USA Gender Politics The World Inequality

Rashida Tlaib, the midterms, and the pursuit of politicians who look like us

For those not living in Michigan, Rashida Tlaib’s congressional win seemingly came out of nowhere. And yet, Muslims and Palestinian Americans everywhere didn’t hesitate to celebrate following Tlaib’s victories.  Pleasantly surprised and inspired, I decided to do my own research on Tlaib.

Rashida Tlaib ran on a platform of being a non-traditional candidate who saw herself as more of an activist than a politician; a sentiment that helped propel her to victory in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District as they looked to replace former Representative John Conyers Jr. Before resigning last year amid sexual harassment allegations, Conyers’ resume included co-founding the Congressional Black Caucus and being the first lawmaker to propose the making of a national Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. As a result, those vying for his seat needed a history of standing by minority communities.

Rashida Tlaib had it.

From protesting President Trump during a speech at the Detroit Economic Club in 2016 to trespassing on corporate land to test for pollution, Tlaib was truly an activist. When speaking to the New York Times, Tlaib said “much of her strength came from being Palestinian” and never shying away from her identity.

Even on the night of her primary win, Tlaib’s mother draped her in a Palestinian flag.

This strong identification with her Palestinian-American background alongside her history of activism helped her win MI-13. Yet, no matter how proud Tlaib was of her identity, she advocated for policies that hurt the very group of Palestinian Americans she championed.

During the race, we saw a candidate endorsed by lobby group J Street, an organization that required a candidate to oppose the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement, and support the continued military aid to Israel. This deeply concerned me and many other Palestinian-Americans who believed that the BDS movement and the use of aid as a bargaining tool was vital in encouraging Israel to end their human rights violations. Both of which Tlaib didn’t support.

Today, the situation is different. A week after having won the primary election, Tlaib finally spoke out on the issue and reversed her decision by no longer supporting aid to Israel until it complied with international law. Moreover, she’d declared that she was willing to stand behind the BDS movement. With that,  J Street removed its endorsement and the worries of her followers subsided.

It was then, and only then, did it seem that Tlaib might truly stand to do her part in providing a Palestinian-American voice in Congress.

Though, what is troubling to me is how so many supporters beyond MI-13 were satisfied with the fact that a Palestinian-American Muslim woman had even won the primary despite not doing anything to guarantee that this victory was truly one beneficial for Palestinian and Muslim Americans alike. Thousands from beyond MI-13 were ready to cheer her on without a second thought, even if her stance was more harmful to Palestinians compared to those of other members in Congress with no connection to Palestine.

This election cycle, therefore, taught me something especially valuable as more minorities run for office: we can’t quietly assume that those who look like us will always support us. More importantly, we can’t tell ourselves that the fact they’ve made it that far as a minority in America is enough. This notion of “existence is resistance” cannot allow us to accept politicians who enact harmful policies. It is an injustice to ourselves.

Election Day has come and gone, and Rashida Tlaib is no longer the Democratic candidate for MI-13. She’s the representative. Yes, we can celebrate her. However, it’s also our responsibility to continue diligently watching her and her policies.

After all, Tlaib only spoke out and lost J Street’s endorsement after the public showed their outrage. So we must let any politician seeking to represent us know that we are watching and listening because, at the end of the day, the election of any politician is dependent on our satisfaction.

Tech Now + Beyond

Worried that your date is turning into a creeper fast? Here’s how you can get out.

Dating in 2018 continues to be dangerous for women and non-binary people. If you go on a date feel unsafe or just uneasy, it’s good to have a plan in place if you need to leave. This is where the Circle of 6 app comes in.

In 2011, then-American Vice President Joe Biden and Kathleen Sebelius, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Health and Human Services Secretary, held the Apps Against Abuse challenge. The purpose of this challenge was to encourage innovators to create apps to help prevent dating violence by keeping young adults connected to friends and resources. This initiative was first aimed to help prevent dating violence in university settings.

Circle of 6 came to creation during the Apps Against Abuse challenge.  The Circle of 6 app has two functions: (1) this app allows you to add five contacts who you can send texts to and (2) resources, including emergency hotlines.

A user can hit a button which sends a text to the five people in their Circle of 6 to come to get them, call them or get help if they feel uneasy on a date or are in danger. An extremely positive part of this app is that the person that they are going on a date with won’t see them texting a friend. This way, if you need to get out of a bad situation, you can press a button to text your friend to ask them to call you. When they call, you can tell your date that you “have to take a call” and safely leave the situation, whether you are in a public setting or need to leave their apartment. If you are in a private setting and are in danger, you can also pre-program a text to send to a friend to call 911 or any relevant form of safety.

By using this app, you can protect yourself from dangerous situations through staying in contact with your friends and having an exit plan. Even if it turns out nothing bad was going to escalate and your date just had a weird vibe, you still were able to talk to your friends.

In addition, there are two hotlines which a person can discreetly call the National Domestic Violence hotline and Love is Respect helpline, both which are available 24 hours a day. Both these resources do not record the personal information of the caller. This app allows the user to press buttons on the app to dial these resources for them. While friends are amazing, these resources can be great to get information from an independent source who is trained to help people.

I first heard of this app during high school when my health education teacher had a speaker come into our class to introduce this app and encourage us to use it ourselves.  Representatives from Circle of 6 regularly come to schools to speak about it.  I downloaded the app at the time and added my friends, as we found this app to be an important measure to stay safe.

Besides the purpose of this app itself, there are various positive features of their model. The first positive feature is that the Circle of 6 is free. The second is that they do not collect any identifying information from their users. This is in stark contrast with many social media companies and applications, which collect and even sell your personal information.

Circle of 6 is not the only app which strives to prevent gendered and sexualized violence. BSafe is another useful tool. When you click the activation button, either by voice or in the app, BSafe tells a pre-determined list of people your location, who are also able to listen to you and your interactions, as well as watch your surroundings through your camera.

While apps like Circle of 6 are both incredibly important to have and be aware of, we should not have to live in a world where people are constantly at risk to be on the receiving end of gendered and sexualized violence. While no one wants to have to go on a date thinking about potential violence, it sure does not hurt to have technology that helps you be prepared. Who knows, maybe one day, people will stop being creepy, but until then, I don’t mind this as a short-term solution.

USA Food & Drinks Life

5 delicious 4th of July recipes to make you forget that America sucks right now

The United States of America celebrates its 242nd year of independence from Britain, but somehow it still feels like we’re living in the 1700’s. With the constant atrocities happening in this country from children being caged by ICE to the violence towards black lives by police and everything in between, I’m struggling to find a sense of patriotism. Here are some recipes to lift your spirits and stay aware of these current events. 

1. Buffalo Chicken Dip

A bowl of buffalo chicken dip with celery.
[Image description: A bowl of buffalo chicken dip with celery.] via Flickr
Buffalo chicken dip is a personal favorite of mine. I like to use a slow cooker so it can stew all day while I worry about other things, like the fact that it’s been 8 months since Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria and there’s still a long road of recovery ahead. Mainstream media seems to have given up coverage altogether (which was already minimal from the start) but millions of people are still affected by the natural disaster.  

Click here to learn how to make buffalo chicken dip

Click here to make a donation to aid Puerto Rico. 

2. Vegan Pulled Pork Sandwiches

A pulled pork sandwich on a white plate with juice oozing.
[Image description: A pulled pork sandwich on a white plate with juice oozing.] Via Flickr
This plant-based recipe is packed with flavor and protein. You may be familiar with jackfruit as a substitute for pulled pork, but using lentils and carrots is an innovative way to recreate the consistency of pulled pork with a ton more protein than jackfruit. Whether you eat meat or not, I don’t care. You’re still invited to my 4th of July picnic because America is an all-inclusive melting pot that welcomes all races and religions.

Just kidding! The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Trump’s “Muslim ban” which targets predominantly Muslim countries.  While the government cites “national security” as justification, Justice Sonya Sotomayor’s scathing dissent laid out the true motivation: the President’s anti-Muslim stance that he has reiterated time and time again.

Click here to learn how to make vegan pulled pork sandwiches

Click here to learn more about Trump’s Muslim ban. 

3. Spicy Watermelon with Feta

Sliced watermelon on a tray with black seeds.
[Image description: Sliced watermelon on a tray with black seeds.] Aia Flickr
This recipe is a perfect side salad to accompany your grill creations. It’s light, flavorful, and super easy to make.

Another easy thing should be the decision to allow immigrant women fleeing from gang violence and domestic violence into the U.S. However, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced new restrictions for those applying for asylum.  These new rules will make it difficult or impossible for women to come to the U.S. for safety. Additionally, they could result in the deportation of abuse victims who are already here on asylum.

Click here to learn how to make spicy watermelon with feta

Click here to learn more about issues affecting immigrant women. 

4. Dr. Pepper Baked Beans

A white bowl of brown baked beans with a silver spoon.
[Image description: A white bowl of brown baked beans with a silver spoon.] Via Pixabay
Cooking baked beans to perfection from scratch typically takes 18-24 hours, but who has time for that? This recipe will give you delicious baked beans in just 40 minutes without sacrificing any flavors, thanks to the addition of Dr. Pepper.

But, I don’t really want to talk about baked beans, if I’m being honest. What we need to talk about is the violence experienced by black kids in this country far too regularly. For example, 14-year-old Brennan Walker was shot at by a retired firefighter when he missed his bus and approached the house to ask for directions.  We need to talk about how in 2016 young black men were the victims of US police killings at the highest rate. nine times more than any other Americans. We need to talk about how the police killed 1,147 people in 2017, with black people making up 25% of the victims despite being only 13% of the population.

Click here to learn how to make Dr. Pepper Baked Beans

Click here to learn about upcoming action events happening with the Black Lives Matter movement. 

5. Berry-Patch Brownie Pizza

A round brownie "pizza" covered in fruit toppings including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and mango chunks.
[Image description: A round brownie “pizza” covered in fruit toppings including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and mango chunks.] Via Shari’s Berries on Flickr
This dessert is sure to be a crowd pleaser as it offers a little something for everyone. Almond-infused brownie crust topped with a delicious cream cheese frosting and an assortment of berries makes this “pizza” that kids and adults alike will eat right up.

I usually love dessert, although personally, I don’t have much of an appetite at this point because it has been impossible to turn my attention away from the treatment of immigrant families in this country. ICE is currently detaining immigrant families and separating kids from their parents. While held at detention centers, children are facing all sorts of abuse at the hands of ICE officers, including sexual abuse. 

Click here to learn how to make berry-batch brownie pizza

Click here for a list of ways to help immigrant families.  

Here’s the thing: you are allowed to enjoy the holiday and the time off with friends and family. You absolutely can try out these recipes and launch some fireworks. You deserve to relax by the pool. We as individuals cannot be expected to hold the weight of the world on our shoulders. However, it’s easy to turn a blind eye to social justice issues in this country, and it’s important to remember that atrocities don’t go away just because we’re not paying attention to them. Oppression is a systemic issue.

Let’s be mindful, empathetic, and check our privileges as we attempt to celebrate America this 4th of July.

Politics The World

Our government representatives are sleeping on the job – and it’s putting women in danger

As a full-time college student with a fellowship and a part-time job, my days and nights are filled to the brim with work. I go to bed extremely late and wake up as early as possible. The only way I survive my long and arduous days are with quick naps in the middle of the day. Being a U.S. representative, however, is much different. I’m sure their lives are filled with much more time consuming and stressful work, and it seems that they are determined to get their naps just like the rest of us. There’s nothing wrong with that – in fact, I encourage it so they can be more level headed when making decisions that will affect our everyday lives. I definitely know my naps help me in that way.

But I nap at home, not at work.

According to Politico, members of the Black Caucus have recently submitted a letter to the ethics committee to investigate the legality of Congress members sleeping in their offices.

Some members like Paul Ryan argue that this act of sleeping in their offices shows that they are hardworking and dedicated, but I know if I was found sleeping at my job it would not be seen as dedicated. I’d be fired for laziness, stealing from the company, and for the sheer audacity of my actions. Not only are these representatives stealing taxpayer dollars by getting free housing and amenities, but it’s a suspicious act altogether. A room full of politicians with no supervision will never give me an assured feeling.

CNN brought up another very real and terrifying issue that is directly affecting victims of sexual assault. With over 50 people reporting instances of sexual violence on capitol hill, nothing is scarier than having to stay late in the office to actually do work, with your abuser sleeping right next door. How are you supposed to stay concentrated on all you have to do with a very real threat looming over your head? If we aren’t going to actually take action and seek justice for victims, the least our government can do is ensure these victims have a safe work environment.

Be extra careful of the male lawmakers who sleep in their offices — they can be trouble. Avoid finding yourself alone with a congressman or senator in elevators, late-night meetings or events where alcohol is flowing. And think twice before speaking out about sexual harassment from a boss — it could cost you your career.”

These were the rules that female representatives, staff, and interns would follow to keep themselves safe, according to the previously cited CNN article. At this point, it’s no longer mind blowing that even within our own government women can’t feel safe. We aren’t safe in our own beds, our schools, the workplace, and even within our government. From this one quote, it’s clear that these representatives are doing more than just “working and sleeping” in their offices. If they can’t be trusted around another human and complying with the laws regarding persons how can we trust them with making new laws. We can’t, we literally cannot and the congressional black caucus was right in questioning them and calling for an investigation.

If the people in power can’t act like adults and follow the same rules as everyone else, why should they be allowed to make them?

Politics The World

Aditi Juneja, creator of the Resistance Manual, talks patriotism, citizenship and what makes us American

Talking to Aditi Juneja is easy. She’s young, funny and she reminds me of any number of my friends in the activist space. Like so many capable organizers, she’s down to earth even though her work makes her look like superwoman.

Shortly after the election, Aditi started compiling a spreadsheet of issues and legislation that was coming out of Congress and being promised by Trump. She shared the information with Sam Sinyangwe, the co-founder of Campaign Zero and Stay Woke, who gathered a team to turn it into a wiki for the resistance. The result was the Resistance Manual. This open resource is continually being updated with new information about current policy as it moves through the government. The manual also breaks down bills into easy to understand explanations, then tracks them visually as they advance through Congress or state government.

Aditi is in her final semester of law school and is simultaneously managing the daily content needs of an army of around 200 volunteers who are responsible for the bulk of the updates to the resistance manual. “It’s a huge job” she admits, but “the strength finds us.” She has powered through the challenging first months, and she tells me it all feels a little surreal. Shortly after the manual went live, she was getting calls and emails, “Now I’m the go-to source for the anti-Trump resistance,” she laughs.

It’s not an easy time to be spearheading a progressive resistance. Her detractors on the right have bemoaned from day one that the concept of resistance to a president is definitively unpatriotic. When I ask Aditi how she feels about being labeled unpatriotic, she’ says “I’ve personally thought a lot about it; about whether resistance was democratic, whether it was the right thing to do, or whether we should be trying to work closely with and influence GOP politics and Trump. What I came down on, there has to be a line in the sand. Once your government is not subscribing to democratic ideals, once your government is holding press briefings where they exclude certain outlets and attacking other branches of government or the intelligence community, then you are in resistance mode. It becomes incumbent on the people to preserve the democratic ideals that make us a nation.”

So, I ask, what brought you over the edge from interested to wholly invested in organizing against Trumpism?  Right away she says, “It was during the nominating convention when Khzir Khan spoke. For me, it was about representation and identification because he looks like a person who could be related to me. To hear him say ‘Do you even know what the constitution says? I will gladly lend you my copy.’ That was a moment where I realized that what makes us Americans is our choice to be Americans. Period. Full stop. That’s it. You don’t have to bleed for the country; you don’t have to die for the country. If we want a just and equitable nation, we have to accept that what makes people Americans is their desire to be Americans. We make a choice. Unlike other nations, we don’t have a shared culture or religion. What we have instead is a set of values and ideals, and they were the foundation of the first functioning democracy. DeTocqueville called us the great experiment- he came here from France to see if it could work, you know? And 250 years later we are still standing as a democracy. It’s remarkable, most don’t last that long. The reason it lasted in my view is that the people who are here are not accidentally here, we all go back to someone who made a choice to take a risk, including those who were brought here as slaves and took the risk to fight for freedom and equality for all.”

So, what is patriotism in 2017 if that’s what defines us as a nation? “It’s about active and engaged citizenship,” Aditi explains, “I think that’s what it’s always been. Different moments have looked different- during World War 2 it was Rosie the Riveter and women going to work and planting victory gardens. At the same time, though, there was Japanese internment and what we get to do as a nation is learn from the failures of the past. We can look with guilt, but not shame.”

She tells me that Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” harkens back to a time that didn’t exist. It ignores the mandate that we acknowledge our mistake so we can grow and learn. “So, I think patriotism is active, engaged citizenship that ensures we do better than we’ve done before.” In the Resistance Manual, that looks like individual volunteers taking ownership of sections and being rigorous in their examination and reporting on a policy issue. She says she hopes that the manual will be able to include a full, factual story on all policy issues. That will require volunteers to continue to engage with her definition of patriotism by dedicating themselves to remaining engaged with government.

Aditi ended by giving some honest advice to people just starting in activism or organizing who might think the work is daunting. “You don’t have to know what you’re doing, ” she says matter-of-factly, “When I created the resistance manual, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know it would become this. I started making a spreadsheet of policies because I was just trying to keep track and know what the hell was going on and then I shared it with someone who helped me make it public. You don’t have to know what you’re doing every step of the way. I think that there is this notion that you have to have a plan, and you don’t. You can figure it as you go along and you’ll screw up probably, and that’s OK too. You don’t always have to know how it’s going to work out and what’s next. I am as guilty as anyone of wanting to know what comes next.”

Lastly, to young women she says, “When you do something. Take credit for your work. Have your name on it, do an interview, reach out to press. It feels weird, and it feels self-aggrandizing, but I hope our last generation of women was the last generation that had hidden figures in it.”

Edit: The original version of this article did not include Aditi’s mention of African slaves who did not choose to be Americans, but have continued to fight for the rights of all people to have the full benefits of citizenship.


It’s time to look policy right in the face, and The Tempest is doing exactly that

At the close of 2016, many of us looked back on the year with a mixture of incredulity and sadness. We felt the deep reverberations of a changing political global landscape, riding the shockwaves through events like Brexit, an attempted Turkish coup, and the American election campaign. For many, politics took a dark and sudden turn the night Donald Trump was elected.

Donald Trump’s rise to power and ultimate capture of the White House was jolting for many. The rhetoric he used to incite support was divisive, destructive, and crass — but the sad truth is that he was merely capitalizing on the sentiments of his support base. He’s all of our childhood bullies personified: the ones who picked on us for our names, sexualities, clothes, lunches, appearances. Our bullies tried to make us feel small, alien.

[bctt tweet=”The Tempest is launching a new Policy vertical to kick off the new political era.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Donald Trump’s victory is an affirmation that those bullies don’t merely exist on the playground. And as of today, he was sworn in as 45th President of the United States of America.

That’s not something we’re going to take lightly.

We’re not here to participate in internet slacktivism — we’re here to assert our political presence. Which is why The Tempest is launching a new Policy vertical to kick off the dawn of a new political era.

We’re here to help people like you decipher laws and policies in ways that are easily digestible for everyone. In times like these, the most powerful thing we can do is equip ourselves with knowledge.

However, keeping up with politics requires time, energy, and (more often than not) an advanced dictionary/thesaurus. Truth is, many of us become discouraged with the seemingly daunting and clunky language of politics. Bills can be up to hundreds of pages long and full of legal jargon that’s difficult to break down. It’s all-too-easy to disengage from the endless bills that flow through the congressional labyrinth.

[bctt tweet=”We’re not here to participate in internet slacktivism .” username=”wearethetempest”]

This section is going disrupt that flow, take out the haphazard fluff and get straight to what matters. We’ll walk you through some of the hottest bills, what they aim to do, and whether or not they’ll disproportionately affect you.

Given that this is such a crucial time for politics, it’s extremely important that we understand the policies which govern us. Practicing active citizenship is the best favor we can do for ourselves, regardless of whoever’s in office.

And we’re here to shake things up.

Science Now + Beyond

Trump’s censorship order on science puts all of us at risk

In case you haven’t heard, here are some terrifying (and a couple uplifting) things that have happened this week to American science:

  1. The CDC decided to cancel its conference on climate change and health without any real reason…
  2. Many scientific agencies, like the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and USDA (U.S. Dept of Agriculture), were put on communication freezes — meaning employees are not allowed to speak to the public about the research that the public funds about the public’s safety (The USDA’s order has now been lifted, but the other agencies remain frozen).
  3. The administration froze all grants and contracts at the EPA.
  4. The Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines are going to be built.
  5. The Badlands National Park twitter account responded to the administration’s ban on sharing news by tweeting out awesome climate science facts, because that Park is a national hero.
  6. Climate change was removed from the white house website!
  7. The investigation of Flint’s water crisis was stopped.
  8. Scientists decided to do a Scientists’ March in response to ^ all of that.
  9. Greenpeace protested the pipelines in DC.

These attacks on science are not only problematic to me as a scientist, but also as a public citizen. These agencies were formed for the purpose of protecting us: the EPA makes sure we have clean water and air, the USDA makes sure our food is healthy, the NIH deals with medical issues. It is literally their job to inform us of health and science concerns. THAT’S WHY THEY EXIST.

None of these freezes are necessarily surprising, considering the current president’s views on science (he doesn’t like it). He’s a climate change denier (because in our new reality, alternative facts reign supreme over actual truth) and the new director of the EPA doesn’t think human activity is the cause of climate change. The current president and his cronies are deeply invested in the fossil fuel industry, which is dangerous to all of us.

Even more, these freezes are censorship of information that citizens of this country have a right to know about. I mean, the Environmental Protection Agency was ordered to remove their truly amazing site on climate change. It’s informative, it’s public-friendly, and it’s an example of what we as the public have a right to. These freezes are keeping scientists from researching important, timely, relevant science that affects all of us, every day. Though it is common for very short-term freezes to take place during transitions, it isn’t normal for it to happen so quickly and certainly not to this degree. This Gag Order on Science happened basically overnight, with a quick memo. This is unprecedented and it’s deeply alarming for the future of our nation.

With a climate change denier heading our country, we are all unsafe. But we’re not all equally affected. Time and time again, we see that environmental issues most negatively impact poor communities and communities of color. The Dakota Access Pipeline, for example, was rerouted from originally going through a mostly white area because those communities complained.

After the reroute, a potential spill would dirty the water of indigenous communities (many of which in this country already have poor water quality). Studies have shown that air pollution is more prevalent in non-white, poor communities than in white affluent ones. And, though the current president claims otherwise, we know where his interests lie — with affluent whites and big businesses like the fossil fuel industry.

Our public health is at risk with the current president’s dedication to fossil fuel and his lack of commitment to reversing the effects of climate change. What exactly is at risk? Longer allergy seasons, deaths from overheating, more frequent outbreaks of disease, poor air quality, etc etc etc. Even worse is that he’s risking our public health while also making it harder to have health insurance. “Can’t breathe? Can’t afford health insurance? Good.” – not a direct quote, but maybe it is #alternativefacts .

This isn’t a debatable issue or opinion. Environmental change and the presence of pollutants in our air and water will affect you whether you support the current president or not. Climate change is real regardless of what the current president claims or his removal of important government agencies and funding for research. It harms us all and we all have the right to know how & why it’s happening. It is our duty as American citizens to stand up for what is right and demand open communication between the government and the public. Do not sit idly by as the current president plays with our future.

Our lives are at risk and our futures are in jeopardy. Call your representatives, inform others, and share this widely — don’t let science fiction become reality. RESIST.

Tech Now + Beyond

Ecuador just won our hearts by protecting the U.S. elections in the most badass way possible

We might waffle back on forth on our opinions about Julian Assange (whistleblower or spy? journalist or national security threat?), but we definitely have strong opinions about the U.S. elections. And one of those opinions is that there has been far too much hacking influencing the election from foreign governments and security organizations.

WikiLeaks Julian Assange Image

Barely a week after the United States denounced the Russian government for hacking into the Democratic National Committee, Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame released more documents–this time regarding the election. These documents included over 10,000 emails from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, but surprisingly didn’t make that big of a wave in U.S. news (especially not when compared with #TrumpTapes and #RepealThe19th).

However, WikiLeaks’ continued interest in the U.S. elections, alongside fears of Russian and other external hacks, has worried many. Including government’s beyond the United States. The lastest? Ecuador.

Ecuador Office Image

On October 17, WikiLeaks announced over Twitter that Julian Assange, who has been living in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid persecution and punishment from the U.S., had his Internet access cut off by the Ecuadorian government.

Though Ecuador has provided Assange with asylum since 2012, it drew a line in its support this week out of concern that his actions might negatively influence the U.S. elections.

In an official statement, the Ecuadorian government reaffirms its commitment to Assange and his asylum, but explains:

The Government of Ecuador respects the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states. It does not interfere in external electoral processes, nor does it favor any particular candidate. Accordingly, Ecuador has exercised its sovereign right to temporarily restrict access to some of its private communications network within its Embassy in the United Kingdom. This temporary restriction does not prevent the WikiLeaks organization from carrying out its journalistic activities.

Amongst “fears” of a “rigged election” and foreign hacking, it’s nice to know there are a few countries out there rooting for the U.S.

Though WikiLeaks activists have argued that Ecuador only responded after pressure from the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Ecuador has denied any external influence in their decision.

Lightning the mood after weeks of intense debates, Canadian comedian Bobby Mair took to the streets outside the London embassy this week as “Julian Assange’s Personal Internet Service.” Since the WikiLeaks leader has no Internet access, Mair has been shouting headlines through a bullhorn to keep Assange up-to-date.

We can only hope that the news Mair announces to Assange is more light-hearted than recent headlines, especially as we head into the final weeks of the U.S. election.

Tech Now + Beyond

If you still have a Yahoo email, the government’s been spying on you

Apparently some people are still using Yahoo (does this mean people are actually using Bing as well?). We thought that everyone made the grand switch sometime after having their first embarrassing email account in seventh grade (remember when you used to be bumblebeequeen333 or mickeymouse8?) But, apparently not.

The news that people still have Yahoo email addresses was almost as shocking as the news this week that Yahoo has secretly been spying on its users for the United States government. Yikes.

Woman Using Computer Image

Journalist Joseph Menn of Reuters released a report this week stating that Yahoo has been using software to scan its users’ emails for the US intelligence community since 2015. It’s unclear whether the NSA or the FBI approached Yahoo, or whether they approached other media companies as well (could Facebook or Google be involved too?).

Though Yahoo has released a statement saying that it is “a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States,” many are still concerned. If Yahoo really has been monitoring all of their users’ emails, then they may be involved in a major fourth amendment violation (that’s the “freedom from indiscriminate search and seizure” one).

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced its frustration with Yahoo in a statement released by staff attorney Patrick Toomey: “It is deeply disappointing that Yahoo declined to challenge this sweeping surveillance order because customers are counting on technology companies to stand up to novel spying demands in court.”

Though other media companies could have easily been involved in this scandal, many have released public statements denouncing Yahoo’s actions  (“Facebook has never received a request like the one described in these news reports from any government, and if we did we would fight it,” “[Apple has] never received a request of this type. If we were to receive one, we would oppose it in court,” “[Microsoft has] never engaged in the secret scanning of email traffic like what has been reported today about Yahoo,” and on).

And in general, tech companies have been incredibly dedicated to privacy and fourth amendment rights. Remember when Apple refused to hack into an iPhone for the FBI?

But apparently Yahoo is the exception to this rule (or maybe there’s more we don’t yet know).

Yahoo Logo Image

What we do know is that not everyone at Yahoo supported this decision.

Although Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer followed the government order, Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos left the company to become Facebook’s security chief when he learned of the policy. When Stamos’s team discovered the spying software, he initially thought hackers had found their way into Yahoo’s system.

Yikes! As Stamos emphasized before leaving Yahoo, backdoor programs like that don’t just help company executives, but anyone who wants to hack into a communications network.

It might be time to follow in Stamos’s footsteps and find your way to a different communications service if you’re still using Yahoo. We can’t guarantee that every other email provider is one hundred percent safe, but if you value your privacy it’s sure a good start.

Politics The World

Why are our personal lives even up for debate?

For the past few years, there has been a rising of political heat in the U.S. when it comes to right and left wing ideologies, and I cannot help but feel so confused as to why certain things are being debated.

For example, why would I care whether or not two men decide to spend the rest of their lives together under one roof? Why do I have to care?

Why do I care whether or not a woman decides that having a baby is not going to make her life a productive one?

Why do I care whether or not a woman decides to make sure a pregnancy never even occurs?

The United States is now making sure that a person’s personal life is being decided by the hands of all its citizens. The reality is, two men marrying each other will not affect me, and neither will a women deciding to terminate her pregnancy.

To me, my life, and to others their own.

What was once a personal, religious decision has now turned into a political one. Platform issues have gone from an emphasis on worldly issues such as immigration and foreign policy – to marriage and abortion. When I think of policy, I think of laws and regulations that will affect my country as a whole, collectively. I think of how homelessness has become a major problem in downtown Los Angeles. I think of how immigration restrictions are preventing people from achieving better futures for themselves. I think of our foreign policy in the Middle East, and how the U.S. is a key factor in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Instead, politicians are now debating each other on what should happen when two people from the same gender happen to fall in love, and what a woman should do if she gets pregnant and no longer wants to have a child. They are now trying to put a strict definition on what marriage means. They are now trying to regulate openings and closures of abortion clinics.

Give me a break.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage came out, allowing gay marriage to be politically allowed. In essence, this means that state governments and their citizens cannot disallow gay couples from marrying each other. Read this out loud and listen to how ridiculous it sounds.

Religious and personal decisions that do not harm society should not be played with at the hands of others. A personal decision is a personal decision, and that cannot be decided by me or anyone except for that individual to whom it concerns. To make a decision for someone else is a form of control, and control over a person’s life is power. But human beings have been created with their own personal power over their own selves – their own mind. And I cannot come between that. We have been blessed with the power of human dignity over our own selves, not over others. We have the will to decide what we wish to have and to do.

Not only are we talking about power over certain people, but the issue of abortion and contraceptives is a form of power over all females in America. Making decisions for women, as if they are incapable of doing so themselves, is a form of sexism. The fact that an entire country needs to decide what a woman does with her own uterus is sickening. Just as institutional racism and institutional Islamophobia exist – so does institutional sexism.

American pluralism is a value that this country proactively takes pride in, but a roadblock to achieving this kind of diversity happens when individuals take personal matters into their own hands, and refuse to allow people to make decisions on their own. Individualism, as a person of religion, or as a woman, should be upheld.

As a Muslim woman, I will decide what to do with my body according to my own mind and my own faith. This is my right according to the freedom of religion. As American women, we have the right to do so according to our pursuit of life and liberty.

Liberty has been played with at the hands of the rest of America, and it should be given back to us.