Why You Should Switch to a Toxin-Free Lifestyle.

Look under your kitchen sink, pick out any random cleaning product that you have purchased and use, turn it around and look at the label, I would be safe to bet that you couldn’t tell me what more than maybe three of the ingredients in that bottle are. That’s because companies don’t want you to know exactly what is in their products because some of them might scare you! Environmental experts say that the average household contains about 62 toxic chemicals that we routinely expose our bodies to, from phthalates in synthetic fragrances to noxious fumes in oven cleaners that we willingly heat up! These common ingredients in our household products have been linked to some seriously scary things like asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption, neurotoxicity and the list goes on and on! I know some of you are thinking, if this what such a outright cause of these diseases why hasn’t something been done about it and why are they still being made and used without any second thought? The answer to that question makes me sad, scared and angry all at the same time, manufactures continue that in small amounts these toxic ingredients  aren’t likely to be a problem but you can’t tell me that you use a product once and throw it away and if you have found something that you think works well you go buy more right!? Well that’s the issue, the routine exposure to these chemicals and in combinations of other products you may use with it haven’t been studied and it’s impossible to accurately gage the risks that you are exposing your body to. There is no federal regulations of chemicals in household products nor are they required to meet any safety standards, supply in testing data or notifications in order to bring the product to the market. This is why you see many household products, like Roundup and Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder, come out years later as products that have been substantially linked to cancer.

Ok so now that I have officially freaked you out, let me help you. We are all keepers of our respective households, you control what comes in and what leaves. Now is a better time than ever to ditch and switch your toxic everyday products for mirroring ones that give you the same result without harming your body. Most of the time the excuse people have is that it’s too expensive and you already have the products so you may as well use them and I totally get where you’re coming from because I have been in your shoes but it’s also really not that expensive, and many of the products/cleaners you can make for yourself with other products you already have around your house. I have made the personal choice to add essential oils to my lifestyle because they have so many great benefits that are natural and do not harm my body. My personal choice in an essential oil company is Young Living because I like the platform they stand on and they are 100% upfront and honest with what exactly is in all of their products but not only that, they tell you where each and every product is derived from. This give me a peace of mind knowing that I know exactly what I am breathing in or putting into my body and allows me the freedom to make cleaner choices within my household. I haven’t even mentioned their cleaner but you know how cleaners tell you to induce vomiting or call poison control in chemical is ingested, well Young Living Thieves Cleaner just says to dilute with water. Ummm what?! How crazy is it to know there is a cleaning product out there that is so toxin free that even if it does get ingested all you have to do is drink water to dilute it because your body doesn’t need that much essential oil!

Change is possible people and the time is now to rethink what is under that kitchen sink! You are the keeper of your own home and only you have the power to make a difference in what products come in that door!

Private Prisons Are Unethical, Dysfunctional, and Should Be Closed

Private Prisons Should Be Closed

When a father went to visit his son in a private prison, the staff told him his son was not there and that they didn’t know where he was.  After 6-weeks, he found his son in a local hospital.  His son had suffered severe brain damage and now has the mental capacity of a two-year old.  He was injured in a brawl that investigators found was instigated by a guard who was running a prison fight club.

If you were incarcerated, wouldn’t you want the state to ensure your safety and that your rights would not be abused?  As taxpayers, you should be concerned about how your money is used to fund these unsafe and inefficient private prisons. From the research I have gathered, it is apparent that the use of private prisons has too many trade-offs to be considered viable due to their widespread issues of cost effectiveness and mistreatment of prisoners. Throughout this post, I’ll explain the advantages of ending the use of private prisons, which are: an increased focus on rehabilitation, better treatment of prisoners, similar or lower costs of operation, and a reevaluation of the harsh penalties that have contributed to overcrowding.

In the U.S., not all prisons are run by the government.  Some are operated by private companies that the government pays to house prisoners.  The three largest companies are the Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, and the Management and Training Corporation.  Operations of these prisons are handled by these companies instead of the government.

The first advantage is that public prisons would focus more on rehabilitation than private prisons because the government does not benefit from repeat offenders. Private prisons claim they can lower recidivism (reoffending) rates with state-of-the-art rehabilitation programs. However, according to Anita Mukherjee’s August 10, 2016, study in the Social Science Research Network, prisoners in Mississippi’s private prisons recidivated no less than public prisoners despite serving more time (Mukherjee 2016). Brian Kincade cites a study of recidivism rates in private prisons in Oklahoma in his March 23, 2016, article in Smart Asset that found private prisoners recidivated 4% more than their public counterparts (Kincade 2016). State of the art rehabilitation programs would cut into corporate profits and would interfere with the steady flow of incarcerations private prisons depend on to make a profit. Public prisons do not operate to make a profit.  They have more of an incentive to properly rehabilitate prisoners to lower crime rates.  Because with lower crime rates, the government saves money and society is overall safer. Now that I’ve discussed why rehabilitation will be focused on more, I’ll explain how prisoners will be properly treated.

The second advantage is that states would directly oversee the treatment of prisoners and ensure their rights are not abused. One example of prisoner mistreatment is the conditions that led to the recent closure of a GEO Group prison in Mississippi.  The Southern Poverty Law Center wrote about the conditions on their website on September 15th, 2016 (SPLC 2016). Department of Justice investigators found frequent sexual abuse, widespread violence, and that the prison was controlled by gangs with help from the guards. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves found the state was violating the rights of prisoners by not protecting them from the gang control and stated “the evidence…paints a picture of a facility struggling with disorder, periodic mayhem, and staff ineptitude which leads to perpetual danger of the inmates and staff”. These are not isolated incidents and issues like these are widespread in private prisons across the country. The federal government itself has stated that private prisons run less safely than public prisons.  An August 18th, 2016, article by Gwendolyn Wu published by TakePart cites that Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said that private prisons “compare poorly to our own Bureau facilities…they simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources…[and] they do not maintain the same level of safety or security.” (Wu 2016). States can provide better quality treatment to prisoners and can directly oversee that the rights that they guarantee the prisoners are not abused. Now that I’ve discussed how states will directly oversee that prisoners are treated properly; I’ll explain how ending the use of private prisons will not increase costs.

The third advantage is that states would not be taking on new (long-term) costs and in many cases, states would save money by ending their use of private prisons. On paper, many private prisons seem to have a lower per diem rate (per prisoner cost) than public prisons, however they aren’t paying for the same things that states must. In his 2016 article in the Fordham Urban Law Journal, Alex Friedmann lists the many ways private prisons offset their costs to the public in order for their per diem rate to appear lower than public prisons (Friedmann 2016). They tend to only house low-security healthy adult males, the least expensive type of prisoner to house.  This leaves the most expensive prisoners for the states to house. States still have to pay for medical care for prisoners in private prisons. Wages paid to prisoners in private prisons are reimbursed by the state.  In one year, the Corrections Corporation of America saved $30-66 million and the GEO Group saved $33-72 million from not paying prisoner wages. After adjusting for these factors and others, Alex Friedmann wrote in the same article that in many states private prisons were more expensive than public prisons (Friedmann 2016). States would be paying just as much if not less to house prisoners in their own prisons.  The only new cost they would be taking on would be the short-term cost of buying the private prisons that aren’t already being rented from the states. Now that I’ve explained how costs of prison operation will not increase, I’ll explain how ending the use of private prisons would force officials to rethink harsh laws that have contributed to overcrowding.

The fourth advantage is that by ending the use of private prisons, companies would no longer lobby for harsh punishments, forcing officials to reevaluate tough on crime laws to deal with overcrowding. Harsh penalties for non-violent offenders are the major causes of overcrowding. Michael Cohen cites many cases of private prison companies spending millions of dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying in his April 28th, 2015, article published in the Washington Post (Cohen 2016). The GEO Group and the Corrections Corporation of America have paid over $10 million in campaign contributions and over $25 million for lobbying. They lobby for laws that will punish non-violent offenders harshly and contribute to candidates who will vote for these laws and who will give the companies lucrative contracts. By eliminating the use of private prisons, government officials would no longer receive monetary incentives to harshly punish petty offenders.  Ending the use of private prisons to combat overcrowding would force lawmakers to reevaluate these severe penalties.

I’ve told you about four advantages of ending the use of private prisons; an increased focus on rehabilitation, better treatment of prisoners, similar or lower costs of operation, and a reevaluation of the harsh penalties that have contributed to overcrowding. With these advantages in mind, states should end their use of private prisons. The young man I mentioned at the beginning of my speech could’ve had a brighter future if he was housed in a public prison.  Instead of suffering debilitating brain damage, he would’ve been properly rehabilitated, and after serving his time he could’ve returned to the general public and contributed to society.

 

References

Barbaric private prison in Mississippi closes its doors after SPLC lawsuit. (2016, September 15). The Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved from https://www.splcenter.org

Cohen, Michael. (2015, April 28). How for-profit prisons have become the biggest lobby no one is talking about. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com

Friedmann, Alex. (2016). Apples-to-fish: Public and private prison cost comparisons. Fordham Urban Law Journal, 42(2), 502-568. Retrieved from http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu

Gilna, Derek. (2016, September 6). GEO Texas immigration facility hit for substandard health care and understaffing. Prison Legal News. Retrieved from https://www.prisonlegalnews.org

Kincade, Brian. (2016, March 23). The economics of the American prison system. Smart Asset. Retrieved from https://smartasset.com

Mukherjee, Anita. (2016, August 10). Impacts of private prison contracting on inmate time served and recidivism. Social Science Research Network. Retrieved from http://papers.ssrn.com

Wu, Gwendolyn. (2016, August 18). Activists to feds: closing private prisons won’t help most inmates. TakePart. Retrieved from http://www.takepart.com/

 

“A Healthy Society Shouldn’t Only Have One Voice” – Doctor Li, who sounded the alarm on coronavirus dies of the illness

“一个健康的社会不应该只有一种声音。“  ——李文亮

The coronavirus has killed at least 565 people and infected more than 28,000. The total number of cases in the U.S. was 12 as of Thursday morning, in six different states, but the outbreak is still focused largely in central China.

Doctor Li Wenliang, the “whistleblower,” one of the first Chinese doctors who tried to warn fellow medics of the coronavirus outbreak, died of the disease at the age of 34. China National Health Commission (NHC) expressed its deep condolences over Li’s death on Friday.

Doctor Li was the first to disclose unknown pneumonia in his classmate’s WeChat group. He warned fellow clinicians in a group chat in December about a SARS-like illness popping up in one of Wuhan’s main hospitals, BBC News reported. He was then told by government officials to stop “making false comments.”

After Doctor Li was diagnosed with pneumonia that is caused by coronavirus in January, he was lauded on Chinese social media as a hero for speaking out. During the interview by the mainland media “Caixin.com.”, Doctor Li said, “I’m not regretful and I think a healthy society shouldn’t only have one voice. I just hope I can feel better soon so I can go back to work and help more people.” But he didn’t make it. 

Doctor is a respectful hero, his death woke Chinese people up and thought: what’s wrong with our society? Why was the whistleblower, the hero that fought with the virus was being not understood by the government? Why does our society only have and is only allowed to have one voice? 

Chinese people are mourning the passing of a hero for speaking out and fighting against the illness. Meanwhile, people are also proposing Chinese government to apologize to Doctor Li and give people the reason for blocking the news and blackmailing Doctor Li.  

“Hey Friends, I may not be able to response you guys’ texts, cuz I’m gonna save the world.” – Quote from Li Wenliang’s blog, post on 2012.12.21

Thank you, Doctor Li, R.I.P.

How to not be THAT tourist when visiting National Parks

 

Every year more than 318 million people visit our National Parks (NPS). What many call our nation’s “best idea”, National Parks have been treasured by Americans for over a century. Some might say we’re even loving them to death. 

I have spent the last 10 years living and working in multiple National Parks including Olympic, Glacier, and, most recently, Yosemite. As both a resident of and tourist to the Park’s, I have a unique perspective of the intersection between natural and human communities that call these special places home. Both your experience and the impact you have on the National Park(s) you chose to visit will be greatly improved if you avoid these 5 classic missteps.

 

  1. Driving like a Tourist

The chance to see a wild animal, especially from the safety of our cars, is a thrilling experience. And sometimes the beauty of a place can cause you to forget you’re driving at all. However, the temptation of stopping in the middle of the road to take a picture, swerving into oncoming traffic while your gaze stays on the “wild” deer, driving so slowly that the ground squirrels can keep up with you is not only a bother to the locals but is actually dangerous. We know it’s beautiful. We know it’s exciting. Just please pull over.  

Picture: An example of “tourist driving” (Washington Post)

 

 

2. Dismal Bathroom Etiquette

This misstep is the main reason that you cannot drink straight from a mountain stream without fear of giardia. It’s not the animal poop that will make us gut wrenchingly sick, it’s our own human feces. So please, PLEASE, bury that poop! The vast majority of people either choose not to or are uninformed of this critical Leave No Trace protocol. Also, pack out your toilet paper if you choose to use it. “Paper lilies,” as they are sometimes referred to, not only pollute the environment but are a major eye sore while hiking. 

Picture: The dreaded paper lilies (Pacific Trail Crest Association) 

 

 

3. FOMO (fear of missing out)

A large draw of our country’s remaining open, undeveloped spaces is the silence. Many seek to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and connect with nature. If you are coming to the National Parks for “solitude” and “relaxation,” do not fall into the trap of FOMO. The hoards generally start hiking around 10:00 a.m. and all go to the same “can’t miss” trails. If you really want some solitude, start your hike either before 9:00 a.m. or after 4:00 p.m. and put in the effort to hike the longer trails.

Picture: Glacier’s famous Hidden Lake Overlook Trail at its worst (NPS)

 

 

4. Domesticating the Wildlife

Yes, they are cute– and their fur makes them seem so cuddly! But please, don’t be the person who feeds mountain goats skittles. Not only is human food unhealthy for wild animals, feeding wildlife can disrupt their natural foraging rhythms, causing them to starve in the winter months. Or worse, animals that become aggressive towards humans often have to be put down by Rangers. Resist the urge! Save a bear. 

 

Picture: The first director of the National Park Service, Steven Mather, feeding a bear in 1923 (PBS). We know better now. Read the “Night of the Grizzlies” if you still think feeding bears (or any other wildlife) is a good idea. 

 

 

5. Accidental Death

There is a 607 page book called “Death in Yosemite.” Do not make the book 608 pages! A major rising cause of accidental deaths in recent years is, you know it, the “selfie.” Though selfies appear innocent and safe, if you’re trying to get that –perfect– shot dangling over a 2,000 ft. waterfall luck may not always be on your side. The quest for extreme selfies killed 259 people between 2011 and 2017…don’t be the next selfie victim! (BBC)

Picture: Dumb Selfie (National Park Trips)

 

 

 

 

Author: Sara Edwards

Sources:

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/socialscience/annual-visitation-highlights.htm

https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-45745982

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/if-youre-dumb-there-are-lots-of-good-ways-to-have-a-bad-time-at-a-national-park/2019/05/14/ec3eade0-7653-11e9-b3f5-5673edf2d127_story.html

https://www.pbs.org/nationalparks/media_detail/280/ Continue reading “How to not be THAT tourist when visiting National Parks”

5 Reasons Why You Need to Ride in Montana

You know how everyone from Montana says “Montana’s the last, best place”? Well they also say “Montana’s the last best place to go horseback riding”.

Conway Tweetie glancing at wild flowers

Here are the reasons why you need to mark “a horse back ride in MT” off your bucket list.

1. The connection that you feel between the horse and the wild Montana landscape, it feels like it all becomes one.

2. You have the one in a million chance to feel the freshness of all four seasons in a single ride.

3. Sun- gaze at the big sky filled with blue and cotton ball clouds that are above you.

Montana Sunset

4. Riding in MT will increase your love for life while peeking over the breath taking scenery.

 

5. As the great Dixie Chicks would say the “Wide Open Spaces” makes MT irresistible.

Rio Warbar grazing fresh green grass

“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life” -Dolly Parton

By Desiree Altmaier