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Al Gore Makes Another Stop on his Climate Change Crusade

As the record books check off 2016 as the (new) hottest year in history, the evidence of climate change only becomes more glaring. Al Gore—one of the most noteworthy champions for awareness—continues his appeal to the public, over 40 years after his crusade started.

Recently, Temple Emanu-El played the New York host for former vice-president’s Gore’s enlightenment, and publicity tour (he has a new book and sequel to his 2007 Oscar winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth coming out this year). The temple setting was fitting, as he preached on the dangers of climate change to a congregation of believers.
The one-time Tennessee congressman originally brought the issue of global warming to the national stage in 1976, when he organized a congressional hearing on the topic. Since that time, the human race has made great strides in protecting our habitats. However, as we take steps forward, we continue to take several steps back.

Gore opened his presentation with three questions anyone concerned about climate change should ask themselves: Do we really have to change? Can we change? Will we change? And for all three, Gore gave a resounding “yes!” He even harkened back to Renaissance era astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (who was the first to theorize the sun was the center of our solar system), as he facilitated the notion that belief systems can be changed. This is relevant in a time period when our President, Donald J. Trump, is an admitted climate change denier.

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 27: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the National Governors Association meeting in the State Dining Room of the White House February 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)

When a political figure of such status questions such a key issue, the only way for this environmental activist to respond, are with the difficult to swallow facts at hand—even if the current government regime seems to dispute actual facts.

Humans continue to pollute the atmosphere as we burn fossil fuels, destroy rain forests with controlled burns, and release large sums of methane into the air from livestock and the melting of the polar caps. Gore put it best when he said, “We are using this [the atmosphere] as an open sewer.” And this sewer is eroding our lone defense against the intensive power of the sun—the ozone layer.

Because of the boom in global industrialization since World War II, carbon emissions into the air have increased at a staggering rate. Recent evidence has found that since the 90’s, pollution has weakened our ozone so seriously that we are now 150 times more likely to have an unusually hot day than we would have 40 years ago. Adding to the knowledge that the planet is being slow cooked like a stack of ribs, is that since 2001 we have seen 16 of the 17 hottest days ever recorded.

Last year the American southwest saw days so hot, that they were officially designated as life threatening. In July, parts of Iraq reached a high of 129 degrees. The same time the year before, Iran reached a heat index (a measure combining temperature and humidity in the air) of 165 degrees.

What makes this heat even more dangerous is that it sucks the moisture out of soil. This loss of moisture has made droughts last longer and cost countries like China and India billions. From 2006 to 2010, 60 percent of what was once fertile soil in Syria is now desert. And for already arid regions like the Middle East and northern Africa, they could “soon be unlivable.”
But that sapped moisture doesn’t leave the ground and go unaccounted for. It often goes into the air as humidity, causing “atmospheric rivers.” When these rivers flow they cause an unusual weather phenomenon dubbed a “rain bomb.” These were once a rare occasion. Yet they are happening so much more often that they have even been caught on camera. Rain bombs however, are the least of many people’s worries.

Along with rivers in the air, ocean temperatures continue to rise. A warmer ocean surface means more storms, and violent ones at that. Houston, Texas was victimized by these brutal weather patterns as they endured five major floods from 2015 to 2016. The US as a whole has had seven “once in a thousand year” weather events recently. In the United Kingdom, while they have had the hottest years on record for them, from November 2015 to January 2016 the region saw the wettest three month period in over 100 years.

Along with fierce weather, our warming planet has seen massive loses of ice in the artic. The western section of Antarctica is in “irreversible levels of retreat.” Gore hammered home the seriousness of the problem when he displayed a slide of a 100 mile rift in one section of the ice shelf, which is the size of Delaware. He noted that there unfortunately no stopping this section from breaking off of the continent, and melting into the waters of the ocean.

When that happens, sea levels will rise to dangerous heights. Major American cities like Miami (#1) and New York (#3) are some of the most at-risk cities for permanent flooding in decades to come.

The planet is ferociously reacting back to the treatment it has been dealt by human industry. And so, people’s lives are being put in danger on a daily basis. At the beginning of the decade, 55,000 people died in Russia from the combination of droughts and forest fires. Riots occur across the globe over dwindling food supplies. Diseases, like the Zika Virus, are on the rise because of unhealthy conditions. Even the US Surgeon General stated that climate change is causing a medical emergency.

Even on a shallow level, the results of climate change are a concern because they can cause significant problems for the global economy. The situation is ripe to cause an abundance of “political chaos.” On two occasions Gore had to calm himself while speaking, as his strong passion for the subject got him close to yelling out his frustrations.

If you are feeling a chill of discomfort, and mild fear wash over you then good—you care. But, there is hope. Carbon dioxide levels have stayed steady in the last three years. And despite all the backwards steps we have taken with carbon emissions, technology has made great strides in making humans an environmentally cleaner inhabitant of this planet. Many more cities in the US, and abroad, are aiming to use 100 percent renewable sources for energy—for example, wind and solar.

President Trump promised during his election campaign to put more Americans back to work. Focusing on the coal industry, which has long been a primary source in carbon emissions. Yet Gore insisted on the massive job and money making opportunities in the clean energy industries.

Wind turbine service tech is one of the nation’s fastest growing jobs. Not to be outdone, employment in solar energy outnumbers those in oil, gas and coal combined. We have progressed 70 times faster in solar use than 2001 estimates expected. And with higher demand, comes serious investment from governments and the private sector. “This is a dramatic success,” said Gore.
These forms of energy are also much more affordable for the customers that use it. This is because renewable energy is cheaper, since it costs nothing to produce. And even when the sun isn’t out, and the wind isn’t blowing, battery technology has come so far that it is more than adequate to sustain energy levels when renewables are not available.

“This is our home, we have to change,” implored Gore as many of the people in attendance nodded in agreement. When asked by an audience member what can one person do to incite change from a less influential position, Gore listed his four suggestions: Learn about the subject, win the conversation (meaning don’t let individuals in denial go unchallenged), be forceful in making change amongst your own social circles, and be politically active.

Al Gore has been a force for change in the fight for protecting our environment. And we all can be an influence of change for our friends, families and communities. But if you don’t believe me, let Mr. Gore tell you why:

A Park Visit on the Rocks

A few hundred New Yorkers invaded the Naumburg Bandshell section of Central Park on February 11 to see an uncommon sight: craftsman from Long Island City’s Okamoto Studios carving blocks of ice into original works of art.

Using a variety of tools, ranging from chisels to chainsaws, the sculptors turned over 6,000 pounds of ice into iconic characters from Lewis Carroll’s classic tale, Alice in Wonderland.

The roar of chainsaws could be heard from several hundred yards away as the artists manipulated the blocks into their pre-determined shapes. Yet getting an up-close look at the works in-progress was no easy task.

While the park did have several police officers and organizers nearby, the event was far from a smooth undertaking for visitors. As one would expect with a free event, there was not much in the way of organized lines. People had to push and pull their way through a mass of humanity to get closer to the stage, where the show took place.

The MC during the event did keep on-lookers entertained with Central Park Conservancy trivia questions. Ranish, a 24-year-old visitor from Portland, Oregon, appreciated that aspect of the event. “I liked how it was interactive with questions,” he said.

Ranish came with his friend Prithvi—a Seattle, Washington, native who now lives in Washington Heights. “It clearly takes a lot of skill to do what they do,” said Prithvi as she watched the ice sculptors in action. However, the event was a bit chaotic. “It was a bit of a mess,” said Ranish.

If the stress of fighting to see statues made of ice was too much, visitors could visit a sculpting station where kids and adults could make their own works of art. There was also a plethora of food trucks to fill bellies on a chilly day.

After the sculpting finished, patrons in the park were able to attend a silent disco. A silent disco is similar to any party out in the park. However, the 80s and 90s tunes being spun by two DJ’s were filtered into headphones supplied by Quiet Events—specialists in the field of silent parties.

Will 2017 See the End of Obamacare?

In 2017, the possible end of Obamacare will be a major news story to follow. With attacks on two fronts, the Obama administration could see one of their most notable policies disappear. Or be changed in a way where it is no longer recognizable.

In this audio report, we analyze the problems that may spell doom for Obamacare in the new year. While the system has been beneficial to millions of Americans, its inherent flaws have dogged it since its inception.

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The Unstoppable Support, Meets the Immovable Trump

Donald Trump has turned himself in a political unicorn. In a format where hopefuls for office must walk a public relations tight rope, Trump has thrived using political tactics that are often detrimental to a campaign. In an April 2015 tweet (which was then deleted), Trump said, “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?” These are the moments that have shown how the Trump-icorn seems impervious to bad press.

Political campaigns in America are often a popularity contest. Missteps in this process can easily alienate voters, and permanently damage any run for office. Yet, since Donald Trump entered the race to be the GOP representative for president, he has verbally bucked many common sense trends of previously successful campaigns.

“[Trump] has built his brand around saying things no one else will say, and when he does, he just reaffirms what it is he said he would do,” says Mike Morey, Managing Director of SKDKnickerbocker. SKDKnickerbocker is a public affairs agency that gives consultation to Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations, and candidates for public office.

In the spring of 2015, Donald Trump made it official that he was running for president. And because of this, all of his actions would be scrutinized like never before. One of his earliest comments at the beginning of his run, was the aforementioned tweet about Hillary Clinton’s ability to satisfy her husband. It is the kind of derogatory comment that should hurt a campaign in its early stages. Yet by June, he was actually up three percentage points. Giving him 12 percent of the support amongst republican voters.

As 2015 entered its summer months, Trump too started to heat up. A topic of focus at the time was Trump’s thoughts on American relations with Mexico. In June, he made it publicly know his desire (if elected president) to build a wall on the US/Mexico border. He explained why in a July tweet when he said, “billions of dollars gets brought into Mexico through the border. We get the killers, drugs and crime, they get the money!” And of course, since they were getting the money, he felt the Mexican government should be the one paying the bill to build his wall.

 

Trump has also been quoted as saying, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us.” He continued, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” These comments were viewed as offensive by many Mexican and Mexican-Americans. Yet by August of 2015, just like in June, Trump’s poll numbers again rose. In a Quinnipiac University poll, his support among Republicans was at 28 percent.

Once winter came around, the Trump campaigns focus moved on to Muslims and Muslim-Americans. The topic of Islamic refugees was leading the news cycle because of the humanitarian crisis brought on by war in Syria. However, Trump used the subject as an avenue to proclaim his thoughts on Muslims in a much broader scope.

In November, he told Yahoo News he would be open to the idea of requiring Muslims within the country to register with a government database. Or possibly have them carry specialized identification cards. Yet he did not stop there. He also indicated a willingness towards constant surveillance on these people, and warrantless searches of mosques.

Despite his divisive views on Mexicans and Muslims, the immovable object that is the Donald Trump campaign stood firm. At the start of 2016, Trump moved to the front of the pack as the favorite to be the GOP representative for president. In a CNN poll in January, Trump had 41 percent support from the party’s voters. The next closest was Texas senator Ted Cruz at 19 percent.

During his run for the Republican nomination, his April 2015 tweet about Clinton weren’t his only unsettling statements regarding women. In an interview with Hugh Hewitt last year, he said he supported the notion of shutting down the government just to defund Planned Parenthood. Planned Parent has been a lightning rod subject for Americans with different religious ideologies about pregnancy.

He also took aim at Fox News host Megyn Kelly, after her moderation of the first Republican presidential debate in 2015. He was questioned about his history of disparaging remarks towards women. This upset Trump and put Kelly in his crosshairs. During an interview with CNN, Trump spoke about his frustrations with Kelly’s moderation style when he said, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her—wherever.” Which would seem to allude to a woman’s monthly menstruation as the force behind her line of questioning during the debate.

 

In the face of disapproval from Mexican-Americans, Muslim-Americans, and many female voters, Trump now stands toe-to-toe with Hillary Clinton in a race for the presidency of the United States. And despite his questionable comments, there is clearly a contingent of Americans who agree with Trump’s views and will support him in November.

“In large part, [Trump supporters] see him as a megaphone for articulating the anxieties they have and have been afraid to articulate for fear of being called racist, xenophobic, sexist or bigoted,” Mike Morey notes, when trying to explain Trump’s rising numbers. “Unfortunately, there are large sectors of the American public who hold fringe values and have been rightfully marginalized. They are feeling a bit more empowered as Trump has brought some of their perspective into the mainstream.”

In May of this year, a CNN poll had Trump 13 points behind Clinton for support among likely voters. In August he was just three points behind in a Morning Consult Survey. By September he was either two points behind Clinton (ABC News/Washington Post), four points ahead (LA Times/USC), or tied (CBS News) in certain national polls.

Trump’s ability to circumvent debatable campaign maneuvers is incomparable. In 1972, Edwin Muskie was a front-runner for winning the democratic nomination for president. During his campaign, a New Hampshire newspaper published two editorials that made scandalous claims about the Maine senator. To combat the accusations, he gave an impromptu press conference in front of the newspaper’s offices. The media there, to report the press conference, said Muskie got emotional and shed tears. His aides said it was falling snowflakes melting on his face. Muskie never got the nomination for the democratic party.

Bob Dole fell off of a stage at a rally in California during his presidential race against Bill Clinton, in 1996. The image of an elderly man—he was 73 at the time—falling down while just trying to shake hands, underscored the age gap between the two candidates. And possibly pushed some voters towards Clinton.

Though all of these pale in comparison to some of the notable moments in the Trump campaign. Those mens’ run for office floundered soon after those political miscues. Trump has only gained steam from what should have been poison pills for his campaign. Yet it would seem the American standard for what we expect from political candidates has greatly changed.

“The fact is a presidential candidate asked Americans to go view a sex tape of a former beauty pageant winner [Alicia Machado] and mocked a disabled reporter [New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski] on national television, and yet he is still considered a viable candidate for the presidency,” says Morey. “That should tell us all we need to know about what society is willing to accept in a political leader.”

Morey furthers his point about the change in standards when he harkens back to the 2008 presidential election when he says, “Since the vice presidential candidacy of Sarah Palin, we have entered an era of entertainment politics, where formally crass and amateur qualities that would have sunk someone, are now almost assets in a two-year reality show for the presidency of the United States.”

Now, in his latest moment of controversy, a recording from 2005 has been released of Trump making inappropriate comments. During a planned interview with the television show Access Hollywood, in a down period when microphones were thought to be off, Trump cavalierly spoke about fondling and kissing women in a non-consensual manner. He claimed his celebrity status allowed for the behavior. It is now just another test for American standards of what is acceptable behavior from elected officials.

Donald Trump’s campaign of hard line stances and alienating proclamations has been groundbreaking. Not because this is a new tact for aspiring politicians, but because it has actually worked. What it says for our society is that we have altered what we see as acceptable behavior from politicians—for the worse. And an individual who would never have even made it past his own party’s primary in previous elections, is possibly weeks away from holding the highest position on the planet.

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The Growth of a Culture in a Foreign Land: Japanese-Americans

During this semester I had the opportunity to choose a specific ethnic community, or beat, to cover. I chose to follow the Japanese-American community. And with that coverage came the creation of my site dedicated to it—Rooted in Japan. But even that site doesn’t fully give a proper perspective on this population of people. I hope to remedy that in this profile.

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Rumored VP Picks for Hilary Clinton – Via AOL News

Hilary Clinton looks to be a near lock to win the Democratic party’s nomination for Novembers presidential election. Despite Bernie Sanders’ best (and quite valiant) efforts. Now is the time to ponder on possible running-mates for the former Secretary of State’s official campaign ticket. This great piece, from AOL News, goes in depth on the pros and cons of the rumored candidates for this coveted position.

But since this is a post on a political novices’ site, here are my amateur thoughts on the names possibly up for the spot.

Massachuesetts Senator Elizabeth Warren: It seems like a great pick because of her stance against Wall Street. But as sad as it is to say, in our current political climate, the possibility of certain voters having a problem with an all-female ticket seems likely. I would love it, but I would love to see the Dem’s win even more. And this may be more detrimental to the ticket, for some close-minded voters.

Bernie Sanders: I would be thrilled if this was the choice. He would totally bring in the voters disinterested with Clinton’s views and electrify the ticket. But the article makes a great point, candidates hope to pull more towards the middle with their VP choice, instead of further away. And Bernie will pull everything way left. But with the GOP divided, maybe that’s not a bad thing?

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley: Seems like the traditional pick for a VP–safe. He is non-controversial, while having a solid legislative resume. Not exciting but sensible.

Vice-President Joe Biden: This one is intriguing for sure. And adds some serious cache to the ticket. The only worry I have is, does this push away the Democrats that haven’t been thrilled with the Obama regime? It surely wouldn’t add Republican voters. It may not be a good idea to directly connect the ticket to the Obama presidency since it has been divisive in the party.

Former President Bill Clinton: Fascinating, but yea, no. It may not even be possible, legally, anyway.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián  Castro: He also isn’t an exciting option, but he does seem like the right fit. Youthful while having a connection to the inner-city and the plight of the middle class, because of his role in the current cabinet. Also having a choice that brings in the very important Latino vote sounds like a smart decision.

Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Make your voice heard in the comments below.

Six New Jersey Newspapers Call for Governor Chris Christie to Resign

When you are out of your own state for 261 days to serve your own agenda, or that of others, one has to expect ramifications. Especially when you endorse one of the most divisive presidential candidates in recent memory. Governor Chris Christie is starting to feel some serious heat.

Though I doubt a resignation is coming any time soon, the former GOP candidate hopeful has a lot of making up to do with his constituency.

Scientists are floored by what’s happening in the Arctic right now – Via Washington Post

Pretty scary stuff. Here is a key excerpt from the Chris Mooney piece:

Impacts of Arctic warming are usually considered in isolation, and that’s a mistake, he says [Rafe Pomerance]. “It’s unraveling, every piece of it is unraveling, they’re all in lockstep together,” Pomerance says. “What tends to happen is, everybody nationally reports on the latest piece of news, which is about one system. You hear about the sea ice absent the temperature trend. So you really have to think of it as a whole.”

You can read the whole piece at the Washington Post site here.

Government: Mastering Misinformation

Freedom of speech and of the press we have a Americans is an important luxury at our disposal. It is a constitutional opportunity to express our opinions while trying to inform ourselves about our world. But what happens when the government that gives us these privileges are as honest as a press secretary trying to misdirect questions from the controversial truths of the official they work for?

When this country was founded, the forefathers had to know even they could never be fully trusted. They encountered the difficulties that came from questionable governance in their homelands.  John Dalberg-Acton once said “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Being in a position of power, along with compliance from the individuals who believe in that authority, often leads to a need to maintain said power.

Unfortunately, in American history our government has undertaken many projects that would put their ethics in an unflattering light and would make citizens call for great change. To avoid an all-out revolution, our government has become very skilled at framing and molding a story into one that seems plausible to Americans—despite facts contradicting them. In the end, misinforming the media, and letting them do the work of gaining trust with the public, is one of the best weapons a government has the ability to employ.

After the attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the eventual invasion of Afghanistan, our government told us that Iraq had become and even deadlier threat than the terrorist group Al Qaeda; masterminds of the 9/11 attacks and cause of the Afghan invasion. Former Vice President Dick Cheney was quoted as saying, “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein (President of Iraq) now has weapons of mass destruction.” Yet that was never truly the case.

030402-N-5362A-004 Southern, Iraq (Apr. 2, 2003) -- U.S. Army Sgt. Mark Phiffer stands guard duty near a burning oil well in the Rumaylah Oil Fields in Southern Iraq. Coalition forces have successfully secured the southern oil fields for the economic future of the Iraqi people and are in the process of extinguishing the burning wells that were set ablaze in the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Operation Iraqi Freedom is the multi-national coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and end the regime of Saddam Hussein. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson. (RELEASED)

In 2012 Jeremy R. Hammond wrote an essay for the Foreign Policy Journal analyzing the release of a CIA document titled “Misreading Intentions: Iraq’s Reaction to Inspection Created Picture of Deception”. He explained that the document tried to convey a message of poor intelligence being the force behind armed forces heading into Iraq. However, “there was no such ‘intelligence failure’. On the contrary, there was an extremely successful disinformation campaign coordinated by the CIA in furtherance of the government’s policy of seeking regime change in Iraq.” And for a country that can get the intelligence to land a scud missile on a house 1,000 miles away, it is hard to believe the regime would blindly believe poor intelligence that would lead many enlisted men and women’s lives to being put in danger. The media was sold a great story, and they did their job and passed it on to the public.

The events of a second war in Iraq are part of a long history the U.S. government has with misleading its citizens. Another example is in 1996 when the San Jose Mercury News released their article “Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion”. The piece by Gary Webb detailed the alliance between the Nicaraguan Contras; a revolutionary group trying to overthrow the Sandinista Junta National Reconstruction government; and the CIA. Through this relationship the CIA turned a blind-eye to representatives of the Contras selling drugs to dealers in the U.S., which helped to fund their campaign. The belief was that the CIA and the Contras shared a common goal of regime change.

Soon after the release of the article counter-pieces came out from the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times questioning the allegations and integrity of Webb. This push to discredit him, along with veiled threats from the government are depicted in the motion picture Kill the Messenger. Unfortunately for Webb, this vigorous backlash may have led to his eventual suicide. The eventual release of Department of Justice documents admitting to the CIA’s backing of the contras drug trafficking posthumously makes the tale all the more tragic.

Sometimes suspicious motives are undertaken by the holder of the highest office in the country. They too do not take kindly to the threat of losing their status. And they are willing to use all of the power designated to them to hold that position.

In 1972 the Washington Post discovered the deplorable events that took place at the Watergate Hotel. Offices working for the Democratic National Committee were burgled by officials operating on the orders of then President Richard M. Nixon. It has never been discovered what the motive of the break in was, but it was another instance of the government (in this case the President) taking part in actions that were done to maintain their hold on power.

Of course despite the explosive information revealed through the work of the authors of the story, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the White House still denied the connections alleged in the article. In a couple of speeches after the new broke, Nixon denied any truth in the piece and tried to persuade the public to believe in his credibility. This led to his heavily quoted line “I am not a crook”, a quote that is heavily played over and over in any video documenting his career in office. Despite the push to mislead the country, these unethical actions helped to eventually force Nixon to resign from his position as President.

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Daniel Ellsberg

In some scenarios, it takes brave citizens working for the government to take it upon themselves and risk their long-term freedom to inform their fellow Americans about dubious undertakings by their administration.

This leads me to the next episode on this hit list of governmental suppression, the infamous “Pentagon Papers”. This moment in June of 1971 is one of the most well-known instances of a whistleblower coming forward to release classified documents to the press. Daniel Ellsberg, while working for an independent contractor for the government, became disillusioned with the project he had long been working on. In a moment of determined patriotism, he handed over a great deal of files to the New York Times and Washington Post. The papers showed a long history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and a grand campaign to undermine the country’s regime. This anti-communist crusade stretched over multiple presidential regimes, including those of Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon.

With the release of the first set of documents the government sought to get the distribution of more documents stopped, on the grounds that it would cause “immediate and irreparable harm” to U.S. national interests. After two weeks of litigation, the courts upheld the publications’ rights to continue publishing the papers. Though that did not stop the Nixon administration from doing their best to tarnish the credibility of Ellsberg as the story became global news. He was also put on trial for treason via the Espionage Act of 1917. Fortunately he was found innocent of treason and later that year the papers were put into book form and released in totality to the world.

Daniel Ellsberg was far from the last whistleblower to blow the doors off of the governments secret deeds. In June of 2013, National Security Agency contracted employee, Edward Snowden leaked information pertaining to the departments program for spying on everyday American citizens. Through a surveillance program known as Prism, the NSA was tapping the servers of companies like Facebook, Google and Yahoo. Along with that they also forced Verizon to hand over telecommunications data daily. The story went from national to international news when it was also revealed that Great Brittan’s version of the NSA, the GCHQ (Government Communications Head Quarters), were also using intelligence gathered from the Prism program.

It was an unprecedented moment in the disillusion of the relationship between citizens and the defense departments supposedly protecting them and their interests. Now it seemed that the NSA was as much aware of many harmless Americans daily lives as they were.

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Edward Snowden

Snowden entrusted the files to Guardian writer Glen Greenwald. The paper disseminated the information and unleashed a firestorm of controversy throughout the NSA and the communication industry. Of course, the government took steps against Snowden that were similar to the ones they used against Daniel Ellsberg. To discredit him and defend the purposes of these secret programs that appeared to seriously violate the privacies of many Americans. Snowden too was a target in the crosshairs of the legal weapon that is the Espionage Act. However, knowing the government would reign down on him with all of its power, Snowden fled the country well before the documents were ever released. The documentary film Citizen Four actually follows the historic moments as they unfold. Filming Snowden as he, the filmmaker and Greenwald meet covertly in a Chinese hotel. Snowden goes as far as putting a blanket over him while using his laptop, because he is so fearful that the government has eyes always watching, even in the most unlikely of places.

Whistleblowers like Ellsberg and Snowden’s actions while technically illegal, did a service for the American media and the public it informs. It was the rare instances when the government couldn’t misinform news companies with contrasting facts, because the media already had undeniable facts in hand.

One of the most grotesque examples of misinformation by the government happened during the Central Intelligence Agencies utilization of the Mockingbird Program. During this initiative, which stretched out during the 1950s to the 70s, the CIA purchased the public standing of many journalists working for media outlets globally. Through these secret relationships, the agency had these writers spread propaganda and their news companies suppress the reporting of news events, to manipulate public opinion. Unlike the previously mentioned events where the government took a stance of damage-control to salvage credibility after information was released, this was an unseemly strategy to control the media and lie to the public via the publications of respected media companies.

Without a doubt we live in a country that is more advantageous towards free speech and privacy. We are not citizens of a government that runs news stations that serves the federal agenda. Unfortunately, that does not mean our government won’t try and subvert those privileges to serve its goals. Thankfully our constitution does allow for the public to pull the curtain back on these secret plots and be the watchdog not only amongst ourselves, but for our own authority figures. Or is that what the government wants you to think?

For Many Religions the End Times Are Inevitable

For many people on this rock we call earth, the end of our existence isn’t just possible, it’s inevitable. The Apocalypse, The End Days, The Rapture, Ragnarok, The Kali Yuga or Yawm al-Qiyāmah. These terms provoke feelings of dread, anxiety and excitement among followers. But, while the names are very different, the details of how the world comes to an end are not as dissimilar as you would think.

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