Unless you’ve been playing fantasy baseball and were in need of an undrafted reliever like me, you might not have known who Josh Hader was until the 2018 MLB All-Star Game. Hader’s All-Star selection was a bittersweet honor in more than one way. He allowed three runs in a third of an inning and then discovered after the game that he’d have to complete sensitivity training for racist, sexist and homophobic tweets made at 17.
The tweets were uncovered by Twitter users with too much time on their hands. These investigations into the social media statements of minors are unfair to the public figures who made the statements because minors aren’t entirely responsible for themselves, legally speaking. Journalists seldom quote minors for that very reason. Their parents share responsibility for their words and actions until they’re 18.
While I agree with my colleague, Dan Szczepanek of Grandstand Central, that Hader’s “young and dumb” excuse isn’t good enough, he isn’t solely responsible for the social media statements he made as a minor. His parents share that responsibility, but not in the court of public opinion. It is troubling, however, that just seven years ago and even to this day, racist, sexist and homophobic thoughts are running through the minds of American minors.
On the Foul Play-by-Play podcast, my attorney and I discussed how to remedy the racist, sexist and homophobic sentiment that seems to be growing or at least getting louder in America. Reforming haters is a delicate process not unlike treating addiction. It requires the dedication of the addict first, and an empathetic, supportive community providing evidence consistently contradicting the addict’s former mentality. But hate, like addiction, isn’t curable, only treatable.
“There’s no magic cure, no such thing as a ‘life after hate,’ only a life of fighting not to succumb to it” Wes Enzinna wrote for Mother Jones’s cover story in the July/August issue. Not everyone is as fortunate as Hader was to grow into a man in an environment conducive for avoiding an addiction to hate.
Without social and familial support and a safe environment facilitating the formation of relationships between diverse groups of people, haters gonna hate. That’s why Barack Obama’s administration added the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule to the Fair Housing Act in order to address segregation that persists in public housing. Department of Housing and Human Development Secretary Ben Carson has since suspended enforcement of the rule, resulting in a lawsuit brought by the National Fair Housing Alliance and joined by the state of New York.
Those living in environments that perpetuate hate can also learn something from Hader’s hateful tweets coming back to bite him. Even parents perpetuating hate in the home have their children’s preservation as their top priority, so talking with their children about safe social media usage, similar to the talk about practicing safe sex could result in fewer instances of hate speech online.
If children in the moment are too emotional to consider the effect their words might have on others, perhaps they’ll resist using hate speech over their own interest in self-preservation. Just as images of STDs are used in sex education courses to scare young people into practicing abstinence or safe sex, stories like Hader’s and Roseanne Barr’s might be enough to scare children from publicly expressing hate if their parents explain how imperative it is that their children are employable.
And if Hader’s and Barr’s stories aren’t scary enough, or children don’t understand why they should protect something they don’t yet have, maybe they’ll protect something they do. A fifth of undergraduate college students believe physical force is an acceptable response to “offensive and hurtful statements,” according to a 2017 Brookings Institution survey. So hate speakers have to consider whether they’re prepared to defend themselves, although most instances of violence resulting from hate speech indicate they are, which is why it’s so important that Hader do more than apologize and complete sensitivity training.
Colin Kaepernick didn’t just take a knee during the national anthem. He thoughtfully explained why he took a knee when asked, sought feedback from military personnel as to avoid offending them and backed up his words and actions with his money. Kaepernick has donated a million dollars to organizations working in oppressed communities as of January. Life After Hate, an organization working to reform haters, received a $50,000 donation from Kaepernick. Since Hader doesn’t make millions of dollars, he should donate his time and image to the movement to end hate.
If Hader was willing to take the time to trademark his nickname, “Haderade,”he can take the time to start a nonprofit called Hater Aid, an organization that helps haters stop hating. I’ve started two nonprofit organizations, make a lot less than Hader’s $555,500 annual salary and had no previous training. If he needs some guidance, the National Council of Nonprofits provides all the information he needs.
I would only recommend Hader focus his efforts locally to start. If the standing ovation he received from Brewers fans at Miller Park in his first appearance since the All-Star Game is any indication, he still has the support of Milwaukeeans, at least until he struggles to get MLB hitters out. Regardless of his performance on the field, Milwaukeeans will appreciate Hader focusing his off-field efforts locally, and there’s plenty to be done in Milwaukee.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are four active hate groups in Milwaukee alone and nine statewide. So Hater Aid’s initial mission should be to eradicate hate in Milwaukee first, then the state of Wisconsin, and then the region and nation. It’s also cheaper and easier to start and run a locally-focused nonprofit than one with a state or national focus.
With a modest, tax-deductible donation from Hader to found Hater Aid and a bit of paperwork to incorporate the organization and acquire a tax exemption, Hater Aid could be up and running before the end of the baseball season. MLB and the Brewers’ public relations department would love for Hader to dedicate some free time to meeting with former haters in the Milwaukee area willing to share how they managed to stop hating. If interested, they could serve as Hader’s Hater Aiders, a group of volunteers, interns and paid staff to run the day-to-day operations of Hater Aid, including a 24-hour, hater hotline for haters who want to stop hating but aren’t sure how.
If Hader were to take these steps, his national image wouldn’t just be repaired — it’d be more valuable than it was before the tweets were uncovered. It never hurts to be a role model and a community contributor in contract negotiations, either. By the time Hader’s eligible for free agency in 2024, Hader’s Hater Aiders will have helped haters stop hating throughout Milwaukee and, perhaps, the state of Wisconsin if not the entire country.
Hader might never have been addicted to hate, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be the face of a movement to end hate. He should embrace and take advantage of this opportunity if he wants to earn a standing ovation from anyone other than Brewers’ fans.
When my realtor handed over the keys to my first home in late September, I didn’t feel like I had realized the American Dream. I even had a car in the lot (well, on the street) and a chicken in the pot. But there was still something missing.
I felt closer to realizing the American Dream while doing drugs with friends in the Escalante National Monument. That national treasure in Utah is being gutted to exploit energy sources by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and President Donald Trump, but they can’t touch the memories I have of that place or the feelings they invoke.
As we pulled away from a National Park Ranger checkpoint with so much drugs and alcohol the four of us couldn’t finish it all in a week, I watched as unlucky hippies leaned against cop cars on the side of the road with their hands cuffed behind them. It made us all realize how lucky we were. Hell, I wasn’t even supposed to be out of the county without my probation officer’s permission, so staying my ass out of federal prison and going on to have the time of my life made it feel like the new American Dream was to do drugs in beautiful places with lovely people and not get caught. But that’s just part of the new American Dream. The new American Dream is to do all those drugs and then recover from whatever addictions you acquire.
It wasn’t until I quit drinking that I felt I had realized the American Dream. I’ve tried just about everything when it comes to stimulants and depressants, but it was alcohol that brought me the most trouble in my life. Sure I was on probation for possessing a pound or so of pot, but I spent more days in jail during that probation because of alcohol than I did for using cannabis, and I still managed to use cannabis pretty regularly. But I drank daily.
First I decided I’d “slow down” for my body’s sake. You know, drink fewer days during the week. And I did, too. I had just become really intrigued by body chemistry and nutrition, so when I started counting my calories, I got a good look at my problem. I drank less often, sure, but did I ever make up for it on the weekends.
When I found it difficult to meet my caloric goals because of my drinking, I drank faster so I could drink less, or I did more exercise so I could drink more. My weekly cheat day became my opportunity to get super drunk.
When I visited my hometown in Eastern Montana and was assaulted while drunk for saying I was a Socialist, I realized I was incapable of drinking responsibly. I drank for more than 12 hours that day and blacked out en route to a house party. The only thing I remember is saying “I’m a Socialist” and someone immediately suplexing me. Sure, it was a hate crime, but since I couldn’t remember a name, face or much of anything, I wasn’t about to make a big deal of it. I figure those people living with themselves has to be punishment enough.
It took a few more weeks before I actually quit alcohol for good. It was October 3rd, and the Minnesota Twins had lost to the Yankees in the playoffs, again. I drunkenly rode my bike home from O’Donovan’s Pub, where a bartender informed me that Twins’ third baseman Miguel Sano frequented the place, and one time, drank “16 beers” with his arms wrapped around two women while on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his leg. (Just under three months later, Sano was alleged to have committed sexual assault.)
I haven’t had a drink since I heard that story. The next day hurt worse than any hangover I’ve had, including the morning after the Socialist suplexing. I stayed home from work and chased Ibuprofen with soup and water. I had no alcohol in the house because I had finished it all when I got home the night before. Usually I would have handled that hangover with a Bloody Mary or Screwdriver, but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave the house to get alcohol. When I checked my receipts (apparently after I had closed my tab I opened another) and found I had spent $70 -- my average monthly booze budget -- in one night, I knew I was done drinking. I didn’t need an intervention or treatment to stop drinking because I knew if I drank again, I could drink myself to death.
That doesn’t mean alcoholics don’t need help. In fact, 95 percent of alcoholics who need treatment don’t think they need it. Maybe I’m just a member of that majority, and it’ll take a relapse for me to realize it. At least I could get treatment if I wanted it, and my insurance would even cover it. That’s not the case for every addict.
A 2016 report by the U.S. Surgeon General found that one in seven Americans will face some sort of substance addiction. The economic impact of those collective addictions amounts to $442 billion each year, which rises as healthcare premiums rise. And America has the highest drug-death rate in the world.
Worse yet, we’re not even addressing the problem properly. Instead of providing the treatment addicts need, money is funneled by politicians to for-profit prisons instead of treatment facilities, leaving addicts without the treatment and supportive community necessary to keep them clean. The number of substance abuse treatment facilities in the U.S., which focus on drug and alcohol abuse, was reported to be 13,873 in 2014, a decrease from the 14,152 facilities reported in the previous year.
“Former inmates return to environments that strongly trigger relapse to drug use and put them at risk for overdose,” according to a 2012 study published in Addiction Science & Clinical Practice. Of the more than 21 million addicts in America, only 10 percent receive treatment, mostly due to a lack of healthcare coverage or lack of treatment centers in their area. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 80 percent of opioid addicts don’t get treatment, and a similar 2015 study found a million opioid addicts couldn’t get treatment for their addictions if they wanted it.
That leaves a lot of Americans on our own to struggle through our addictions. I’ve resisted to commit to Alcoholics Anonymous or the 12-Step Program because I wasn’t convinced I had a problem. Now that I am convinced, I realize the importance of having a community to support you and your decision, but I still haven’t attended an AA meeting because the 12-Step Program utilized by AA most often relies on a commitment to religion. Giving oneself up to “a higher power” is the first step, and it wasn’t until I read Russell Brand’s Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions that I found a non-religious means to put the 12-Step Program to work for me, an atheist.
Since publicly announcing my problem with alcohol on Facebook on Oct. 12, 2017, I found I did have a community in place to help me through my problem with alcohol. Friends of mine who’ve long been out of touch and also quit drinking offered their support, as did my family. Not every alcoholic has friends and family with experience overcoming addiction, however. I guess I’m lucky to have excessively drunk alcohol and done drugs with people willing and capable of realizing and accepting their powerlessness over substances.
Prisoners aren’t leaving prisons with that community in place. They’re reentering communities where they’ll be tempted around every corner. So until we stop putting nonviolent, drug offenders behind bars and instead put them in treatment centers to get the help they truly need, we’ll be inching ever closer to making the new American Dream overcoming addiction.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: America’s Healthcare Advocate, The Bright Side, The Dr. Daliah Show, Dr. Asa On Call, Dr. Coldwell Opinion Radio, Good Day Health, Health Hunters, Herb Talk
In late Sept. 2017, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un called the United States President a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard" in response to insults hurled by Donald Trump during his first speech to the United Nations. Trump called the North Korean dictator a “madman” on a “suicide mission” and that the U.S. would “totally destroy” North Korea if it or its allies were attacked.
The dick measuring continued, with Trump basically saying “mine’s bigger than yours” in a tweet on Jan. 2. He was referring to the size and power of his nuclear launch button after Kim bragged that the United States was within range of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and he had a nuclear launch button on his desk. Eight days later, the White House released a statement announcing the Trump Administration might be open to holding talks with North Korea. It was an obvious attempt to reign in the war rhetoric so everyone could enjoy the Winter Olympics in Seoul, South Korea without worrying about a nuclear attack, but it was more than welcome given the threats of nuclear war made by both bullies with no regard for anyone else on this playground called Earth.
Trump’s official White House statement was hardly responsible for Kim and Trump planning to meet within a month. The statement put much of the worried world at ease despite Trump committing to nothing at all. Considering U.S./North Korea relations consisted of name calling and threatening nuclear war seven months ago and dick measuring four months ago, “might be open to holding talks” sounds really good to a lot of frightened people. So good, in fact, Trump supporters in Michigan chanted for him to win the Nobel Peace Prize. But Trump isn’t even the second-most important player in this nuclear football game. Back in Sept. 2017, when these two “leaders” started threatening each other’s nations with nuclear war, I wrote that Trump’s hands were too small to handle North Korea alone. I was right.
The hands that could handle Kim, China and the U.S. belong to South Korean President Moon Jae In. Moon threatened Kim, too, but unlike Trump, he didn't tweet or speak a single word. His actions spoke volumes.
In July 2017, North Korea tested a missile that could theoretically reach the U.S. mainland. Moon responded with his own missile test, sending a message that South Korea could take out Kim if attacked. He also ordered the full deployment of the missile-defense system despite China’s concerns. Moon had to convince Chinese President Xi Jinping not to take economic retaliations in response to the deployment of the missile-defense system. Xi acquiesced, and Moon earned the trust of both Trump and Xi in the process.
Moon then went to work playing good cop prior to the Winter Olympics. When Kim announced North Korea’s interest in attending the Winter Olympics in Seoul, Moon agreed to host them despite South Koreans taking issue. Trump and his defense team contemplated a “bloody nose” strike of Pyongyang to punish Kim prior to the Olympics to make him more eager to negotiate peace and denuclearization. But Moon talked them out of it, assuring the U.S. that Kim would not receive any concessions.
The real reason Kim sought Korean peace and is ready to talk denuclearization is because he can’t import the materials he needs to grow his nuclear arsenal, and his people are growing more and more desperate by the day due to economic sanctions limiting their access to things they need to survive.
South Korean researchers expected United Nations’ sanctions to start giving North Korea “severe economic difficulties” come March. The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved sanctions banning the import of all natural gas liquids and condensates and capped imports of crude oil. For a nation already struggling to keep the lights on in its capital, losing access to more energy sources limits the exports North Korea can produce and transport, too.
China is responsible for 85 percent of North Korea’s imports but has been limiting its exports of crude oil, refined oil products, steel and other metals to the nation since Jan. 6, as the U.N. mandated. Russia, responsible for 2.3 percent of North Korea’s imports, is also adhering to the U.N. sanctions. Putin has to expel roughly 30,000 North Korean migrant workers along with limiting oil and oil products exports and banning textile exports. Both nations have been accused of subverting the sanctions, with Russia allegedly serving as a middle man moving North Korean coal. Allegations against both nations have not yet been substantiated, but North Korea has long subverted sanctions by trading goods at sea rather than on land. Those maritime trades are being stopped more often, though.
Kim knows his people will eventually be desperate enough to revolt and overthrow him, and he certainly doesn’t want to be the last of the Kim regime, nor does he want the nation to fail. Neither do his neighbors. No one knows what would result from a failed North Korea, but both China and Russia fear a unification with South Korea would lead to American military bases along their shared borders with North Korea. That’s a pretty reasonable assumption and something Trump will no doubt demand when he visits North Korea within the month. Regardless of what comes of the denuclearization talks between Trump and Kim, Moon has proven to be most presidential and most deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize if Korean peace is indeed realized after 68 years at war.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights
You’re no doubt familiar with the name Robert Mueller and his investigation into the Trump campaign’s affiliations and alleged involvement in the Russian campaign to interfere with the 2016 Presidential Election. You’ve probably heard that Facebook was used by Russians to interfere with the 2016 Presidential election, and you’re no doubt aware that the Facebook data of more than 87 million users was obtained by Cambridge Analytica to influence the 2016 Presidential election. But you’re probably still wondering how this all happened, and we’re all wondering who’s guilty.
The question no one’s asking, however, is why a campaign calling to “Make America Great Again” by growing jobs and the American economy spent almost $6 million to employ an analytics firm in the United Kingdom with employees from the U.K. and Canada?
Facebook chairman and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg is testifying before Congress this week, but his prepared testimony is already available, and he won’t likely stray far from it regardless of the questions asked by the Senate Judiciary Commerce Committees at 1:15 p.m. CST on Tuesday and House Energy and Commerce Committee at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. Here’s what happened in Zuckerberg’s own written words.
“In 2007...we enabled people to log into apps and share who their friends were and some information about them...In 2013, a Cambridge University researcher named Aleksandr Kogan created a personality quiz app. It was installed by around 300,000 people who agreed to share some of their Facebook information as well as some information from their friends whose privacy settings allowed it...Kogan was able to access some information about tens of millions of their friends.”
“In 2014...we announced that we were changing the entire platform to dramatically limit the Facebook information apps could access. Most importantly, apps like Kogan’s could no longer ask for information about a person’s friends unless their friends had also authorized the app. We also required developers to get approval from Facebook before they could request any data beyond a user’s public profile, friend list, and email address.”
“In 2015, we learned from journalists at The Guardian that Kogan had shared data from his app with Cambridge Analytica...we immediately banned Kogan’s app from our platform, and demanded that Kogan and other entities he gave the data to, including Cambridge Analytica, formally certify that they had deleted all improperly acquired data -- which they ultimately did.”
“Last month, we learned from The Guardian, The New York Times and Channel 4 that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted the data as they had certified. We immediately banned them from using any of our services. Cambridge Analytica claims they have already deleted the data and has agreed to a forensic audit by a firm we hired to investigate this.”
So the first thing we learn from Zuckerberg’s prepared testimony is that Facebook failed to protect the data of our friends from third-party app developers if our friends’ privacy settings allowed the sharing of some of their personal information. It took Facebook seven years to right that wrong. Even after doing so, Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to simply “certify” that they had deleted the data instead of proving they had deleted the data. “Clearly it was a mistake to believe them,” Zuckerberg said during the hearing, Tuesday.
The last, and most important thing we learn from Zuckerberg’s prepared testimony is that without the work of journalists, Facebook wouldn’t be aware of its mistakes in order to rectify them, providing just another reason for the importance of a free press. This while the government is compiling a database of journalists, where they reside, what they write and for whom in the interest of homeland security. Department of Homeland Security Press Secretary Tyler Houlton asserted on Twitter that the list is “standard practice of monitoring current events in the media,” but the list’s existence will scare aspiring journalists from the trade like similar lists scared patients from applying for medical marijuana prescriptions in Montana. I personally heard from multiple Montanans who chose to continue self-medicating their conditions with marijuana illegally for fear of being found out by the federal government as a user of cannabis.
Facebook is only guilty of being careless. Zuckerberg nor his company can be charged with a crime, but they failed to notify the more than 87 million users that their information had been acquired by Cambridge Analytica. They also failed to make sure that data was not available for further exploitation by Cambridge Analytica by accepting Cambridge’s word that the data had been deleted. Judging from the effects of Zuckerberg’s failure to accept blame for Cambridge Analytica’s deceptive data mining and the effects of his recent testimony, that mistake won’t be made again.
On March 27, when Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie dismissed earlier claims from Cambridge Analytica that the firm had not used Facebook data, Facebook’s stock price was $152.22 -- down from 185.09 on March 16. Facebook’s stock price was up 4.55 percent to $165.11 as Zuckerberg testified on Tuesday. Cambridge Analytica won’t be so lucky.
A slew of Cambridge Analytica employees are likely guilty of violating the federal law prohibiting foreign nationals from “directly or indirectly participat[ing] in the decision-making process of any...political committee...such as decisions concerning the making of...expenditures, or disbursements in connection with elections for any Federal, State, or local office,” according to a complaint by Common Cause submitted to the Department of Justice.
“[Former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher] Wylie said that many foreign nationals worked on the campaigns, and many were embedded in the campaigns around the U.S.” Wylie told NBC News that there were “three or four full-time [Cambridge Analytica] staffers embedded in [Thom] Tillis’s campaign on the ground in Raleigh,” North Carolina.
A second Cambridge Analytica staffer said the “team handling the data and data modeling back in London was largely Eastern European and did not include any Americans.” On March 25, the Washington Post published that “Cambridge Analytica assigned dozens of non-U.S. citizens to provide campaign strategy and messaging advice to Republican candidates in 2014, according to three former workers of the data firm...Many of those employees and contractors were involved in helping to decide what voters to target with political messages and what messages to deliver to them.”
Cambridge Analytica’s “dirty little secret was that there was no one American involved...working on an American election,” Wylie said. One Cambridge Analytica document obtained by the Washington Post explained, “For the Art Robinson for Congress campaign, Cambridge Analytica SCL assumed a comprehensive set of responsibilities and effectively managed the campaign in its entirety.” The New York Times reported that the John Bolton Super PAC “first hird Cambridge Analytica in August 2014” and “was writing up talking points for Mr. Bolton.” Cambridge Analytica also “helped design concepts for advertisements for candidates by Mr. Bolton’s PAC, including the 2014 campaign of Thom Tillis, the Republican senator from North Carolina, according to Mr. Wylie and another former employee.”
Mother Jones reported the deep involvement of Cambridge Analytica staff in the management and decision-making in Senator Ted Cruz’s 2016 Presidential campaign. “Cambridge Analytica was put in charge of the entire data and digital operation, embedding 12 of its employees in Houston.”
So there’s ample evidence that many employees of Cambridge Analytica have violated the Federal Election Campaign Act prohibiting foreign nationals from participating in the decision-making process of any political committee with regard to such person’s Federal or nonfederal election-related activities. But why isn’t the Trump campaign and fellow Republican campaigns subject to punishment for hiring foreign agents to participate in American elections?
Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. paid Cambridge Analytica almost $6 million to effect the 2016 Presidential Election. Cruz for President also paid Cambridge Analytica almost $6 million to effect the 2016 Presidential Election. Make America Number 1 paid Cambridge Analytica almost $1.5 million during the 2016 election cycle.
The John Bolton Super PAC paid Cambridge Analytica more than $1 million during the 2014 and 2016 election cycles. The North Carolina Republican Party paid Cambridge Analytica more than $200,000 over the same period.
These are all Republican campaigns, supporting Republican candidates who, allegedly, want nothing more than to create American jobs and a thriving American economy. But they’re not putting their money where their mouth is. Giving more than $16 million to an analytics firm in the United Kingdom does nothing to improve the economy or create jobs in America, which is why the Trump campaign and other Republican campaigns are more guilty than Facebook and even Cambridge Analytica.
The Federal Election Campaign Act should not only prohibit foreign nationals from participating in and effecting American elections, but prohibit campaigns from spending campaign funds on services provided by foreign entities.
We can’t stop campaigns from purchasing products made outside America’s borders. Not much is produced in America anymore. But when it comes to services like catering, polling, marketing and advertising, campaign spending should be limited to those firms that reside in America in the interest of protecting the integrity of American elections and growing the American economy. It’s hypocritical of the Trump campaign to run on a slogan of “Make America Great Again” and then spend its money to grow un-American economies and jobs. Regardless of what the Mueller investigation uncovers, the Trump campaign is already guilty of selling out America.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights
Another 17 children are dead after a mass shooting at a South Florida high school -- another avoidable tragedy allegedly perpetrated by a teenager with an assault weapon who left the following YouTube comment a year ago: "I'm going to be a professional school shooter."
Nikolas Cruz, 19, who was expelled from the school and not allowed on campus with a backpack after being found with bullets on campus, is in custody and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. But we saw it coming and still couldn’t stop it. Why? Because it’s way too damn easy to get a gun in this country.
There are more guns than Americans in the United States. There are 112.6 guns per 100 residents. Next on the list is Serbia at 75.6 guns per 100 residents. But addressing the number of guns available is problematic given the gun lobbyists and Conservatives clutching their firearms until death do they part.
The typical Conservative will tell you there isn’t much difference between the number of mass shootings in America compared to, say, Europe, citing statistics from the Right-leaning, often erroneous and mostly fraudulent Crime Prevention Research Center. They are, of course, wrong. On average, there is more than one mass shooting for each day in America, and there are 29.7 homicides by firearm per one million Americans, according to 2012 numbers. The next most is 7.7 homicides per one million Switzerland residents.
But how do we keep these tragedies from happening? How do we keep guns out of the hands of people like Cruz? Addressing the ease of access to guns is easy. Here’s what I think reasonable, sensible gun control looks like.
The only teenagers owning firearms should be members of the military. If 18 is too young to drink or use cannabis recreationally, then it’s too young to own a gun. Both drinking and using cannabis are less dangerous than firearms. Firearm-related deaths are the third leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States, and young people are more likely to injure themselves with a gun accidentally. Over 1,300 victims of unintentional shootings from 2005 to 2010 were under 25 years of age, and “such injuries were approximately nine times more common among male than female patients and highest among males ages 20-24.”
I have no problem with children learning how to properly handle, respect and fire a gun or hunt with their fathers and grandfathers. Hell, shooting was one of my favorite pastimes growing up, too, but I was always in the presence of a drinking-aged adult -- even with a BB gun. That should remain the case for those 18 to 20 years of age.
A recent study released by three researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in October 2017, found the yearly charges associated with treating gunshot patients in American hospitals is nearly $3 billion.
American taxpayers should not have to flip the bill for any uninsured American who shoots him- or herself or someone else unintentionally. As of the 2010 census, there were 234,564,071 Americans over the age of 18. As of 2015, a third of Americans said they owned a gun. That gives us roughly 77,406,143 gun owners in America, and if the current rate of uninsured Americans is 11.3 percent, then roughly 8,746,894 American gun owners are uninsured. Everyday, 46 people are shot unintentionally in America. If 11.3 percent of the responsible parties are uninsured, at $900 per uninsured hospital visit, it results in over $1.7 million taxpayers have to cover annually.
Since health insurance is now a prerequisite for gun ownership, it shouldn’t be a problem for aspiring gun owners to undergo a mental health evaluation to prove they are not mentally ill or a substance abuser. This would make it more difficult for the mentally ill to obtain firearms and likely lower suicide rates, as “suicide rates are much higher in states with higher rates of gun ownership, even after controlling for differences among states for poverty, urbanization, unemployment, mental illness, and alcohol or drug abuse,” according to the Center for Injury Research and Prevention.
Since the passage of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008, also known as the Mental Health Parity Law, health insurers are mandated to treat mental health and substance abuse coverage comparably to physical health coverage, so the cost to the aspiring gun owner would be modest.
Just 12 states and Washington, D.C. mandate background checks for the sale of all firearms, including private sales that occur at gun shows and transfers between family members or friends. Another six only require background checks for the private purchase of handguns. The other 32 do not require a background check to purchase a gun at a gun show or from a private dealer.
Mandating that all states require criminal background checks to be conducted prior to the private sale of firearms would make it more difficult for those with a history of violent crime to obtain firearms.
I wrote about this back in October, but in summation, the process of adopting a pet is more thoroughly vetted by adoption agencies than the gun ownership process. Some adoption agencies will request the medical history of every pet you’ve ever had to make sure you’re not an abuser. They’ll ask if you’re gainfully employed, and some will even conduct in-home investigations to determine if your home is a safe place for the pet. Gun retailers aren’t coming to your home to make sure you have a gun safe or even asking if you own a gun lock. They’re not concerned about whether you have a job or a criminal history or the state of your mental health. They just want to sell you a gun.
Obtaining a gun just after the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791 wasn’t easy -- even for the federal government. There were reportedly just two American armories back then. “In an attempt to equip the militias sufficiently to protect the newly independent country, Congress ordered the purchase of 7,000 muskets in 1793. A year later, it had managed to buy only 400,” according to a story in The Economist based on the works of Michael Bellesiles. So back in the day it took almost an entire day just to produce a gun, and that’s combining the production of every gun manufacturer in the country. By 1808, one factory would produce 50,000 barrels, locks, rammers, and bayonets per year in Britain.
When the Second Amendment was ratified, the American forefathers certainly didn’t think assault weapons and rocket launchers would be possible, but they were also working with a knowledge that guns take a long time to produce. They certainly didn’t think there would come a day where there were more guns than Americans.
Since aspiring gun owners would be required to have a mental health evaluation and criminal background check conducted, a 10-day wait period would give them and the seller an opportunity to fulfill those prerequisites. It would also result in fewer crimes of passion, as those without guns looking to acquire guns in a fit of rage would have 10 days to think about the consequences of their intended actions.
Reasonable, sensible gun control starts with enforcing the current laws on the books. This will be easy once the infrastructure is created to allow law enforcement to view whether the gun owner has fulfilled all the prerequisites for gun ownership.
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Just because President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission has been disbanded doesn’t mean the state of voter suppression in America has improved. Many states fought to defend the privacy of its voters from the voter fraud commission and won, but the fight has just begun to curb voter suppression in states throughout America.
Young voters can sway elections, and the Republican-led New Hampshire Senate has passed a “poll tax” that will suppress student voting. The bill will likely pass the Republican-led House, but Republican Governor Chris Sununu doesn’t support the bill and could veto it. Regardless, the constitutionality of the bill has been called into question.
The 24th Amendment to the Constitution states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”
Now the New Hampshire law isn’t a “tax” in the exact sense of the word. Instead of forcing out-of-state students to pay a tax to access the polls, which would be unconstitutional, House Bill 372 allows the State of New Hampshire to impose fines on voters who do not have a New Hampshire driver’s license, even though it is legal to vote in the state with an out-of-state license.
The bill would impose two obligations on new voters. Within 60 days of registering to vote, a New Hampshire voter would need to register her car with the state and obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license, the cost of which could amount to over $200.
Minorities have already been deciding elections in America, with black voters making the difference in Alabama. This is a major threat to Conservative incumbents, and Conservative-led, state legislatures have taken measures to suppress the minority vote in America.
Ohio’s law purging voters who have not participated in consecutive elections or failed to respond to a notice from state officials will likely be upheld by the Conservative majority of the Supreme Court.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the essence of the case is whether Ohio’s law is “disenfranchising disproportionately certain cities where large groups of minorities live, where large groups of homeless people live, and across the country they’re the group that votes the least.”
While federal law doesn’t allow states to use failure to vote as a reason for purging voters from rolls, federal law also calls on states to keep accurate voter rolls and allows for removal when a person fails to respond to a state’s request to confirm registration and then fails to vote in two federal elections. Ohio sends a notice after a voter misses a single election, and removes said voter if they don’t reply. It’s the most aggressive law of its kind in America.
With the 2020 census upcoming, the redrawing of states’ voting districts is getting a lot of attention, especially in the courts. Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that its voter district map was partisan gerrymandered to benefit Republicans and must be redrawn.
Meanwhile, in North Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court delayed a lower-court order that would have forced North Carolina Republicans to redraw its state’s congressional district map while similar cases involving Wisconsin legislative districts and one Maryland congressional district are considered by the Supreme Court.
Bills governing redistricting were introduced in 27 states in 2017. Here’s a complete list of those bills. What’s the reason for so much redistricting legislation? Well, 37 state legislatures have primary control of their own district lines, and 42 legislatures have primary control over the congressional lines in their state (including five of the states with just one congressional district). And why wouldn’t an incumbent legislator draw district lines to his or her advantage? That’s why organizations like Common Cause are having success campaigning for independent commissions to handle district drawing. All of the 27 states with pending legislation governing redistricting have bills calling for a commission separate from the legislature to handle the map-making.
For instance, in Minnesota, there are companion bills calling for independent commissions to handle redistricting. HF 246 and SB 2052 call for a commission of former judges to draw district lines, but objectors to the bills say former judges aren’t representative of Minnesota’s minority populations. In nearby Michigan, bills have been introduced mirroring California’s citizens’ commission for redistricting -- the favorite model of organizations working toward democratic, competitive elections.
So while the state of voter suppression in America is improving and bound to continue improving for voters, there will still be states where partisan gerrymandered districts result in undemocratic, noncompetitive elections in 2018 and 2020. And until every state gets redistricting out of the hands of incumbent legislators, free elections are an impossibility.
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Whether it's nuclear winter, terrorist hacking of our energy infrastructure, a climate catastrophe, robot war or the zombie apocalypse, there will come a time the internet dies. A terrorist attack on America’s energy infrastructure would be far more damaging than an attack of civilian lives. Losing our energy infrastructure would make just about every tool useless except those running on renewable energy sources or generators, which is why everyone should be hoarding solar panels and solar chargers.
A terrorist attack of America’s energy grid would be devastating to the Internet. It’s not as though it can survive on life support. While server “caretakers” would likely prioritize which servers need to stay running, like those upon which the economy and banks rely, the 191.78 million kilowatt hours required to run Internet servers daily would require more than 53,000 commercial generators rated at 150 kilowatts. That’s just not possible.
Relying on solar energy for support would also be problematic. The 191.78 million kilowatt hours to run the Internet each day would require two square miles of solar panels dedicated solely to Internet servers. With 27.2 gigawatts of solar panels installed in America as of May 2016, the U.S. would need more than six times that in order to run the internet from solar power.
So it’s time we started using a tool that doesn’t require anything more than food and water to run -- a tool that’s kept people alive for centuries: memory. Committing things to memory could save your life in the event of an energy infrastructure failure, so here are four things you should learn before we lose the Internet forever.
Batteries will be a luxury in the post-energy infrastructure world. Those who have them or can build them will live lavishly. With one car battery or its equivalent, you could run a television and a Blu-ray player for the length of a movie, or even video game consoles for a few hours. But let’s focus on our needs before we get to the wants.
The price of bagged ice would skyrocket, as refrigerators and freezers would become traditional iceboxes. Microwave ovens and conventional ovens would give way to open flames for cooking food. Fire would also be the only way to heat our homes unless you had a battery and electric heater, which would save you from carbon monoxide poisoning and lower your risk of burning down your home or shelter.
Learn how to build a battery out of pennies to power small things like LEDs here. Since ice cube trays will be obsolete, you can use them and some sheet metal screws to build a 9-volt battery. You can make a 12-volt battery out of other batteries, too. You can build an inexpensive, lithium-ion battery pack to run your phone as well.
A battery is only as good as your ability to recharge it, so learning some basic electrical infrastructure installation will be most valuable. Not everyone will have the ability or means to build a hydroelectric generator, wind turbine or install a solar array to power lights and heat in their house or shelter. But there are enough junk bicycles out there to power lights and heat throughout America.
As long as food can be found, the bicycle will continue to serve as more than just a form of transportation in a post-energy infrastructure America. At night, bicycles will be brought indoors, where people take turns pedalling to power lights and heat and to charge batteries. Here’s how you can build a bicycle generator, which can typically produce 100 watts. Note: bicycle generators are incredibly inefficient, so exhaust your alternative energy options before resorting to the bicycle generator.
A boat will be an advantage enjoyed by those who survive the death of the Internet and America’s energy infrastructure. Only so much food can be found on land, and those with boats will have access to high-protein meals providing healthy calories that allow them to hunt and gather for longer hours.
You can build a boat with hand tools. There are plenty of designs from which to choose as well. Given the situation, however, you might have limited materials for boat building. Good thing a fishing boat doesn’t require much. This one is made from PVC pipe, and since indoor plumbing will be useless given that water pumps wouldn’t be powered, you can just rip those pipes right out of your walls.
Since you won’t be sending your poop to a wastewater treatment plant, you should be using it to fertilize your garden. The most important commodity in the post-energy infrastructure America will be food, and you’ll want to be able to grow as much as you can with whatever space you have.
A good start is using the scraps of food you don’t eat to make more food. You can transplant the roots of green onions after slicing them up as well as celery. You can even plant the tops of carrots and eat the greens.
You can also use trash to grow food. Large plastic jugs like milk containers, egg cartons, produce bags and aluminum trays are all useful in growing food. Shredded paper, cardboard, shoe boxes and paper bags are also useful in the garden.
Lastly, human waste makes for a fine fertilizer, so poop in a bucket and mix it into your garden soil. You can drink your urine when times get really tough.
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I’ll forward this by revealing that I have always lived in America and have never been outside America’s borders, almost strictly because of economic inability to do so. I’ll also prelude this by saying I don’t necessarily want to leave America currently. While I acquired a passport and New Zealand work visa prior to the 2016 Presidential Election, I decided to give America one last chance despite the election. I figure I’ll give my homeland until after the 2020 election to prove its worth. How did I find happiness in a country I find appalling and embarrassing?
I started simple: by putting myself in a place I felt more welcome in America. Not everyone can just pack up and move, though. I’m lucky enough to be a white male from a family that started and maintained a lower-middle-class status thanks to my parents’ union jobs.
I recognize that I took advantage of my economic advantage, and I acknowledge that I’ll never truly understand the economic disadvantage facing minorities in this country. My advice to them is to stand their ground. You might feel yourself becoming less and less welcome in your own hometown as gentrification raises your rent, then forces you to live further from your work, probably in an area where your vote is lost in a sea of suburbia, with the community’s ship captained by an elected official who turns a blind, patched eye as his crew of constituents forces you to walk the plank and maroon you along with your fellow minorities.
You might feel trapped on a deserted island in your suburban community, but you’ll notice the population of that island increase in number and diversity everyday. Gentrification might be the old gerrymandering, but eventually, minorities are going to take over suburbs just as they did cities.
This country is huge, but jobs aren’t following victims of gentrification to the suburbs. Suburban communities best be prepared for an influx of minorities, but something tells me they’re not. Regardless, if you can’t move to improve your surroundings, you must stand your ground, and do so in a manner that’s nonviolent and respectable.
When a member of the minority, it’s essential to do everything cleaner, kinder and gentler than the majority. Think about this: the success of the white supremacists’ movement depends on their opposition looking worse than them. Their entire rallying effort is dependent upon relativity. Sure, what they represent is objectively awful, so their only hope is that they represent themselves more respectably than their opposition. Their message takes a backseat to the reaction to their message. It’s been understandably difficult for them to accomplish given the hate in their ranks, but when it does happen, it allows them to stand behind their unfounded beliefs that non-white people are uncivilized or inherently violent and don’t belong amongst upstanding, white people.
Frankly, if I found myself amongst white supremacists, I probably couldn’t resist fighting them -- and I’m white! I couldn’t imagine the anger and frustration a non-white person would have in their presence, nor the resolve necessary to resist attacking them.
This country is huge and diverse. There’s a place for everyone in America regardless of color, creed, or sexual identification and preference, despite what’s on the news every night. There are even places for Democratic Socialists, but Eastern Montana isn’t one of them. The first key to make America great for you is to find a place populated with people like you and who accept you.
First and foremost, I sought the same thing those Boston Tea Party folks were seeking. I wanted to live in a place where my elected officials actually represented my interests and spent my taxes on things I need and want. That sort of representation requires democratic, competitive elections offering something more than the lesser of two evils.
Since Minneapolis utilizes ranked-choice voting and holds no primaries, a vast and diverse ballot of candidates is the result. There were 16 different candidates running for Minneapolis mayor in 2017. My hometown has had the same mayor for as long as I can remember, and he’s never truly been challenged.
Quantity doesn’t always result in quality, however. You can end up with plenty of bad candidates on a ballot if you put yourself in the wrong place. As a Democratic Socialist, my vote in Eastern Montana was mostly pointless except for local bond issues -- and even then I was in the minority.
The “D” behind a name on an Eastern Montana ballot is a death sentence, because Democrats don’t win elections in Eastern Montana (our mayor being the lone exception). I’ve been in meetings with Democrats considering campaigns in Eastern Montana, and they admit their best chance to win is to switch parties and hope to win a crowded primary. So even the Democrats are Republicans in Eastern Montana, making Democratic representation nonexistent.
Since Minnesota has a long, storied history of union jobs and still has a strong union presence, it’s most apt to allow for the growth of a Labor Party. The Democratic Farmer Labor Party is indicative of the strong, Left-leaning labor movement, as is Ginger Jentzen’s near-win as a Socialist for city council in Minneapolis. I went into the election with my interests well-represented and came out of the election with even better representation. The opposite would have been true had I remained in Eastern Montana.
America is the entertainment capital of the world. Our President is a reality TV star. We built a tourist attraction in the middle of the desert, and we’re the home of most professional sports teams. There’s always something to do in America, but not everywhere in America.
The third step to make America great for you is settling in a place with entertainment you enjoy, because what’s more important than enjoying the few hours you’re not working? And when it comes down to it, Minneapolis is home to everything I love.
I’ve long been a fan of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. Some of my earliest memories are of the 1991 Worlds Series, and some of my most disappointing memories are of Minnesota Vikings football. I discovered that I loved hockey the season before the 2012-13 lockout, and after almost giving up on the sport, the Stanley Cup Playoffs brought me back, and I’ve been a Minnesota Wild fan since.
I hadn’t paid much attention to the NBA since Michael Jordan retired, but I’ve always been a fan of coaches more so than players -- probably because I had very little athletic ability and was always told how good a coach I’d be someday. I grew up in awe of Mike Krzyzewski, mostly because he made a small, unathletic guy like me into a legitimate starting point guard -- Steve Wojciechowski. So when Tom Thibodeau was hired by the Minnesota Timberwolves, it piqued my interest in professional basketball. And when Jimmy Butler -- my favorite player -- was acquired prior to the 2017-18 season, I became a Timberwolves season ticket holder.
I’m also just a mile or so from live music or a play any night of the week and a few miles from the nearest lake to go fishing or boating. But while my entertainment options only provide a means of temporarily forgetting the mess that is America, at least I’m not allowing the mess to dictate my mood like I was in Eastern Montana, where you make your own fun or focus on all the things that depress you.
Don’t let the state of the union get you down. If you can’t move to a place with like-minded people where your interests are already well represented, do your best to reach out to the like-minded people in your community and build a coalition to move your community instead of moving yourself. If you can afford to move, find a place with people you enjoy, where your tax dollars are used on things you appreciate and with entertainment options you enjoy.
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Addressing the United Nations for the first time, Donald Trump’s mouth brought the nuclear threat level to its highest point since the Cold War. Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it continues its pursuit of nuclear weaponry capable of attacking American soil and said he wouldn’t hesitate to act alone. He should hesitate, however.
We’ve known this to be Trump’s stance since the featherweight, dick-measuring contest began between “Tiny Hands” Trump and North Korean dictator “Rocket Man” Kim Jong-un. Trump said Kim was on a suicide mission during his address to the UN, and he’s right. Kim’s life and the life of every North Korean depends on how comfortable Kim is in his own pants, which probably doesn’t leave many North Koreans comfortable.
The whole situation is terrible for North Koreans and has been since their “liberation” from Imperial Japan by the Soviets as a result of World War II. The communist Soviet Union and capitalist U.S. failed to negotiate a future for a united Korea during the Cold War, so Korea remains divided with the two Koreas still technically at war. But there’s no satisfaction for Kim in attacking South Korea -- only a successful attack on American soil will satisfy him.
Given the living conditions of North Koreans, consisting mostly of back-breaking work done despite so few calories consumed, we have a sense of how little Kim values the lives of his people. There is just one thing that concerns a dictator, and that’s the dynastic legacy. Kim has already starved his people to death and likely had his own brother killed, so Kim has played the part of ruthless dictator pretty well as far as Kim standards go. His father would be proud.
But if North Korea wages a devastating attack on the capitalist dogs, the Kim Dynasty and Kim Jong-un will be forever remembered as the rogue nation that got to the Americans. Kim has to decide whether the 160,000 American civilians and 7,000 American military personnel in Guam are worth the lives of roughly 25 million North Koreans. Kim could have attacked Guam yesterday, so it’s unlikely that’s his preferred target. It’s just one Kim can threaten right now.
A preventative attack on Pyongyang won’t necessarily prevent anything at all. If there’s anything we can assume, it’s that Kim has taken extreme measures to protect and preserve his ability to wage war. If America attacks first, Kim will go underground and be even more dangerous.
If the hunt for Osama bin Laden is any indication, Kim Jong-un should be well protected from a nuclear attack on North Korea. If an unorganized, terrorist organization relying on caves and flip phones can protect the most hunted man in the world for a decade, the North Korean military can protect Kim Jong-un for longer, even from a nuclear attack. It will be a bullet or a noose (or old age) that ends Kim Jong-un -- not a bomb.
A covert assassination attempt on Kim could be devastating if it fails. A failed assassination attempt on Kim would surely result in a counterattack by Kim. And if the assassination were successful, the United States would surely install leadership nearly as corrupt as Kim himself. It wouldn’t be the first time nor the last.
The best option for America is to negotiate a deal for the complete disarmament of nuclear weapons globally. This whole idea that having nuclear weapons prevents nuclear attacks is ridiculous and is the entire basis for the Kim Dynasty’s reason for pursuing nuclear weapons.
In the latest collection of interviews entitled Optimism Over Despair: On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change, Noam Chomsky explains this ridiculousness thusly: “It is quite remarkable to see how little concern top planners show for the prospects of their own destruction...there was no plan, not even a thought, of reaching a treaty agreement that would have banned these weapons, though there is good reason to believe that it might have been feasible. The same attitudes prevail right to the present… (60).”
The only way to assure nuclear attacks won’t occur is to do away with every nuclear weapon in the world, but no country -- especially the United States -- is considering disarmament at a time like this, even if it should.
This is a moment when Trump and America need a little help from its friends. UN sanctions on North Korean trade won’t be enough to slow the country’s growing weapons collection. Trump even chastised Russia and China for continuing to do business with North Korea. China represents almost 85 percent of all North Korean trade, and 24 percent of Russia’s exports to North Korea are refined petroleum products that fuel the country’s missile and nuclear arms program.
The best thing Trump could do is stop threatening military action and ask China and Russia to stop trading with North Korea. What he’ll have to give up to get those concessions might not be to his liking, but neither is nuclear fallout. So what will it take to convince China and Russia to stop trading with North Korea?
China can’t be guaranteed that they won’t be attacked if they were to cut off just the .18 percent of its imports from and .28 percent of its exports to North Korea. That’s a total of just $5.29 billion in trade for a country that does over a trillion dollars in both imports and exports annually.
China desperately needs American investments in Chinese businesses to increase. Foreign domestic investment in China in 2016 was $170.557 billion -- the lowest it’s been since 2009. Now Trump can’t guarantee more American money will be invested in Chinese businesses if China stops trading with North Korea. Hell, he couldn’t say a bad word about Nazis and saw his entire business advisory councils resign. But he can close a business deal, allegedly, so this is an opportunity for Trump to do what he does best: collect and spend money.
For that $5.29 billion in trade China will have to find elsewhere, Trump should offer a bit of an investment in the country that struggles to attract foreign investors due to its state-controlled economy. There’s enough money in the White House and Congress to do so.
In 2011, the total net worth of the entire U.S. Congress was just under $5 billion, so there’s plenty of money that could be put together as an investment in Chinese businesses in exchange for them crippling North Korean trade. The problem with this option is it makes Kim Jong-un and North Koreans even more desperate and, perhaps, more war-willing.
Russia holds the key to the end of the North Korean conflict. Losing Russia as a trade partner won’t likely make the lives of North Koreans much worse, but it will slow the military’s “progress” towards a nuclear weapon that can reach American soil.
Russia’s exports to North Korea constitute .025 percent of all of its exports, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s what they export to North Korea that matters. With U.S. sanctions already in place against Russia for many reasons, there’s plenty of negotiating that could be done to get Russia on America’s side against North Korea. Some of those sanctions might even have an adverse effect on the rest of Europe, so there’s much for Vladimir Putin and Trump to discuss besides Russia’s involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election.
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Hurricane specialist Eric Blake of the National Hurricane Center tweeted that the world had never seen anything like the hurricanes Irma, Jose and Katia -- three severe storms threatening land simultaneously. All the while it took more than two weeks for flood waters to recede in Houston, and more than a million acres have burned in Montana.
Many Americans have been forced from their homes, and they might not have homes to which to return. Even after the wildfires stop burning and the hurricanes dissipate, it could be weeks before roads are passable and utilities restored. There were reportedly 3.3 million Floridians without power Sunday night. And just because you can go home doesn’t mean you can live in your home. It could take months to rebuild and repair all the homes affected by the hurricanes and wildfires.
The increasing instances and intensities of these destructive weather events will further increase insurance rates, but technology can help victims of hurricanes and wildfires save money and save their sanity during most trying times. Here are five apps to help you recover from hurricanes and wildfires.
Waze is the best traffic navigation app out there. I tried it specifically because Google Maps kept recommending routes through construction zones that should have been avoided. Waze does a much better job avoiding construction and road closures because its users, called Wazers, help report those closures. When you’re trying to navigate a hurricane or wildfire, the last thing you need is to travel down a road only to be forced to turn around because the road is closed due to flooding or wildfires.
You might also need the assistance of police while navigating hurricanes and wildfires, and Wazers report the location of police officers, too. The best part about Waze is you can start your route using a Wifi hotspot or mobile data, and if you lose your connection, the app will still display your location and route. Wifi and mobile data services will most certainly be affected by the hurricanes, so having a GPS that will work regardless is invaluable to hurricane victims.
Insurance companies only offer so much money for so many days when people are forced from their homes due to flood or fire. The number of days and maximum payout will depend on your homeowner’s insurance plan, but it’s almost assuredly not enough, especially if you don’t have family or friends nearby with whom you can stay and are forced to pay for hotel rooms.
The ParkAdvisor app is free and provides a cheaper alternative to hotels. Plus, you can try to use this time away from home to take that family camping vacation you keep putting off. Camping will likely help you and your family restore its relationship with nature despite it testing your resolve. America has a lot to offer, and seeing it with your family around a campfire will take your mind off the rebuilding that will be required upon your return home.
A foundation formed to help cyclists find places to rest their legs and get a warm shower, Warmshowers.org could really come in handy for hurricane and wildfire victims. If you rely on well water and have no electricity to pump the water into the well, you only have access to water until the well is dry. This happened to us in Eastern Montana after a “wind event” took out power for about a week. Since not all campgrounds provide access to water, getting a warm shower regularly can be one of the hardest things facing those recovering from hurricanes and wildfires.
The mail is still delivered as soon as it can be delivered, so you can still order necessities online and have them delivered whether you’re at home or away from home. Say you need a solar panel to charge your mobile devices because power is still out at your place. You can have one delivered the next day. Depending on your location, you can have some items shipped the same day if you’re a Prime member.
Victims of hurricanes and wildfires who return to find homes and furnishings destroyed will be required to take inventory of the items for insurance purposes. Sortly allows you to easily create and export lists, including photos, SKU, UPC or serial numbers, and notes on damage or original purchase price and date. You can even tag the items of your list so you can easily find them later.
Don’t recover from hurricanes Harvey and Irma as you did Katrina or Sandy. Use technology to your advantage and help make hurricane and wildfire recovery easier on you and your family.
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