here is the analysis of a case that is a few years old. It explains what information police are able to glean from your phone if they choose. Here is a broader analysis of what phone companies can give to police to help aid an ongoing investigation.

It is time for states to begin creating their own regulations as to what the police and feds are allowed to take, and how they will be allowed to use it.

***TAKE ACTION!!!*** If you are interested in preserving the freedom of the frontier that is the world wide web, you must realize how important it is that you take action to protect it! If you don’t, who will? This article is EXTREMELY helpful in giving you easy instructions on which of your elected officials to contact about this issue, and what some of the technical jargon you will need to include is.

Additionally, here are several other articles that will give you plenty of information to get you started on where we stand with governing the Internet, and Internet privacy:

a) NCSL
b) THE HILL
c) NEWSY
d) SNOPES
e) PROPUBLICA
f) YOUTUBE PLAYLIST OF TED TALKS

4-Personalizing Web Use

Know where it’s okay to use a credit card. You can tell if a website is secure by looking a a couple of things. The first is the title bar. That is the part of your screen at the top where the name of the website exists. If it starts with “https,” that means it is secure.

Another thing to look at is the domain name. Some websites will mimic the name of well known websites to make you think that it is that certain site. They can even make their webpages look like the sites that you know and trust. Be sure to check the domain name to make sure that it is spelled correctly.

This article has some other pointers.

Website owners need to take precautions to protect their information by securing their websites. The following information is advice that I got from a customer service representative from GoDaddy, which is the service I use to house my domain and to host it. He recommended that I 1) use WordFence which is iTheme’s free malware security plugin, 2) Check for updates from my hosting, theme, and domain registration site once a week, 3) use Word Fence which is iTheme’s security, 3) use Sitelock which is a paid service which will remove and prevent harmful attacks to your website, and 4) try to hack into hackmywordpress.com, a website that a GoDaddy customer representative created. That site uses the security precautions mentioned above and challenges people to try and hack into the site. So far, according to the representative I spoke with who is friends with the creator, no one has been able to do it.

For messaging, you can use an application that sends encrypted messages. For phone messaging applications, some that come highly recommended are Signal and Wickr. Signal was created by the head of security of Twitter, and Edward Snowden endorsed it.

If you have completed all of these steps, you may consider yourself a cyber security ninja warrior that few hackers or viruses can even mess with!

Congratulations for making it through this article, and for taking the steps to protect yourself and your personal information against the dangers of the world wide web.

You may now surf in peace.

Don’t Forget, Dallas Shooting July 2016

in Current Events/News/Uncategorized by

(Watch in highest quality!)

I remember this day very clearly.

It was the first time that I had ever heard of a shooting happening in a city where I had lived.

It was the first time I felt mass panic on such an intimate level.

July 7th, 2016 was the day that Micah Xavier Johnson shot several people in downtown Dallas, Texas during a Black Lives Matter protest. The shooting was caused by a man who let hysteria consume him and made him view someone with a color of skin different than his as his personal enemy. He was a black man who was set on killing white authority, including five police officers and a DART officer (Dallas Area Rapid Transit).

From the room of my apartment in a different city, I began making this video while live news coverage was still going on. First, they could not figure out who the shooter was. Then, they accused an innocent man of being the shooter, because he came forth to the authorities saying he had a gun because he was afraid of being blamed for the shooting. He was found innocent, then they tracked down the shooter and cornered him in a parking garage.

It seemed that the police force was reluctant to just plow him down. They also may have been suppressing panic themselves. In the end, a robot bearing a C-4 explosive was used to shoot and kill Johnson, marking the first time this kind of technology had been used by a police force to kill a man.

I am supportive of equality, and in tipping the scales so that we may be better balanced with it. I support most protests.

Violence however, I cannot be supportive of. It seemed to me on this day, that some protests from some groups had become a grounds where violence was at the tip of everyone’s tongue, and lots of folks just needed the right trigger to incite them. That was true in this protest at least.

The reason for me posting this tragic event on my website is 1) to bring the video from my YouTube page to my personal news page and mainly, 2) as a reminder to keep protests peaceful. It’s that simple. All violence at a protest will do is hurt the cause by making it look ill thought-out and spurned by hatred, not justice.

Even Arizona is trying to pass a law that would take away property from any person who helped organize a protest that turned violent. That person could also be held liable for any damage done during the protest, even if it was caused by someone else.

This is terrible legislation that infringes upon our constitutional right to gather in assembly. However, I do agree with what I believe to be the point of the bill, which is that we need to make sure our involvement in government is peaceful and community-minded.

No matter what “the other side” or “they” are doing, if we as a collective, unified body of compassionate humanity want fairness and equality, the attitude of the ends justifying the means and violence being a tool to get there, cannot be so.

RIP to victims of hate and irrational thinking.

May we all look upon each other seeking understanding and through that, peace.

When Pier 1 Phased Out Toxins

in Blog/Health/News/Policy by

(Watch at the highest quality!)

Something we collectively may not always think about when we are shopping for furniture and decorations for our home is if the materials and mediums have known harmful toxins in them.

The truth is, they do. Lightbulbs have mercury, which is neurotoxic. Many comforters, pajamas, pillows, couches, beds and so on have flame retardants in them. Flame retardants are a “possible” human carcinogen.

How do we make sure these chemicals don’t get into our homes and into our heads? By creating and enforcing policy!

How does that happen? In this case, through the hard work of a non-partisan, environmental non-profit called Texas Campaign for the Environment.

Through their efforts, Pier 1 effectively phased out all toxins from all products on their store shelves.

Yes, it really happened. And it is because people in the community got involved on an issue that they care about.

And I was lucky enough to catch footage of it actually happening!

Please enjoy this original video and audio of empowered citizens taking part in democracy 🙂

Hallelujah, Music Trumps Money

in Blog/Current Events/Media/Music/Social Commentary by

President Trump has stirred up the most controversy and protest that I can remember out of any of the 5 presidents who have held office since I have been alive. Not to mention he has the lowest approval ratings of any president, ever. Not to say that there hasn’t been protest for the others. I remember George Bush especially, a lot of folks on the Internet were saying that he was the anti-Christ, ha.

Trump however, has already shown his lack of basic concern for a whole shlew of people. Women, immigrants, especially from the near south and far east, anyone who is not a ga-jillionaire, anyone who cares about these people, plants animals and people who are affected and will soon be affected more by climate change; all of us are sort of shaking in our boots to see what Trump will do with the power we granted him over the next four years.

Running rampant along with insults and promises of policies that makes many cringe, are protests of these things. There was the Women’s March on the Capital the day after Trump’s inauguration. Smaller protests were held at State Capitols around the country. There was one in Austin I would have liked to go to. There are also reports of marches in Chicago and Denver to name a few. There are still protests going on to this day.

The lay-woman and -man aren’t the only ones calling attention to issues that have been highlighted by the charged atmosphere of this particular election. Some of my favorite artists decided to comment on this election by releasing a song from their upcoming album.

If you’re a Gorillaz fan, or a Benjamin Clementine fan, definitely go listen to this new track satirically called, “Hallelujah Money.”

Lyrics:

“Here is our tree
That primitively grows
And when you go to bed
Scarecrows from the far east
Come to eat
Its tender fruits
And I thought the best way to perfect our tree
Is by building walls
Walls like unicorns
In full glory
And galore
And even stronger
Than the walls of Jericho
But glad then my friend
Out in the field we shall reap a better day
What we have always dreamt of having
Are now for the starving
It is love, that is the root of all evil
But not our tree
And thank you my friend
For trusting me.

[Hook: Benjamin Clementine (Choir)]
Hallelujah
(Hallelujah)
Hallelujah money
(Past the chemtrails)
Hallelujah money
(Hallelujah money)
Hallelujah money
(Hallelujah money)
Hmmm
Hallelujah money
(Hallelujah)
Hallelujah money
(Oooh)

[Bridge: 2-D]
How will we know?
When the morning comes
We are still human
How will we know?
How will we dream?
How will we love?
How will we know?

[Spoken Verse: Benjamin Clementine]
Don’t worry my friend
If this be the end, then so shall it be
Until we say so, nothing will move
Ah, don’t worry
It’s not against our morals
It’s legal tender
Touch, my friend
While the whole world
And whole beasts of nations desire
Power

[Bridge 2: 2-D]
When the morning comes
We are still human
How will we know?
How will we dream?
How will we love?
How will we know?

[Hook: Benjamin Clementine (Choir)]
(Hallelujah money)
Hallelujah money
(Past the chemtrails)
Hallelujah money
(Hallelujah money)
Hmmm
Hallelujah money
(Hallelujah money)
Hallelujah money
(Oooh)
Hallelujah money
Hallelujah money
Hallelujah
Hallelujah money!”

I love the religious tone in the song. You see it in the lyrics, in the choir singing behind Benjamin Clementine, even some in the melancholy coos of Clementine. I find it sort of ironic that the words at once draw metaphors from the Bible, as well as speaking satirically about the morals embodied by our new president and by many in the United States.

The “tender fruits” from “our garden” are so precious that they need “walls…even stronger…than those of Jericho” to protect them, is the claim in the first verse. It is as if our country is the precious garden of Eden, yet our garden is so full of greed and weeds that the comparison must be noted as asinine.

Later in the song, the idea that money “trumps” morality is shown. The song essentially says, “Hey, don’t worry about morality, we have power, which is what all nations desire.”

Many would say that power leads to corruption and that the love and idolization of money many times leads to the slow degradation of empathy for a great deal of things such as other systems and humans which are not possessed by the rich.

The way Clementine’s voice and hands and seemingly, soul, begin shaking as he belts out the single word “Power” made my heart shake as well. Is it too punny to say that part of the song was very powerful?

The nation itself seems to be shaking. Some anticipation, some fear, some dread. What I find hope in though, is that protesters and artists, movers and shakers, will continue to speak up about issues that are affecting them so that those on the Hill will have to hear.

Read this fantastic article from Uproxxx to find out more about the Gorillaz new album!

Source: Uproxx

Ringling No More

in Blog/Current Events/News/Social Commentary by

If an elephant never forgets, I wonder what thoughts the elephants from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus are living with for the rest of their long lives? (They live to be about 50 years old!)

If you ask PETA, the answer of loneliness and abuse ring(ling) a bell. If you ask many of the circus-goers who are disappointed that they will never get to see an elephant perform in “The Greatest Show on Earth” ever again…well, they may not have even thought about it.

Now protestors and circus-goers alike are being forced to think about it, since headlines like this one from CNN are all over the news circuit. And since an elephant can’t, or as I like to say it “ele-can’t” tell us about its glory days and days of pain, we, charged with their care, must tell the narrative.

It turns out that now, an elecan’t perform in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus any more. That is because on May 21st of this year, the animals and performers will give their last performance. Period.

This is arguably due to a few different reasons. The reason on everyone’s mind is the protest coming from animal activist organizations and individuals regarding the treatment of animals in the circus, though the Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, who own the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has not and will probably not admit to that.

This article from PETA claims that elephants are torn from their families, forced to remain in the same position for 23 hours out of the day, and treated to chains, bullhooks, electrical prods, chains, and confinement. (PETA stands for “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.”)

There is also that one…little incident of the circus being made to pay $270,000 for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, the AWA. That is the most paid by an animal exhibitor, ever.

So that means that the animals rights violations are more than hippie’s cries of injustice towards our animal friends; they are real infractions punished by a legitimate policy-enforcing organization.

Something an ele-CAN is be on the endangered animals list. The elephants used in this circus are Asian elephants. At the turn of the century, there were twice as many Asian elephants than are left today.

If you remember middle school, you probably remember being taught about the food cycle, and how every species alive is important. Biodiversity is very important on our Earth. If you remember middle school, you also probably remember The Lion King, and what we learned there about the circle of life. Hey, it moves us all!

Feld Entertainment sort of…balances out the cruelty to the elephants in the circus by providing them a nice retirement home when they are too old to perform. The Elephant Conservation Center is a 200 acre sanctuary in Florida.

Not only can elephants live out their golden years here, the Center is also highly focused on the preservation of Asian elephants through reproduction. There have been over a dozen births at the center since its opening. This really should be recognized as a good thing, even if Feld Entertainment does have a circus of a track record when it comes to treating animals well.

Many consider the move by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to shut down their circus one that is an advancement in human consciousness towards peace for all living things. We will hear the bells and whistles of the circus ring…ling no more. “The Greatest Show on Earth” may be greater for some now that it is closed.

What do YOU think?

Sharing is…Caring?

in News/Policy by

Hello, Texan-born Fort Worth resident here! As you may have noticed by my previous articles and content, I am interested in sharing with proactive readers true and unbiased information.

That being said, we all know that sharing is caring; this article is about what Texas and South and Central America are sharing right now.

I would have to say that the most important thing shared has got to be…tacos! I love me some street tacos.

I’m not talking about Taco Bell y’all. I’m talking about tacos that you find pretty much exclusively either homemade, or if you’re lucky, around the corner at the gas station.

For those of you who haven’t had street tacos, imagine: Yummy corn or flour tortillas filled with your choice of meat, diced onions, topped with freshly made salsa and cilantro.

img_20150220_172352580

Find an establishment that serves more authentic tacos, and you can sometimes choose lengua (tongue) or tripe (stomach) as a meat if you can “stomach” it. These are options you won’t see at your typical Tex-Mex joint. You can of course still find barbacoa, beef, and chorizo, which I personally am a bit more used to. If you find a place that gives you all of these options, thank the lucky stars that you got the chance to try a real taco.

Tasty cuisine is one thing that is shared to America. On the flip side, one thing the U.S. shares with Mexico doesn’t leave quite as good of a taste in the mouth. Christopher Ingraham, writer for The Washington Post, quotes a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Ingraham writes, “More than 70,000 guns recovered from crime scenes in Mexico could be traced back to the United States…. That represents 70 percent of all crime guns recovered and traced in Mexico during that period.” Mmm, tastes like…lead.

Shoot, in Texas, gun laws are already very loose.
-Any Texan that is 18 or older is allowed to purchase a gun.
-There is no state registration of firearms.
-Open carry is allowed.
-Felons are allowed to purchase firearms that are kept in their homes, as long as it is 5 years after the sentence was discharged.

These loose rules apply to retailers selling firearms and ammunition. At gun shows, nearly anything goes. There is no background check required, and you are allowed to purchase as many guns as you want.

These loosey goosey policies are what allows so many guns to enter Mexico and beyond. How? The local folklore tells the tale of Texas residents being paid off to go into gun shows to purchase guns, then selling them to individuals (who are usually waiting in their car or truck in the parking lot) who cannot purchase them because they do not have American citizenship. Some of these folks re-sell the guns for the extra cash; some are threatened into it.

guns-467710_1920

You’ve gotta think that if there’s a need for guns, there is something being protected by them. In this case, it’s drugs, which another thing shared between countries.

Typically whenever drugs are sold en masse, gangs, cartels in this case, are formed in order to monopolize on the insane amounts of capital that is gained.

There are so many key individuals and events to talk about when it comes to drugs, which is what led to cartel presence in America. So, I have created a timeline to keep it neat.

Pay special attention to the people and events that are in bold.

History lesson, go!

*1960s: USE OF SEVERAL DRUGS ARE WIDESPREAD IN THE US

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Quoted from DEA’s own documentation of the history of the DEA, “In 1960, only four million Americans had ever tried drugs. Currently, that number has risen to over 74 million.”

During their early years, before criminalization, this is what drug use looked like in America:

The potential medicinal use for LSD was explored by scientists in laboratories in the UK and the USA in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. Whenever no credible medical use was found, the drug seeped from labs onto the streets, helping fuel the counterculture of the time period.

Methamphetamine was used during the Vietnam War by soldiers in nearly every country involved; including American soldiers. Meth and dextroamphetamine were prescribed legally at that time to the public for anything from depression to weight control. Again, the drug seeped out of the realm of research or medically controlled use, and into the hands of the layman.

Heroin was allowed to be prescribed medically in the early 1910s, and it was criminalized in 1924.

Cocaine was said to be used primarily by the black communities in the early 1900s, until it spread to the disco culture in the ’60s-’80s. After that, it was common in nearly every subculture and socioeconomic group.

Marijuana was widely used, and not seen to be as dangerous as most other synthetic drugs. However, the film entitled Reefer Madness – 1936 (watch the original version for free here). This hilarious dramatization was created by a church group for parents so that they could warn their children of the “dangers of smoking pot.” Weed has long been the most accepted illegal “drug” in America however.

*JUNE 18, 1971: NIXON DECLARES WAR ON DRUGS

nixon

President Richard Nixon (served 1969-1974) declared his plan to fight a global “War on Drugs” during a press conference on June 18, 1971. (Watch as Nixon heatedly declares this war in a horribly monotone voice here.)

This “war” was declared because soldiers in Vietnam were revealed to be struggling with addiction.

The irony of the situation is that the soldiers were being given the equivalent of clean methamphetamine BY the United States Military.

Apparently the war on drugs was a pick and choose your favorite kind of war where Nixon got to pick on the existing drugs he didn’t like while leaving some totally legal.

*JULY 1, 1973: THE DEA IS FORMED

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President Richard Nixon reorganizes his plans for the War on Drugs and creating the Department of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), under the federal Department of Justice. This department has grown both in employees and in income since its beginning, yet drug use has continued to grow.

The DEA follows structure and methods of preceding agencies.

Those include The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD). The BNDD was formed after the merging of The Bureau of Narcotics and The Bureau of Drug Abuse Control. The two original agencies dealt with different types of drugs, whereas the BNDD dealt with all drugs. The BNDD was focused primarily on law enforcement rather than having much to do with education or rehabilitation.

Whenever the DEA was created, it took on the roles and responsibilities of the BNDD, which was then eliminated.

CARTELS

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*1930s: THE GULF CARTEL BEGINS IN MATAMOROS, TAMAULIPAS, MEXICO

Founders: Juan Nempomuceno Guerra, Cardenas Guillen, Juan Garcia Abrego

Current Leadership: Check out more info here.

The Gulf Cartel is possibly the oldest cartel in Mexico. This cartel began during the Prohibition of alcohol in America when Juan Nempomuceno Guerra started smuggling alcohol into the states. Guerra’s nephew took over the family business in 1984 and shifted towards smuggling drugs instead.

This cartel has strong international ties, as well as being allied with the Cali Cartel since the early days of its existence. The Gulf and Cali Cartels had a business arrangement that worked well for both of them. The Gulf Cartel was headquartered in a town right near the Mexico-Texas border, Matamotos. So, the Cali Cartel would bring shipments of cocaine from Columbia up to Matamoros, and the Gulf Cartel would distribute it to sellers in Mexico and on in to the U.S. from there. In the 1990s, it was estimated that the Gulf Cartel was worth over $10 billion.

The Gulf Cartel stills reigns supreme in many areas.

*EARLY 1970S: MEDELLIN CARTEL FORMS IN MEDELLIN, COLUMBIA

Founders: Pablo Escobar, Carlos Lehder, along with brothers Juan David Ochoa, Jorge Luis Ochoa, and Fabio Ochoa

Current Leadership: Could not find.

Medellin is pronounced, “med-uh-yeen.” Not like “medallion” as in the pirate treasure, which is what I thought at first. Although they DO have a lot of coin…

In 1975, Medellin, Columbia based drug-trafficker Fabio Restrepo (the head honcho of the area at the time) was murdered. Pablo Escobar is purportedly behind this murder. After that event, Escobar quickly began his ascension to being one of the most well-known drug smuggling king-pins ever in the world.

The founders of the Medellin Cartel teamed together and formed the group called M.A.S. (“Muerte a Secuestradores,” “Death to Kidnappers.”) The Columbian military, Texas Petroleum, small business owners, and rich farmers allied with the M.A.S. in orderto protect themselves and their assets.

The M.A.S. was formed by criminals for criminals, in order to protect existing cartel members and their families from being kidnapped by rivals.

Through this organized network, the members found the wealth and resources to become one of the most powerful cartels ever to exist, the Medellin Cartel.

This Cartel rose to power in the mid-1980s. By this time, “Escobar controlled more than 80 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States. More than 15 tons of cocaine were reportedly smuggled each day, netting the Cartel as much as $420 million a week.”

The Medellin Cartel had created a business in the spirit of the American dream. With all of the wealth floating around the states, especially in comparison to the poverty in Columbia, they saw much opportunity for their type of entrepreneurship.

The Medellins first used planes and the unguarded coastline of Florida to smuggle drugs into the U.S. The kingpins of the cartels even had their own private airstrips, warehouses, and party mansions in their own countries, to make smuggling easy and glamorous; especially as seen by the great amount of poverty that existed in those countries.

The Cartel was mostly smuggling cocaine, marijuana, and heroin into Florida. However, after the South Florida Task Force began cracking down on drug and cartel-related crime with help of the U.S. Military, the cartels simply began using a different route, choosing to go through Mexico.

This business made not only the Cartel, but also distributors in the US very, very rich.

Some things to note about how Escobar operated: He established the first smuggling routes into the U.S. He was a thief and scam artist in his early years, before he began the ultimate drug smuggler.

Escobar was known for being really, really good at bribing people to get what he wanted. The phrase “plata o plomo” was created in association to him. It means silver or lead.” Those were the options he gave those whom he was bribing; take either some money or die. It’s like he was a superhero with his own catchphrase!

Escobar is seen sort of like a superhero in Columbia. This is because he rose to power and made his own wealth in an area of poverty and simple living. He also built many schools, hospitals, and churches in the area where he grew up, and was elected into the Chamber of Representatives in Columbia as a member of the Columbian political party.

Escobar was eventually killed by the Columbian police when he was 44 years old. His death allowed other Cartels to come into power. The superhero of smuggling was not immortal, it turns out.

I would highly recommend the documentary Cocaine Cowboys, and Cocaine Cowboys 2. They are free on Netflix, and feature interviews with some of the original members so you get a firsthand account of how everything went down.

*ALSO EARLY 1970S: THE CALI CARTEL FORMS IN CALI, COLUMBIA

Founders: Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, Jose Santacruz Londono (aka Chepe), and Helmer Herrera (aka Pacho).

Current Leadership: Could not find.

The city of Cali, Columbia is where the Cali Cartel has its origins.

The crimes of the Cali Cartel began with kidnapping of laymen, as well as important political figures. They were also heavily involved in marijuana smuggling.

However, once the cartel realized that there was more money in cocaine, they switched their focus to selling cocaine.

The cartel sent Pacho to New York City to establish a distribution center in 1970. It is believed that this was the first time a cartel member came to the U.S. in order to set up shop for their business.

While the Medellin and Cali cartels worked together a number of times, they became rivals competing over territory and the control of the cocaine flow. Just, just bust a flow! No, not that kind. Ahem, anyway.

The Medellin Cartel dissipated sooner the Cali Cartel, which led to the Cali’s full height of power being in the mid-1990s, when the organization was raking in multiple billions of dollars per year.

*****

The original cartels were formed in Columbia, where the most coca was originally grown. However, when the Columbian Cartels began going through Mexico to smuggle drugs into the U.S., Mexican Cartels began to form and rise to prominence.

Now, the most coca is farmed in Columbia, Peru, and Bolivia.

*1989: THE SINALOA CARTEL FORMS IN CULIACAN, SINALOA, MEXICO

Founders: Joaquin Guzman (El Chapo), Hector Luis Palma Salazar

Current Leadership: El Chapo, Salazar, and Ismael Zambada Garcia

The Sinaloas are the number one Cartel presence in the U.S. right now. They have centers in every major city in the U.S., according to the DEA.

If you have heard anything about the Sinaloas, it is probably due to El Chapo.

El Chapo was born to a poor family in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. Guzman started his career in organized crime early. His uncle, Pedro Aviles Perez, was the one of the first to use aircraft to smuggle drugs into the U.S. back in the ’60s.

Since those days, the Sinaloa Cartel only became more powerful. It doesn’t hurt that heir base of operations is in an area that grows much of the country’s marijuana and opium.

El Chapo has made famous and perfected the Cartel practice of digging tunnels underground in order to transport drugs and weapons to and from the U.S. El Chapo has escaped from prison twice now, using these tunnel systems.

Not only that, it should be known that there are hundreds and hundreds of tunnels along the border of America and the U.S. It seems that every time officials on either side of the border discover one tunnel, more pop up.

Trump’s plan to build a wall won’t work so well against people who are going underground to get into the U.S.

Currently, El Chapo is in prison in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The world sits and waits to see if he will successfully attempt another escape. Until then, he is running the Cartel from inside of the prison.

*LATE 1990S: LOS ZETAS (THE Z’s) CARTEL BEGINS IN NEUVO LAREDO, TAMAULIPAS, MEXICO

Founders: Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, Arturo Guzman Decena

Current Leadership: Omar Trevino Morales

The Los Zetas are considered by the American government to be the most technologically advanced and therefore most dangerous of the Mexican Cartels.

The Los Zetas began as a branch of the Gulf Cartel. The original Zetas were recruited by Osiel Cardenas Guillen to be his personal body guard and then later mercenaries. Guillen partnered with Arturo Guzman Decena. Decena recruited over 30 men to join. These men had previously worked with the Mexican Army’s elite group, the GAFE, and then deserted the military. They were trained killers, and in a position to gladly accept the salary that the cartel was willing to offer them.

The role of the Los Zetas expanded from bodyguards and mercenaries into more violent jobs such as kidnapping, extortion, securing routes for cocaine smuggling, and  murder.

The Zetas became too powerful for the Gulf Cartel to handle, so they split off after a brutal civil war and became their own faction.

As of 2012, the Zetas had control of over 11 states in Mexico, giving it the most territory of any of the cartels. Their rivals, the Sinaloas, lost some territory to the Zetas. About 1/3 of the original members are now fugitives, and the rest are either dead or were caught by Mexican military.

Check out a free documentary on YouTube about the Los Zetas here.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Now that we have looked through the history of Cartels, let’s take a peek at the impact they are having in the great state of Texas.

In only one week, reports show that one retired Army Sargent from San Antonio admitted to furnishing weapons to Cartels, and two fishermen were shot by Cartel members while fishing on Falcon Lake in Texas.

The reality of Cartel presence in Texas and all over the U.S. backs up the legend of the ruthlessness and determination of the Cartels to perpetuate their status as the biggest and baddest on either side of the border.

Check out this map made by the DEA to see what Cartels are operated in what areas.

Photo: DEA
Photo: DEA

There is too much information about the Cartels for me to be able to be able to share it all. If you are interested in learning more about the relationship between the U.S. and South & Central America when it comes to cartels and smuggling, I would definitely recommend doing a little bit of research on the role that cartel leaders play in the politics of their respective countries.

Many of the leaders rose to a position of prominence in their governments, typically through coercion. These organizations are not only ruthless and lawless, they also have their hands in the governments of the countries in which they are operating.

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Now that we’ve talked about what we do share, good and also dangerous, let’s talk about what we can share. One may argue (I would), that prohibition is a huge failure. I like to think of a government using prohibition as a similar sort of thing to when a parent prohibits their child from trying drugs or alcohol. That citizen, or that child, is going to be exposed to drugs and alcohol, and they will have a decision to make that is all their own. The citizen/child ought to possess the knowledge of the effects the drugs and alcohol are going to have on their body and mind so that they are equipped to make good decisions.

However, whenever prohibition comes into effect, entire subcultures, systems, lingo and so forth are formed so that those who are set on consuming drugs and alcohol will still be able to consume them. Which they always do and always will.

Remove that prohibition and replace it with education and treatment, and you will eliminate some of the “fun” and mystery that makes drug and alcohol related experiences so appealing for so many people.

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Country of Portugal

Why not share Portugal’s recent change in policies when it comes to drugs? In 2001, Portugal decriminalized (to different degrees) ALL drugs in their country. This doesn’t mean that they are now legal, it just means that the punishments and fines (especially for possession) are now much lighter. Since the decriminalization, rates of use and death have both gone down.

Again will I quote Christopher Ingraham of The Washington Post: “Among Portuguese adults, there are 3 drug overdose deaths for every 1,000,000 citizens. Comparable numbers in other countries range from 10.2 million in the Netherlands to 44.6 per million in the U.K., al lthe way up to 126.8 per million in Estonia. The E.U. average is 17.3 per million.” This information comes from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

Now that sounds like some wisdom that the United States could definitely stand to share in. Decriminalizing is shown to reduce death aassociated with use.

Not only that, the heat on the coca farmers who are farming as they have been in their culture for generations would be significantly reduced.

The coca farmers are often forgotten in our dialogue about decriminalization. They receive very little of the money that their coca leaves end up producing, yet they are the targets of several governed tbe destroying their farms while calling them drug dealers.

Decriminalization would likely lead to less use, less protection needed for smuggling routes, and less deaths all around.

Tacos, drugs, and policies are all things that cannot be kept inside of a country, wall or no wall. That being the case, our increasingly small world should find a way to embody the phrase “Sharing is Caring” in a way that is healthy for everyone involved. I hope you have enjoyed learning a little bit more about the streets. Now you know how to look out for delicious tacos, and to be mindful of the presence of some of the biggest organized crime organizations ever to exist in the backyards of every major city in the U.S.

Dallas Unites Against DAPL

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Smart business will invest in renewable energy!nodaplme

 

It’s funny how things work out sometimes.

I have been wanting so badly to be able to go to North Dakota to stand with the protesters there against the Dakota Access Pipeline. A trip to North Dakota just isn’t in my budget though. That’s not true of a lot of folks; even several celebrities have gotten involved, bringing a lot of media attention to the issue. They include Jackson Browne, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chris Rock, Bernie Sanders, and many more. This article shows an extensive list of big names who are showing their support for the Standing Rock Tribe.

Little did I know, Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for the building of the pipeline, is headquartered in Dallas! I lived in Dallas for about a year, and am staying in Fort Worth now, about 45 minutes south and mostly west of Dallas. Whenever I heard that some local groups and individual activists were organizing protests at the headquarters, a rush of excitement and opportunity rushed through me. Protesting at the headquarters was the next best thing to actually being at the front lines in North Dakota.

My activist friend who I met through working with Texas Campaign for the Environment was the one who told me about the protest. There have been several and several more are planned. The one I went to was held at the Klyde Warren park. The park was funded by Klyde’s father, Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners. These organizers are really covering their bases.

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In this one battle of many against the looming and devastating effects of climate change, I wanted to catch a glimpse of why folks in Dallas were dedicating their time and energy to a fight that is so far away. I was able to speak with a lot of inspiring warriors, and a few let me video their responses.

I asked them to introduce themselves and state why they were there protesting. Watch the video, and in this article, I would like to elaborate on some of the points that were made in the video, for those who want to dig deeper and do more research on the issue. The numbered list below cites information that corresponds with the different speakers in the video, consecutively.

Thank you so much for reading and watching.

If you are currently in North Dakota fighting, just know that there are folks worldwide, all the way from the UK to good ole Dallas, Texas, who are fighting with you. Don’t give up!

In love, Monica Leigh <3

  1. I am a proponent of peaceful protest. I do not believe that violence or any sort of rampant emotions will lead to peace. However, I do possess the empathy to understand why some protesters would lose their cool and get out of hand during this protest. As a trained protester, I would like to say that those who begin to yell and insult and become violent may not have had the training that some protesters have had. Either way, violence has occurred, and hopefully more violence can be avoided.
  2. Here is the Facebook page of the group this young lady mentions.
  3. Pipelines spill. Here is the website of a reputable organization that goes into a little more detail about how often pipelines spill, how many lives they take, and how much money it costs.
  4. European countries are taking the lead in operating using renewable energy. Germany is currently redoing its entire energy infrastructure to be ran off of renewable energy. There are cleaner, smarter, more efficient ways to consume energy than pulling toxic goop out of the ground and transporting it across our earth.
  5. The government granted federally protected land to the tribes in North Dakota and the surrounding regions. Check out these sites for more info on those treaties.
  6. I would direct you to the last section of my first blog post about this issue to look more into how renewables MUST be the way of the future.If we do not begin investing in renewables, we will see global catastrophic events. Entire island countries underwater, coastlines receded miles inland, the number of climate refugees seeking refuge in safer countries climbing. Smart companies WILL invest in renewables.

I hope this video and article has been entertaining and informative.

Leave me a comment below to let me know what you think.

I’ll believe in you if you’ll believe in me, ya? 🙂 <3

love

Seeing Fort Worth Through Different Goggles

in Current Events/News by

Most definitely play this song by a local band while you read to enhance your reading experience! \m/

 

You would think that an Oklahoma girl who moved away from her home state as soon as the opportunity arose would stay as far away from a city affectionately named “Cowtown” as possible. Yet here I am, and have been, in good ole Fort Worth, Texas for the past 6 months! I suppose that while I left Small Town, OK, my affinity towards judging things prior to actually engaging with and experiencing them myself have stayed with me. Fort Worth is actually a pretty cool spot to be for this upcoming freelance writer.

Being a writer, I love a good story, and this old town is full of them. Fort Worth has been around since 1849. This was a time when slavery was in full swing, as was the gold rush, y’all. Fort Worth was settled as an army outpost overlooking the Trinity River. The roots of this town are still seen thriving, if you’re looking. Segregation is still alive, as is the concentration of money in certain areas, and you can bet your boots that the Trinity River is one of the main attractions of the city. It is certainly lovely to walk or bike beside the river on a warm fall day. However, everybody here knows to avoid certain areas because of gangs and the crime that lives with extreme poverty. Fort Worth is a city of extremes.

Me personally, I live in a generally nice-ish area and work in a nice one. Being employed at Kona Grill in the West 7th area (we serve American food with an Asian twist; also, a full sushi bar and upstairs patio!), I have the pleasure of talking with long-time Fort Worth residents who come in for sushi and miso-sake sea bass that’s been marinated for 72 hours in miso-sake marinade. YUM! I like to chat about the arts district, since that is what I love most in life, art! Patrons often come in for food after visiting the Kimbell Art Museum (free) or the Botanic Gardens (also FREE!). I tell them I find it quite lovely that all of these artistic attractions are free. It helps keep a girl on a budget (if you can call being as broke as a stepped on stick “a budget”). They tell me that this area, poppin’ with restaurants frequented by TCU students and recent graduates, wasn’t always as nice. No one has yet said the word, but apparently the area used to be pretty ghetto.

"A Hibiscus, tropical but grows well in Texas and Oklahoma and better in Florida, Louisiana."
“A Hibiscus, tropical but grows well in Texas and Oklahoma.” Taken at the Botanic Gardens.

What a transformation! Whoever it was that dumped a ton of money over the past several decades into building some of the most astute and admired museums and gardens and theaters in the country, then decided to keep them free, I sure as heck appreciate it. It helps keep me out of trouble, and there is something telling me that, that’s exactly the point. The area was once rough and sparse, according to my at least decently well-monied patrons, and is now fresh and poppin’ with opportunity and young life. Again, no one has yet said the word, but with the building and rebuilding of businesses that I see going on before my very eyes, it seems like quite a few parts of the city are being gentrified.

The Southside area of Cow Town is another that is full of stories of what used to be and what is now. I had the pleasure of attending the outdoor festival called ArtsGoggle last Saturday, the 8th of October. After taking my exit 12B off of highway 30, I looked to the right and saw trains rusted and stopped in an old train yard, then to my left and saw the buildings of downtown rising higher and higher as I drove near them. It seemed that the day-long festival was square in the middle of these two extremes.

It took quite a while to park, but I did finally, in the parking lot of Paris Coffee Shop. I walked two blocks over to where the festival began. Just as the website promised, there were blocks and blocks full of vendors, all local artists! Much of the art was what you would expect from southern artists, like pictures of lizards painted onto beautifully stained wood. There was a lot of melted glass art; bottles that had been melted down into a hardened pile of glass that could now serve as a decorative piece. One of my favorite booths was of a young woman who is still an art student, but going to be featured in museums, with her oil painting and charcoal drawings of herself, looking very alive in a post-apocalyptic world wearing a gas mask. Very very cool Jamie.

Jamie's business card, is that not so rad?
Jamie’s business card, is that not so rad?

Not only that, there were “50 local bands across 5 stages.” I got to catch a little bit of the Kites and Boomerangs, I had to stop and dance for a moment, they were rockin’ out. I saw my friend from work there also, she said that she got to rock out to The Hendersons. I need to check them out also. My friend wears dark purple lipstick, so I naturally trust her taste in music.

Probably the most meaningful booth to me was the Sleeping Panther Press Publishing Company’s. What caught my eye walking by was the sign that said, “Writer’s Boot Camp.” I spoke with the founder who is also a writer and the editor of their annual compilation of short stories, poems, and screenplays all written by local writers. It’s called Panther City Review. I highly recommend it! The group of writers and critique-rs meet once a month. I am so there! And soso glad that I found somewhere I can go to have my writing read and improved upon that is right near where I live.

After walking around by myself for a bit, I went and found my friend who was there with her daughter and in-laws. My friend and her little one had never been to the festival either, but we agreed that it was a good way to spend a family-friendly Saturday afternoon.

It takes a vibrant community of artists, business owners, and benefactors to be able to sport such a successful event that is free to the public and given life by folks who are actually living in the city. Being at that event, I for the first time questioned why exactly “gentrification” has SUCH a negative connotation.

Forcing people out of their homes because of a more expensive cost of living and higher property taxes is obviously not cool. But after talking with some folks at the Fairmount neighborhood association (ArtsGoggle is in the historic Fairmount neighborhood), I gained some new perspective. There is a mixture of folks living in the Southside area. There are families who have been there for decades, and folks that just moved in months ago. Demographically speaking, the numbers of black and white folks living there are actually closer to even than they are in the state of Texas as a whole, so that doesn’t seem to be an issue. What I see through my own eyes is a thriving arts community full of young people of every color attending one of the several colleges in the city, being supported by an older generation of artists and connoisseurs who want the younger generation to have it all and give it their all.

The mixture of livelihood and poverty is sometimes as easy to see as the division from one block to another. Just about a week ago, my partner and I went to a local bar/restaurant that features mainly local acoustic songwriters and musicians. We sat on the rooftop. I was surprised that I got to enjoy a vegan veggie wrap while he ordered a craft burger. The Live Oak seemed to be in a nice location, but if you go a few blocks down, you get to see some blocks that are a bit seedier. But I still felt safe walking to my car after leaving the venue.

What makes a city great? The people, of course. While I won’t be living in Fort Worth forever, I’m glad I put my prejudices aside to explore what it had to offer. To humbly see the city with different “goggles,” if you will.

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL): WOT? Why??

in Business/Current Events/News/Policy by

You may have been catching glimpses in your newsfeed or on the radio or television (but probably on your newsfeed) about something about North Dakota and Native Americans and the DAPL from the pesky oil companies who are at it again…always. You may NOT know exactly what is going on. That’s okay; it’s really quite an exciting tale. Sit it on down and let me break it down into “wots” and “whys.”

WOT: is North Dakota?

It is the state directly north of, you got it, South Dakota! (Haha) I didn’t know much about the state whenever I started writing this article, so here is what I found for you.

Simple Googling reminded me what I learned in grade school, that Bismark is the capital of the state dominated by plains. I was surprised to find that the whole state had a population of only about 740,000 as of 2014. That’s close to a tenth the size of New York City. Alright cool, there’s a lot of open space and not many people. Turns out, a lot of the people living there are Native Americnas, many of them living on reservations. Besides that, what most of the open space is used for is to farm most of the grains that are farmed in our country. Like wheat and barley. Also flaxseed, for you yuppy health nuts (like me!). Think literally, amber waves of grain. And thank North Dakota for the flaxseed oil in your expensive soaps and shampoos. *Thanks, North Dakota!*

2field-summer-countryside-autumn

The other important natural resource that North Dakota boasts is the Little Missouri River, where the state shares a border with Montana. This where the scene of our story takes place. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe inhabits North Dakota and they are the heroes of this tale. As well as many other tribes we sadly have probably never heard of, such as Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Yanktonia, Sisseton, Wahpeton, and Hundpapa.

WHY: All the Fighting?

You’d think a peaceful state full of Native Americnas and open fields wouldn’t have a reason to be so controversial. Reason is, put simply, Energy Transfer Partners, the natural gas company worth billions is one contender, and the Native peoples of North Dakota, primarily the Standing Rock tribe, is the other. The state turned into a battleground whenever ETP decided they had plans to put a 1,170 mile pipeline through North Dakota, all the way to Illinois, where it will be joined up with a network of pipelines and distributed from there. This is not the only pipeline (the word “pipeline” keeps ironically trying to auto-correct to pimple before I am finished typing it; I think I’m just going to stick with that hehehe), they are planning on building. In fact, it is but one cluster of pimple-lines of many. You can view their plans laid out in this PDF of their analyst meeting for 2015.

They are quite the opportunists, and these plans for new (totally unnecessary) infrastructure may be born of necessity. According to a stock analyzing website called ‘The Motley Fool,

Energy Transfer Partners (NYSE:ETP) isn’t off to a great start in 2016. That is evident by looking at earnings across its business segments, which in aggregate are down 2.6% resulting in a 13% decline in distributable cash flow.”

To an unseasoned analyst such as me, it seems that they are probably hoping that these new plans of miles and miles of new pipelines (plus the new gas processing plants in Ohio and already built in West Texas) will bring their bottom line back up. This one section of pipeline being fought over is but one piece of a much larger, pimplier PI…peline.

2300-ndpipelinemap-v2

The Standing Rock tribe is holding true to its name, standing up to this company whose plans never include keeping the environment clean and fresh, free of pockmarks. The Tribe’s federally protected reservation is only a half of a mile away from where this “pimple-line” is planned on being built, while the land is actually owned by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The tribe’s concern is this: in case you did not know, pimple-lines often burst, and the spills leave devastating scars when they do. Check out a briefly compiled list of spills here if you really want to know more about the environmental and economic harm that the pimple-lines bring about when broken, which often happens because of a lack of proper cleanliness and maintenance.

The Standing Rock Tribe has been battling against this pimple-line since the beginning of April when members of the Tribe began camping out in a prayer circle. They want to scrub away the gunk and protect their sacred source of water and their federally-granted and protected land. Their water and land is supposed to be protected by the Oceti Sakowin Treaty, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). The treaties call for the “absolute and undisturbed” use of the area. This portion of they Little Missouri River is the same source of water their people have been using for 15,000 years.

So, in an act to keep their land and water blemish-free, this Native American tribe sued the Army Corps of Engineers (who typically grants permission for such activities on federal or federally protected land), in an attempt to remove permissions from ETP from continuing to build the pimple-line on this land. Normally, (and I did not know this until writing this article) the oil and gas companies do not even need to have any kinds of permissions to build and terrorize the land, unless it is federally or privately owned. The land that is being disputed is technically owned by the Corps, so they are the ones who were able to give permission. Which they did.

Then, the Tribe sued the Corps in order to protect their ancestral, sacred lands from potential, some would say inevitable, harm.

WOT: Is Happening Now?

As the Tribe remained gathered in between the machines to be used to dig into the land to build the pimple-lines, more and more folks showed up. Everyone, from members of other tribes, journalists, environmental activists, and plain old folks who care about human rights. They camped peacefully, waiting for the court’s ruling on whether construction would be allowed to continue.

In the meantime, there were reports of ETP using…more force than necessary, in order to try and rid the land of those pesky things (men, women, children, horses) in the way of construction. Attack dogs and mace were used to keep the people away as they bulldozed right through land that they had no right to.

Thanks to the Democracy Now! for the following video which has *LANGUAGE NSFW* . This video of the front line of this battle is what pulled at my heartstrings enough to write this article. The protesters were surprised then angered that the construction had began. As I understand it, at this point, the construction was supposed to be at a standstill as the protesters and companies were awaiting the final court ruling.

The ruling finally occurred on Friday, September 9th U.S. District Judge James Boasberg issued a ruling denying the injunction request to stop or halt the construction. However, three different government agencies, the Department of Justice, of the Army, and of the Interior reacted by immediately issued a joint statement to stop the authorization of construction on federally controlled lands. Click here to read the exact wording of the ruling.

What the ruling actually states is,

“The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.”

All this really does is put off how much time it is going to take for this pimple to pop.

If even federally protected land is not not actually protected against the company with the biggest bottom line, you can bet your bottom dollar that no one’s is.

Not to fear-monger. We just deserve to know. Make some noise.
Karma comes around, and we the people are sick of being run over by the 1%.

Why: Keep Fighting?

Because the news and media tend to look a little negative, let’s focus on the positive. There are people, thousands of people, who are special simply because they care enough to demonstrate their power. Some reports have said that there were over 4,000 people gathered at one time. This issue struck me particularly whenever I had a couple of activist friends make the journey to North Dakota to stand with the tribes. Remember, there are people who care, who are brave and compassionate enough to do what needs to be done. Which sometimes, is just to be there, and be making an effort.

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Why this tiny battle on the larger scale of climate war is so important? Because we are running out of time. At the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference which happened in Paris, some actual important mandates were made. Whether or not you believe in climate change, the leaders of the world do; leaders from the 196 countries who attended the conference do, in fact. What came of this meeting is the understanding that if we don’t curb climate change, there will be significant catastrophic effects worldwide. Some of these are: entire island countries disappearing like unfortunate Atlantis underwater; coastlines receding miles inland, of course ruining entire cities; more and more extreme climate occurrences, like hurricanes, flooding, and droughts.

There are real numbers involved here. If we warm up the planet more than 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next 14 or so years, that will be our new global reality.

That is why these warriors on this seemingly unimportant open field somewhere in North Dakota are so important to the future of, well, everyone.

It makes no sense to continue building infrastructure for what must soon, very soon, be an extinct industry.

ETP, you need to ask yourself WOT in the world you are doing.

Then, let’s turn inward and ask our collective-selves, what small things on a day-to-day basis can we be doing to make a difference?

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