Huge Rise in Rainforest Destruction Under Bolsonaro

Huge Rise in Rainforest Destruction Under Bolsonaro - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Only hours after Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro took office, he launched what many critics are calling an “assault on environmental and Amazon protections.” Indeed, under far-right Bolsonaro, monthly deforestation of the Amazon rainforest – which is known as the “lungs of the planet” for good reason – has increased by 88.4 percent from a year ago.

Brazil’s space agency says that deforestation in the world’s largest tropical rainforest is record-breaking.

And that it’s dangerous for all of us.

Brazil holds about 60 percent of the Amazon, which is seen as essential to the global fight against climate change. Tropical rainforests – like the one in Brazil – draw in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. As the rainforests shrink in size, so does their capacity for cleaning the air. Without the benefits the rainforests provide, the greenhouse effect that now holds Earth in its tight grip is likely to become even more pronounced, creating a terrible cycle that causes more trees and plants to die out all over the world.

The rainforest is also home to the most biodiversity in the world. Native plants and animals that can’t live anywhere else call the Amazon their home.

Brazilian activists, including politician Marina Silva, have denounced Bolsonaro as an “exterminator of the future.”

“We are watching them deconstruct everything we’ve put together,” said José Sarney Filho, former environmental minister of Brazil. Filho served under two other right-wing presidents – Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Michel Temer – but he’s never seen anything like this. “We’re talking about biodiversity, life, forests … the Amazon has an incredibly important role in global warming. It’s the world’s air conditioner; it regulates rain for the entire continent.”

Bolsonaro claims that rainforest and other environmental protections hold Brazil back, particularly in the area of economic growth. He promised during his campaign that he would not allocate “one more centimeter” of land to reserves.

He recently said that he would remove all the environmental protections preserving part of Brazil’s forested coast, just south of Rio de Janeiro, so developers could create a “Cancún of Brazil” for tourists.

What Do You Think?

Are you concerned about the Amazon rainforests? Do you think we in the U.S. should mind our own business, or do you believe that the record levels of deforestation affect us all? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so please feel free to share them with me on Facebook or on Twitter. Join the conversation and make your voice heard!

Carlos Gamino

 

Why Did Netflix Remove the Suicide Scene From “13 Reasons Why”?

Netflix Removes Suicide Scene From 13 Reasons Why - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

When “13 Reasons Why” first hit Netflix, it quickly went viral. The show, centered around a teen girl named Hannah who committed suicide, seemed to address the tough questions and issues kids face today. In the final episode of the first season, there’s a graphic scene in which the main character kills herself in a bathtub.

And in mid-July of this year – nearly three years after the show first aired – Netflix tweeted that it removed the grisly scene on the advice of medical experts. The controversy it caused, although it was lauded by critics, was mainly from health advocates who fear that the show glorifies suicide.

A recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health suggested that “13 Reasons Why” was a factor in the rise of teen suicides. In fact, the study found that the suicide rate among children aged 10 to 17 went up by nearly 30 percent in April of 2017 – just a month after the show first aired on Netflix. School officials all over the country sent warnings out to parents about the show at the time.

Netflix’s Chief Executive Reed Hastings talked about the show at the company’s 2018 annual meeting, saying, “It is controversial, but nobody has to watch it.”

After the show’s first season, Netflix voluntarily added a graphic content warning and included information people could use to contact suicide prevention experts.

What Do You Think?

Did you watch “13 Reasons Why”? Had you seen the final episode of the first season before Netflix removed the suicide scene, and do you believe the show glorifies suicide or tackles tough issues teens are facing?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so please feel free to share them with me on Facebook or on Twitter. Join the conversation and make your voice heard!

Carlos Gamino

The Montana Neo-Nazi Who May Have to Pay Millions in Harassment Suit

Judge Suggests Montana Neo-Nazi Pay Millions in Harassment Suit - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

In mid-July, a judge in Helena Montana suggested that Andrew Anglin, publisher of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, should have to pay millions to the victim of a “troll storm” that Anglin incited.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch said that Anglin’s behavior was “reprehensible” and “atrocious,” and that he should have to pay over $14 million to Montana real estate agent Tanya Gersh, her husband and her now-14-year-old son in damages. Lynch doesn’t have the final say, though – U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen has to approve first.

In 2016, Anglin accused Gersh of trying to run white nationalist Richard Spencer’s mother out of Whitefish, Montana. After Anglin levied the accusations against her, Gersh’s family received hundreds of “threatening, harassing and anti-Semitic messages.”

Gersh then sued Anglin, who claimed the things he wrote on The Daily Stormer were protected under the First Amendment. He failed to show up for a deposition scheduled last April, and his attorneys withdrew from the case.

Gersh is still receiving messages, according to Lynch.

The family’s attorney, David Dinelli, who works with the Southern Poverty Law Center, says it’s not about the money.

“The significance is not in whether we will collect the money,” Dinielli said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press. “The significance is that Tanya Gersh, a real estate agent from a small town in Montana, stood up to fight the most notorious neo-Nazi on the web, and she won.”

Anglin is currently living outside the U.S. and is facing default judgements in at least three other federal cases – including two lawsuits filed by other targets of his online trolling campaigns.

What Do You Think?

Do you think the judge is recommending the right amount of damages? What would you recommend?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so please feel free to share them with me on Facebook or on Twitter. Join the conversation and make your voice heard!

Carlos Gamino

Amazon Workers Strike in Minnesota, Germany

Amazon Workers on Strike - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Amazon workers in Minnesota and Germany went on strike in mid-July (just in time for Prime Day) to protest pay, working conditions and several other issues.

“While Amazon throws huge discounts to its customers on Prime Day, employees lack a living wage,” said German Verdi retail specialist Orhan Akman. “The company must finally recognize collective agreements for the retail and postal sectors; wages and salaries cannot be determined in the style of lord of the manor.”

More than 2,000 people participated in the strike in Germany, where Amazon has been caught in a bitter dispute with German trade unions for years.

“While we don’t provide exact numbers, we are seeing very limited participation across Germany with zero operational impact and therefore no impact on customer deliveries,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNN Business.

And in Minnesota, workers are fighting against the strain they’re under.

“We’re humans, not robots,” said William Stolz, a warehouse worker in Shakopee, Minnesota. “They’re treating us like machines.”

In that case, an Amazon spokesperson said that the company provides “industry-leading pay of $15 per hour, benefits, and a safe workplace for our employees.”

Workers from other countries also participated in strikes, including Spain, Poland and across the United Kingdom.

“We’re staging protests across Amazon sites up and down the country this Prime Day,” said Mick Rix, a union leader. “The conditions our members work under at Amazon sites across the UK are appalling.”

Comedian and cable television host of “Last Week Tonight” John Oliver, recently aired a segment on the injury and illness rate among Amazon warehouse workers, prompting the company’s senior vice president to tweet, “As a fan of the show, I enjoy watching John make an entertaining case for the failings of companies, governments and most recently, Mount Everest. But he is wrong on Amazon. Industry-leading $15 minimum wage and comprehensive benefits are just one of many programs we offer.”

What Do You Think?

Do you think Amazon exploits its warehouse workers, or is this the first you’re hearing of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so please feel free to share them with me on Facebook or on Twitter. Join the conversation and make your voice heard!

Carlos Gamino

 

DNA Brings Justice for a Soldier’s Death at Fort Carson, Colorado

DNA Brings Justice for a Soldier’s Death at Fort Carson, Colorado - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

U.S. Army investigators and civilian investigators arrested a 58-year-old man in connection with the death of a soldier that occurred in 1987 – and they found him because of his DNA.

The victim, Darlene Krashoc, was 20 at the time she was murdered, was found strangled to death behind a Colorado Springs restaurant. Krashoc was stationed at nearby Fort Carson and had been at a nightclub with other soldiers from her unit prior to the murder. After she left the club between midnight and 1 a.m., authorities allege, Michael Whyte murdered her and left her behind the restaurant.

Police linked Whyte to Krashoc’s death through genetic testing – the kind people are now using to determine ethnicity, connect with long-lost cousins, and find adoptees.

They’d investigated the death for years, but were never able to find a suspect that panned out – but they reopened the case in 2004, 2011 and again in 2017 for DNA testing. The Army turned over the man’s DNA profile to the Colorado Springs police. Based on the phenotype, investigators were able to put together composite images of what the man looked like – and they used age-progression technology to create images of what he was likely to look like now – but nothing panned out.

Earlier this year, though, investigators started to looking for information on genetic genealogy sites.

That’s when they followed the trail directly to Whyte. Police arrested him in mid-May and he’s awaiting trial now.

“Words cannot convey the satisfaction we are feeling from this arrest,” said Major General David Glaser, the Provost Marshal General of the Army and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the police using genetic genealogy testing services to find criminals and link them to cold cases. P lease join the conversation on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed to let us know what you think!

Carlos Gamino

The U.S.’s Cyber War With Russia

The U.S. Cyber Conflict With Russia - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

The New York Times dropped a news bombshell in mid-June that says Washington is trying to install malware in Russia’s electrical power grid – a new front in the cyber war between our two countries. The incursion is part of the U.S. response to Moscow’s efforts to disrupt the outcome of the 2018 midterm elections, and many in Washington acknowledge the risk of escalating what’s being dubbed the “Digital Cold War” but want to become more aggressive.

Officials in the current administration say that the U.S. has stepped up its cyberattacks, with one senior intelligence official telling the New York Times, “It has gotten far, far more aggressive over the past year. We are doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.”

It hasn’t been a secret that the U.S. has been meddling in Russia’s electrical grid for years, but now the Pentagon and U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) are overseeing the installation of malware into that country’s systems.

It’s retaliatory, too.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have issued warnings for years that Russia has inserted – and may still be inserting – malware that could sabotage U.S. power plants, oil and gas pipelines, and water supplies at any time.

““We now have evidence they’re sitting on the machines, connected to industrial control infrastructure, that allow them to effectively turn the power off or effect sabotage,” said Eric Chien, a security technology director at Symantec. The only thing missing? Political motivation.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the new Digital Cold War between the U.S. and Russia, so please join the conversation on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed to let us know what you think!

Carlos Gamino

Schools Restraining Kids: It Happens More Than You Think

By Carlos Gamino In the state of Wisconsin, the 2011 Act 125: Seclusion and Restraint gives public schools the explicit right to seclude or restrain children “when a student’s behavior presents a clear, present and imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or others and it is the least restrictive intervention feasible.”  While schools are required to report all instances of seclusion and restraint, the reporting is somewhat lacking – many school districts don’t follow state laws or federal reporting requirements.  What is Seclusion and Restraint? Seclusion means to isolate a child in a room or a space – and make sure they can’t escape. Restraint means to actually restrict a child’s movement, like by an adult holding the child through a mechanism that keeps the child still. Schools are only supposed to use these measures as a last resort, but in many cases, kids who are simply non-compliant with teachers are locked away. As many as 75 percent of all reported physical restraint cases and 60 percent of seclusions take place among special needs children. So is seclusion or restraint ethical? What would you think if it was your child who was secluded or restrained during the school day? Children have died as a result of these practices. Additionally, parents of kids who have been repeatedly subjected to these harsh measures report lasting psychological trauma – with some even saying that their children have something similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the worst offenders when it comes to seclusion and restraint has come under fire recently for misreporting. The Fairfax County School system in northern Virginia reported zero cases for years – but internal documents showed that there were nearly 2,000 incidents that occurred. What Do You Think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on seclusion and restraint. Do you think it’s an acceptable practice, or would you be outraged if it happened to your child? Please join the conversation on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed to let us know what you think! Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

In the state of Wisconsin, the 2011 Act 125: Seclusion and Restraint gives public schools the explicit right to seclude or restrain children “when a student’s behavior presents a clear, present and imminent risk to the physical safety of the student or others and it is the least restrictive intervention feasible.”

While schools are required to report all instances of seclusion and restraint, the reporting is somewhat lacking – many school districts don’t follow state laws or federal reporting requirements.

What is Seclusion and Restraint?

Seclusion means to isolate a child in a room or a space – and make sure they can’t escape. Restraint means to actually restrict a child’s movement, like by an adult holding the child through a mechanism that keeps the child still. Schools are only supposed to use these measures as a last resort, but in many cases, kids who are simply non-compliant with teachers are locked away.

As many as 75 percent of all reported physical restraint cases and 60 percent of seclusions take place among special needs children.

So is seclusion or restraint ethical?

What would you think if it was your child who was secluded or restrained during the school day?

Children have died as a result of these practices. Additionally, parents of kids who have been repeatedly subjected to these harsh measures report lasting psychological trauma – with some even saying that their children have something similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.

One of the worst offenders when it comes to seclusion and restraint has come under fire recently for misreporting. The Fairfax County School system in northern Virginia reported zero cases for years – but internal documents showed that there were nearly 2,000 incidents that occurred.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on seclusion and restraint. Do you think it’s an acceptable practice, or would you be outraged if it happened to your child? Please join the conversation on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed to let us know what you think!

Carlos Gamino

Canada to Ban Single-Use Plastics by as Early as 2021

Canada to Ban Single-Use Plastics by as Early as 2021 - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Every year, more than 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean – and although groups like 4ocean have removed significant amounts (4ocean itself has removed 4.7 million pounds of trash since 2017), more than a million plastic bottles are purchased every minute.

Half of all plastic produced is made for a single use, including up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags annually. Fewer than 10 percent of those are actually recycled, and what’s left can persist for hundreds of years in the environment.

Now Canada wants to ban single-use plastics. But will it work?

Some experts say that a prohibition on single-use plastic products might not address the worst types of plastic litter, although Canadian officials say that the potential bans would do more than address the litter problem. They’d also cut nearly 2 million tons of carbon pollution, as well as stimulate the Canadian economy by creating 42,000 new jobs.

The ban would address things like plastic bags, cutlery and plates, straws, takeout packages, cups and cigarette butts.

Max Liboiron, an environmental scientist at Memorial University in Newfoundland, says that those things aren’t what he’s cleaning up off the beaches, though. She says that the trash mainly includes things like fishing gear and microplastics. (Microplastics are pieces of broken-down particles of plastics that collect and leach out harmful chemicals and heavy metals.)

Other opponents of Trudeau’s proposed ban say that banning plastic straws place a burden on people with disabilities – with some going so far as to say that plastic straw bans are a step backward for accessibility.

Proponents have other ideas, though, like Morton Barlaz, an environmental engineer with North Carolina State University.

“Nothing works like an incentive better than money. Instead of banning bags, we could start charging for them,” says Borlaz. “Anything we’re talking about – a straw, a plastic bag, a piece of cutlery – it has a function consumers want. If we ban it, we need to think about the alternative and what that alternative does for people and the environment.”

Loboiron believes that financial means are the best way to lower plastic use, too, only she says that reducing Canada’s oil subsidies will do the trick. Oil is the source of all petroleum-based products, so an increase in prices could decrease the demand for single-use plastics, which would automatically become more expensive.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on single-use plastics bans. Do you think they’re a good idea, or do you have a better solution? Please join the conversation on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed to let us know what you think!

Carlos Gamino

U.S. Birth Rates Hit Record Low; CDC Asks Why

Why Are U.S. Birth Rates Falling - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. birth rates keep falling – and nobody can figure out why. Last year, there were only 59 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44, and that’s 2 percent lower than the rate for the previous year. In fact, 2018 births were the lowest recorded since the government even began tracking them 110 years ago, in 1909.

Although that seems like a lot fewer births, there were still a shade under 3.8 million babies born in 2018.

The biggest drops in birth rates were with women under 35 and more specifically, those in their early 20s.

But although the CDC can’t zero in on the reason, there have been numerous studies that say millennials – who sit comfortably in the most prolific baby-making age group – just don’t want to have children because they’re not sure about what the future holds. That’s true for finances, the environment and the climate.

Couples spend an average of 25 percent of their income on child care in the U.S. (In other wealthy nations, it’s about 15 percent.) Housing costs are pretty high, too, and job security isn’t what it used to be. Pair that with the fact that college-degreed professionals are having a hard time even finding jobs to pay off their crippling student loan debt, and each couple has an average of about 30,000 reasons not to have children.

A recent INSIDER poll conducted a survey that revealed surprising results, too – it said that nearly 30 percent of Americans agree that couples should “consider the negative and potentially life-threatening effects of climate change when deciding whether or not to have children.”

What Do You Think?

What do you think about the declining birth rate in the U.S.? Will it affect us long into the future, or do you believe the rates will bounce back up? Do you think that finances, climate and the environment should all play a role in whether millennials choose to have kids? I’d love for you to share your thoughts on this, so join me on Facebook or on Twitter and chime in!

Carlos Gamino

North Carolina Sues Juul in Landmark Suit

North Carolina Sues e-Cigarette Manufacturer - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

E-cigarette manufacturers have gotten into plenty of hot water lately, particularly with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s most recent campaigns against them. A federal judge ruled in mid-May that the FDA needs to regulate the thousands of types of e-cigarettes on the market, saying that the agency dodged its legal duty by postponing reviewing them for several years.

The fact is that e-cigarettes are dangerous, as anyone with a modicum of common sense can tell you – and it looks like many public health groups have caught on to the fact that they’re being marketed to children.

In fact, the state of North Carolina – not always known for its common-sense laws or consumer protections, but definitely known for its tobacco production – is suing e-cigarette manufacturer Juul. The state’s attorney general said that e-cigarette use is an “epidemic” among the state’s youth, and they’re not taking it any more.

Josh Stein, the state’s attorney, said at a press conference, “Juul entered the market with the highest nicotine potency of any product. Meanwhile Juul understated the strength of the nicotine in each pod, downplaying its risks.” He added that the reason teens are more likely to use Juul than the people it’s intended for – those in the 18-and-up set – is because these vaping liquids come in fruit and dessert-like flavors that serve to entice children to the product.”

Not so with traditional cigarettes, which come in menthol and regular tobacco flavors.

And perhaps that’s why around 17 percent of North Carolina’s high schoolers reported using e-cigarettes in 2017.

“In a span of six years we’ve seen a 900 percent increase in high school students reporting that they are using e-cigarettes. In 2017, about 17 percent of high schoolers reported using e-cigarettes, and that I’m confident is an underestimate, given the marketing that we’ve seen,” said Susan Kansagra, a doctor who works with the North Carolina Department of Public Health. She added that in middle school, they’ve seen a 400 percent increase in e-cigarette use.

The company also claims to be concerned about youth use of its products. It issued a statement that reads, “We stopped the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol based flavored JUULpods to our traditional retail store partners, enhanced our online age-verification process, strengthened our retailer compliance program with over 2,000 secret shopper visits per month, and shut down our Facebook and Instagram accounts while working constantly to remove inappropriate social media content generated by others on those platforms.”

What Do You Think?

Have you noticed an increase in kids vaping? What do you think manufacturers, states and the federal government should do about it? I’d love for you to share your thoughts on this, so join me on Facebook or on Twitter and chime in!

Carlos Gamino