Hello Russia, are you there?

I have to admit, when Edward Snowden leaked all the information from the NSA in 2013 I wasn’t paying enough attention. I was focused on my own world, finishing my undergraduate degree and studying abroad. I knew that something happened with some guy named Edward Snowden regarding highly classified information. That was about the extent of my knowledge. In the past four years I’ve learned more about what exactly happened and the ramifications of what Snowden did.

Pod Save the People’s DeRay Mckesson speaks with Edward Snowden about the recent firing of FBI director James Comey by President Trump. The combination of Snowden, who is still in Russia facing charges from the United States government and DeRay, a member of the Black Lives Matter movement discussing security and surveillance is absolutely fascinating. Take a listen here from 5.12.17.



Just a casual 11,000 mile drive.

Did you know that you can drive from London to Mongolia? You didn’t? It’s okay, I didn’t either. But every year, during the Mongol Rally, hundreds of teams attempt to make the trek. The catch? The 11,000 mile drive must be completed in a shit car. It’s one of the only rules from the race organizers – seriously. Part of the fun of the rally is breaking down somewhere completely random and trying to figure it out. This also means that a lot of teams don’t make it to the finish line and don’t get to take those epic finish line photos.

Scott Gurian, his brother Drew, and their friends Rosi and Jane, finished the rally in seven weeks. That’s an average of about 225 miles a day. My road trip last summer was only about 9,000 miles, and that was with the added bonus of having a reliable car. And a cell phone that worked most of the time. And no problems finding people who spoke english. This rally sounds bonkers. And I love it. I can’t stop listening to Scott’s far.from.home podcast. It makes me want to do the Mongol Rally myself one day. If you’re an aspiring traveller like myself, I highly recommend listening to all the episodes so far (and those to come). Specifically though, I’d recommend listening to Episode 8: An Eye Opening Experience about their experiences while traveling through Iran.

I know a lot of people who would dismiss travel to Iran simply because of the rhetoric of our current administration. Hate, xenophobia, and false information lead many American’s beliefs towards the people of Iran and other muslim-majority Middle East countries. They are perhaps afraid that as Americans, they will be seen as the enemy if they travel to the Middle East. This is not the experience that Scott and Drew had, however. Most Iranians were excited to meet and talk to the brothers. I wish that the American public would stop generalizing entire nations and religions as ‘bad,’ as this will not help anyone. Check out Team Donundestan’s trip through Iran.

Stalking via selfies.

How much of yourself are you really sharing when you share a selfie? If your location isn’t on, then not much right? Wrong. Note to Self’s Manoush Zomorodi has a discussion with a former chief scientist at Amazon, Andreas Weigend, about what our photos can tell strangers about us.

teeth.jpgWith everybody carrying a computer around in their pocket, access to personal privacy is getting increasingly difficult. Find out just how much someone can find out from a picture of teeth (seriously).

Listen here.

Calling all Stakeholders

There are about 3 million people in the state of Utah. According to Time, 64.9% of the state is federally owned. This includes areas that are designated as National Forest Land, wilderness, National Park, Department of Defense land, and National Monuments. Many who live in Utah (and across the country) don’t trust the federal government. Which is part of the reason why, for years, there has been a heated debate over 1.35 million acres in the southeast of Utah. President Obama established Bears Ears National Monument in December 2016, protecting the area from looters and those who do not respect the landscape and archeological sites.

While this may seem like a simple cut and dry for some, it sparked even more national debate on several topics including federal land grabs, usage rights, and which interest groups should have a say in how the monument is managed. For example, an archeologic site important to anthropologists studying the Pueblo people may mean nothing to a member of the Off-Highway Vehicle community. Two climbers may have differing views on ease of access to cliffs with one preferring to have roads established so they can drive right up to their destination, while the other may prefer to  have to hike a distance, to keep the traffic down. Managing public lands is a delicate process that includes many different stakeholders, all who have their own opinions which need to be taken into account.

This episode of the Dirtbag Diaries follows the story of how Josh Ewing got wrapped up in the fight to create Bears Ears National Monument and how that fight continues to play out today. Listen here

Find more about the Friends group Josh is working for here – Friends of Cedar Mesa





An extremely brief history of environmental racism and injustice

Two years, eleven months, and four days. The time elapsed between Flint, Michigan Mayor Dayne Walling pushing a button changing the water source and the date it took a federal judge to get the state of Michigan to agree to a $97 million settlement to replace the water lines in 18,000 homes by 2020. And this crisis continues to evolve as federal, state, and local employees continue to parse out how to deal with the repercussions, including locating and replacing all lead pipes in Flint. It all started with the decision not to treat the water from the Flint River with an anti-corrosive agent to prevent the iron pipes from being corroded. And it snowballed from there. Sparking international outrage over the fact that the state of Michigan and the Federal Government was doing little to nothing to protect its citizens. According to the US Census Bureau, 41.2% of the residents live below the poverty line, and the city is 56.6% African-American, likely adding to the sluggish way in which officials responded to the problems there.

Sadly, Flint is not a unique case. African-Americans, the poor, and other marginalized groups have always been the unfortunate victims of environmental pollution and environmental injustice. More affluent, white citizens are able to use their money and connections to those in government or in polluting industries to keep the environmental pollutants out of their backyards (NIMBY or NIMBYism). Alternately, these residents have the capital to move out of a place that has been polluted. This is simply not an option for those living below the poverty line.

Environmental racism has prevailed relatively unchecked in the United States, and it’s time that we insist that the government acts in protection of the people, rather than corporations. And that means ALL the people, rather than just those who have some sort of financial or political clout. This week, Al Letson and the fabulous team at Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting dive into a few cases of people fighting for environmental justice around the country. Reporting like this is of the utmost importance as the Environmental Protection Agency is facing massive budget cuts during the new administration. Apart from protecting us from obvious dangers like flaming rivers or killer smog, the EPA is necessary to regulate businesses that have slow acting deadly potential in our country.

Have a listen to this extremely important episode here and don’t take clean water for granted, as Flint Mayor Dayne Walling believes most do; “Water is an absolute vital service that most everyone takes for granted…” -Actual words uttered by the Mayor before the Flint water crisis brought Flint, MI into national headlines.


Feature photo credit.



Executive Order 9066, 75 years later

During World War II, over 110,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants were sent to internment camps across the west. Almost two thirds of them were American citizens.

75 years ago this past February, Executive Order 9066 was signed into law by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. These two episodes of Stuff you Missed in History Class explain the multiple factors that led up to Executive Order 9066, including the discrimination faced by Japanese immigrants even before the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. No person of Japanese descent was safe from this EO. This includes children who were adopted by white American families, the elderly, and the infirm.

Part two of this history explains the conditions in the camps, as well as reasons that some citizens were eventually released from the camps. It also outlines the difficulties that persons of Japanese descent faced even after they were released from the internment camps. Eventually the Federal Government issued an apology and decided that reparations were warranted in 1988, signed into law as the Civil Liberties Act under President Ronald Reagan.

You can listen to Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

One of the internment camps, Manzanar has been preserved by the National Park Service, and can be visited today. Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange documented the conditions within the camps as well. Some of Lange’s photos can be viewed here, Adams’ here.

Dear Tree…

Did you know that in Melbourne, Australia, you can email a tree? The city of Melbourne has cataloged its trees and has set up a map. It gives information about the type of tree, how old the tree is, and how healthy each tree is. Each and every citizen with access to the internet can look up information on the life span of each tree, the urban forest board’s tree planting schedule, and even become a citizen forester.

I personally love trees in cities. While some walk by with their heads down staring at a 5 inch phone screen, I am taken by how resilient those trees need to be to survive in a world that is constantly throwing countless pollutants on them. The fact that Melbourne has found a way to engage people with the trees that surround them is fascinating. You can teach children how to observe the living things around them by providing a way for them to contact their tree. Granted, it isn’t the actual tree that is responding, but a lovely group of volunteers that provide tree-facts and information while responding to emails. By providing an avenue for people to contact the urban forest team, citizens can report on unhealthy or dying trees.

This story delighted me and opened my eyes to a great way one of Australia’s cities is engaging its citizens. The episode is from the HumanNature podcast at Wyoming Public Media and you can listen to it here – https://humanaturepodcast.org/podcast/episode-17-the-ents-of-melbourne/

You are unique, just like everybody else

I love storytelling podcasts. Normal people telling stories from their lives that are often completely different than my own life. The Moth and StoryCorps are examples of longer standing storytelling podcasts that have allowed people to tell stories for years. StoryCorps is an interview format, often between family members or close friend. The Moth is true stories told live in front of an audience.

There is one storytelling podcast that stands uniquely apart from the others though. It’s a relatively new one, just over a year old now, Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, hosted by Chris Gethard. Chris and an anonymous caller speak for an hour about life and love and stories and whatever the fuck else they want to talk about (Sorry Sally). Although the calls often progress organically from topic to topic, a lot of people call with a specific topic in mind; everything from talking about the power grid as a metaphor for love and breakups; to an inappropriate relationship with a teacher; to what not to ask a trans person.

These three episodes are some of my most recent favorites from Beautiful Anonymous, but there are so many great episodes. It soothes me to hear that other people have complete complex lives, filled with incredible joy, seemingly insurmountable sorrow, and fruitful relationships. Even though I might feel alone a lot of the time, it is helpful to hear unscripted stories from real people that show how damn resilient humans can be.

So thank you Chris. Thanks for bringing this podcast to life.

If you want to get lost in someone else’s life for an hour, check out Beautiful Anonymous.

Made in America

I have always been fascinated by the messages and stories that can be conveyed through songs. Many musicians have used their talent and considerable influence to create messages regarding politics, social justice, even regional pride. Musicians hold a unique position within the folds of society and are therefore able to inspire their listeners all over the country (and sometimes around the world) to think about what is happening in the world around them.

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s album 4 Way Street, for example, is littered with references to political events that were occurring in the late 1960s. Chicago calls attention to the trial of the ‘Chicago 8’ – eight men who were arrested for inciting a riot outside of the Democratic National Convention in 1968, during a protest against the Vietnam war. One of the men, Bobby Seale, was bound and gagged during his trial – referenced in the first line of the song  -“So your brother’s bound and gagged and they’ve chained him to a chair.” Indeed, in the live recording of this song, they say “This is a song for Mayor Daley” – the mayor of Chicago at the time of these riots. Ohio draws attention to the fact that national guardsmen killed four students at Kent State University in Ohio during a protest over the announcement by President Nixon that US troops were invading Cambodia.

Michael Jackson famously used his Superbowl performance in 1993 to promote racial equality and world peace – even getting the entire crowd involved. U2 used their moment in the big game to pay homage those lost in the 9/11 terror attacks. Beyonce used her appearance in the 2016 Superbowl to promote her song Formation, which many see as anti-police, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement.

But with music, even entire genres can be indicative of what message is sent or even the ideology behind an entire group of people. With our country so divided on so many major issues at the moment, it is insightful to hear the take of musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding break down the two songs titled “Made in America” released in 2011. Their analysis shows several different ways in which country and hip hop differ on the traditional American values. This episode is well worth the listen!

Audio here – http://www.switchedonpop.com/48-made-in-america-toby-keith-jay-z/

A Narrative in Four Parts

Would you give a kidney for a family member? A close friend? An acquaintance? What about a complete stranger?

Over 100,000 people in the United States are currently awaiting a kidney donation. One person is added to the list every 14 minutes. Most of the kidneys donated come from deceased donors. But in 2014, 5,538 came from live donors. Out of those, only 725 of these are unrelated donors. That’s only thirteen percent. That’s what makes the story of Elizabeth and Mary so uncommon. They don’t know each other, they don’t even live in the same state.

Lea Thau of Strangers explores the world of altruistic organ donation, following the story of Elizabeth and Mary. This includes the pressure that Elizabeth faced, both from people who were confused at her decision to go through a major operation and the fact that Mary wasn’t exactly the typical recipient. And Elizabeth was the target of a social media frenzy after their story came out. Why? Partially because altruists make us uncomfortable. Seeing someone do something selfless for a stranger puts our own generosity into peril. Yes, you might volunteer one Saturday every month at your local community garden, but that’s nothing compared to giving an organ.

This four part saga intricately examines the journey of Elizabeth and Mary, the complications faced along the way, and the aftermath.

Part One . Part Two . Part Three . Part Four .