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Resilience Still Matters: Recovery and Rebuilding after the Storm

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Source: Courtesy of Mr. Alvincent Hutson

“We cannot stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn’t have to be lost if there wasn’t enough disaster preparedness.”- Petra Nemcova, Czech Supermodel and Founder of Happy Hearts Fund, a nonprofit organization that rebuilds safe, resilient schools in areas impacted by natural disasters.

The recent slew of hurricanes from Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Jose left significant and catastrophic damage in parts of both Southeastern US and the Caribbean. Given the magnitude of each storm and its aftermath in those regions, extensive recovery and rebuilding phases are well underway with no specific timetable of when everything (electricity, drinking water, passable roads, etc.) will be fully restored.

Aftermath of hurricane Irma

Source: Courtesy of Mr. Alvincent Hutson

Puerto Rico, which luckily survived Hurricane Irma, unfortunately suffered severe and devastating damage from Hurricane Maria as it destroyed much of the island’s critical infrastructure. Even worse, this US commonwealth faces $70 billion of municipal debt that still needs to be repaid. These are just one of the many ongoing struggles that they will endure both now and long-term.

Hurricane Irma destruction

Source: Courtesy of Carlos Giusti/AP

In order for Puerto Rico or any other devastated place to restore itself from a natural disaster, it requires infinite patience, diligence, persistence, and optimism. Most of all, it takes both a community and its people to be strong, passionate and compassionate, while pulling together all their available and incoming resources to rebuild stronger than ever before.

Along the way, there are fears, worries, and doubts from people living in those affected areas.

Hurricane Irma

Source: Courtesy of Mr. Alvincent Hutson

These negative feelings and stressful situations further reflect the urgent needs of people to immediately think of including finding housing and food, dealing with insurance companies and government agencies, and affording basic necessities (esp. fresh, clean water, medical supplies, fuel).

Hurricane Irma

Source: Courtesy of Mr. Alvincent Hutson

Cristina Chan, a teacher, recalls a conversation she had with her two sisters who were in Puerto Rico during the two storms. Her one sister, who lives in Rincon, described that the most challenging aftermath of this storm was the lack of power and fresh water available. Her son is sick and needs oxygen in his home. As a result, she needed to move him to Florida as soon as the airplanes were running in order to get him the treatments he needs. Her other sister “still lives in Puerto Rico and says she will never leave.”

In light of these pressing matters, an important theme that needs to be reiterated to these devastated areas is resilience. Resilience is vital for communities because it is the foundation needed to rebound from any type of disaster. One experience that Puerto Rico and the rest of the world can look to for inspiration, regarding resilience from a serious natural disaster, is Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane Irma

Source: Courtesy of REUTERS/Alvin Baez

Five years ago on October 29th, 2012, Sandy ravaged most of the Eastern US, including New York and New Jersey. This powerful storm damaged businesses and homes while also claiming 159 deaths (43 deaths accounted for in NYC). As a result, the estimated total damage cost from this storm was about $70.2 billion, making it the second costliest hurricane during that time. Sandy’s destruction was seen as an economic, environmental, and social disaster, which reflected in the long-term cleanup and recovery process. Despite the inherent obstacles and limited resources that Sandy posed to these communities, this storm presented an opportunity for the American people to display their acts of heroism and resilience. Every act of kindness sparked and rekindled the meaning of gratitude and generosity. Whether it was the incredibly talented and dedicated nurses at NYU Langone Medical Center who saved 20 babies while having to evacuate from the hospital due to power failure or the high school English and computer teacher who used her scooter in a resourceful way to assist needy residents in the Jersey Shore, their acts of heroism and resilience is something places like Puerto Rico should see as a source of inspiration and hope with their recovery efforts.

The lessons from Hurricane Sandy that should be applied to the recent storms are that people and communities must always stick together and support each other. Just like how people in NY and NJ dealt with the aftermath of Sandy, Puerto Ricans as a whole are strong, happy people who will continue to thrive, even in difficult situations, and continue working together to rebuild and restore its proud culture and heritage. Even in the storm’s toughest moments, resilience is the true spirit that will survive any natural disaster.

By: Francis Asprec

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Why Antisemitism Is Still a Huge Issue in the U.S.

Jeff Lam

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Star of David surrounded by Hanukkah candles

At the beginning of July, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver, DeSean Jackson, shared a number of posts that were both degrading and offensive towards the Jewish community.

The posts included quotes that were falsely attributed to Nazi dictator, Adolf Hitler. Since then, Jackson has acknowledged his mistake, apologizing for and deleting the posts. However, his doing so could just be a reaction to the backlash that he received after sharing those posts. 

At a time when the fight for equality has gained huge momentum with the Black Lives Matter movement, incidents like this show that, whilst we should continue to do everything we can to support the Black Lives Matter movement and social justice, we can’t afford to forget about the many other issues in the United States when it comes to racial inequality.

When Jackson shared those posts, there was instant outrage from people all over social media, not only from the Jewish community but also from people who are not Jewish at all; they all felt that Jackson had crossed a line with his social media activity.

His own team, the Philadelphia Eagles, ended up fining him for his actions, which were detrimental to the team. The Eagles even released a strong statement making it clear that they do not agree with any of Jackson’s views on the topic, and that his posts do not represent the beliefs of their organization.

Whilst it was nice to see his own team as well as people from the outside supporting the Jewish community, there were still others who felt that what DeSean Jackson did was not wrong at all.

For example, former NBA player Stephen Jackson commented that DeSean Jackson was both “educating others” and “speaking the truth.” 

The most shocking part about Stephen Jackson’s support of DeSean Jackson’s antisemitic posts is that just weeks prior, he was a huge figure in the Black Lives Matter movement.

He was a close friend of George Floyd and after Floyd’s death, Stephen Jackson was one of the most influential people in advocating for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Therefore, many people felt that he came off as being hypocritical after he had spent weeks prior fighting for equality for his community, yet in this instance had turned a blind eye towards another community being attacked.

However, Stephen Jackson has also since apologized for his statement and has said that his comments were twisted and did not represent his true standing.

NBA legend, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, criticized both Jacksons for their posts and shared a powerful Martin Luther King Jr quote; “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In other words, if we are fighting for racial equality and justice with the Black Lives Matter movement, we can’t afford to put down other races or religions. Doing so would just defeat the whole purpose of equality.

Newly-crowned Super Bowl champion and Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle, Mitchell Schwartz, took a different approach in reacting to DeSean Jackson’s posts. Schwartz, who is Jewish, did not criticize DeSean Jackson for his beliefs, but instead said that he believed DeSean Jackson’s actions came from a place of ignorance.

Schwartz, who played with DeSean Jackson in college, said that he doesn’t think DeSean Jackson’s intent was to promote hate. “I truly don’t think DeSean meant any sort of hate or anything,” he said. “I think it came way more from a place of ignorance.”

Inside a synagogue with white walls and pillars, with rows of wooden pews.
Source:

Since his posts, DeSean Jackson has reached out to members of the Jewish community, including several rabbis, Philadelphia 76ers owner Michael G. Rubin, and 94-year-old Holocaust survivor, Edward Mosberg. DeSean Jackson has also agreed to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, a museum dedicated to remembering the lives lost at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

DeSean Jackson has been very open-minded in these discussions and appears to have learned from his mistakes. Mitchell Schwartz has praised his former teammate for making efforts to educate himself, and he hopes that this experience will help DeSean Jackson understand what he did wrong and find a way to move forward in a better manner.

For years, Jews have been discriminated against all over the world; unfortunately, the United States is no less guilty than any other country when it comes to antisemitism.

DeSean Jackson’s posts were not the first antisemitic propaganda that made headline news and is unlikely to be the last. It is important for people to educate themselves, before making any inappropriate statements or claims. 

Learn about the history of the Jewish community and how Jews have struggled even way before World War II. The world is slowly making strides in fighting for racial equality with the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement.

A major goal of the current social justice movements is to make sure that people from all walks of life feel that the United States is a safe country for them to live in and that they do not have to worry about being attacked for who they are.

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Why wearing a mask is everyone’s business

Carolyn Martinez

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A dark-haired woman wearing a white medical mask.
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Almost 20 million people have contracted COVID-19 and there have been over half a million deaths as well. Public health experts have emphasized the use of face coverings to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. In response, extremist groups have taken to rallying against the use of masks, claiming the required use of masks is an infringement on their rights.

“Masks make us slaves,” mentioned a lady from Berlin. 

“Let kids be kids. No masks,” mentioned another from a Salt Lake City protest. 

The use of masks has been encouraged extensively for its effectiveness in retaining bodily fluid that spreads germs and, if contracted, COVID-19. There are countless graphics and scientific studies that prove the benefits of using masks in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

Even so, a Florida restaurant owner, against mandated mask use, offered an anti-mask extremist group free meals at his restaurant, which violated Orange County’s mandate to wear masks in public spaces. Now, Florida is the world’s new epicenter for the virus.

Many people protest outside of a building, people carry the US Flag and other flags, many people carry signs with black and red text.
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The use of masks, as well as the handle of the virus, has become a political topic to be debated rather than a humanitarian emergency.

When public officials require the use of masks, there is a perception that constitutional rights are being infringed. However, in that thought, there’s a selfish disregard for those that don’t have basic human needs met, such as access to proper healthcare. 

This pandemic has exposed the deep-rooted systemic disparities that exist in low-income families’ lack of access to healthcare.

Those that feel so inclined to attend rallies and protest the use of masks feel secure in their access to healthcare, the quality of treatment they may be receiving, and the fact that they can financially afford to be incapacitated by the virus. That is not a luxury that everyone has. 

A man with a beard and a black shirt shouts at a police officer with a mask on and a police uniform.
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Nevertheless, those against the use of masks are constantly in contention with the public officials that require them.

Treating masks as something worth debating invalidates the lives of those who don’t have any of the aforementioned luxuries.

Additionally, it creates an excess of conversation around something timely that can cost people’s lives. 

Some people have taken to social media to voice these protests.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color, but with the Black Lives Matter movement necessitating protest and attention, communities of color have had to endure two intense traumas.

Politicians have taken the opportunity to politicize the pandemic at the expense of communities of color. And as the aforementioned tweet pointed out, some people just don’t recognize oppression and thus minimize others’ experiences for their benefit. 

People have forgotten to listen to the real experts, those that are informed on the risks of the virus, and are knowledgeable about how it spreads and how to contain it. Instead, they focus on those wanting to start speculative arguments, while millions continue to die.

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4 Psychedelic Drugs That Are Shockingly Beneficial in Treating Mental Health Issues

Anna Leikvold

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Psychedelic drugs have been used across cultures for centuries, but only recently has modern science begun to tap into the potential use of these drugs as a mental health treatment.

The word psychedelic comes from two Greek roots: “psyche,” meaning mind/soul, and “Delos/delic,” meaning to reveal. Thus, the word translates to “soul/ mind revealing.”

Unfortunately, for this potentially revolutionary mental health treatment, the long-held stigma towards drugs continues to complicate research. For a while, this made it nearly impossible to continue looking into the potential benefits of psychedelic drugs. These restrictions are loosening, however, and the FDA has even called psilocybin therapy a “breakthrough therapy.” This means more and more researchers are able to study these drugs. The findings are often groundbreaking.

 Trials are currently underway to test psychedelic drugs including psilocybin, LSD, ketamine, and others in order to treat a predicted mental health epidemic that is beginning to occur as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While more research is needed, preliminary findings are shockingly successful in treating mental health issues including, but not limited to, PTSD, depression, drug addiction, and anxiety.

A red mushroom with white dots growing in dirt, referred to as a magic mushroom.
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Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms)

Research done with Psilocybin suggests that it may be successful in providing a lasting decrease in anxiety for people suffering from life-threatening diseases such as cancer. 

In combination with therapy, the drug helped 13 participants “grapple with loss and existential distress.” Nearly all participants reported that they developed a different understanding of dying after using the drug according to Gabby Agin-Liebes, BA, of Palo Alto University, who conducted the research.

“Participants made spiritual or religious interpretations of their experience and the psilocybin treatment helped facilitate a reconnection to life, greater mindfulness and presence, and gave them more confidence when faced with cancer recurrence,” said Agin-Liebes.

Another study suggests that psilocybin can be used on patients with treatment-resistant depression with promising results. The results show symptom improvements for the patients after just two psilocybin treatment sessions which remained significant 6 months after the treatment.

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca has played an important part in many South American traditional religions for centuries. This plant-derived psychoactive drug was first formulated by indigenous South Americans of the Amazon basin.

 Some communities that use the drug regularly still exist in the 21st century despite exploitative measures of Western nations who saw the drug as “uncivilized.” The substance is typically prepared by a shaman or religious guide and ingested by members of a religious group. The substance is regarded as a valuable tool in places of worship. 

Ayahuasca has only recently been studied as a potential treatment for depression and addiction, or for people coping with trauma. 

“We found that ayahuasca also fostered an increase in generosity, spiritual connection and altruism,” said Clancy Cavnar, PhD, with Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos.

Adele Lafrance, Ph.D., of Laurentian University, highlighted a study of 159 participants who reported on past use of hallucinogens and their emotions and spirituality levels. The study found that using hallucinogens related to a higher level of spirituality and emotional wellbeing as well as fewer symptoms of disordered eating, depression, and anxiety.

Swirling colorful patterns depicting the affects of LSD.
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LSD

A 2016 study found that after taking LSD, healthy participants reported increased optimism and trait openness. The study seems to reinforce the idea that psychedelics improve psychological wellbeing in the mid-long term.

 LSD, like Psilocybin and Ayahuasca, shows promise as a treatment for anxiety and depression among other conditions. It is also commonly reported to increase spirituality and, in turn, emotional wellbeing. 

In an interview with an anonymous source, they claimed that taking LSD substantially decreased their levels of social anxiety.

“Going into the trip, I set an intention to address my feelings of anxiety around my self-perception,” they said. “By focusing on this throughout the trip, I was shocked by how much happier I felt afterward.”
They say that the positive effects have continued in the months following the experience. “I can’t believe how much more self-assured I feel now. It is like night and day.” 

They want to remind everyone that it is a serious drug and not to underestimate the power of it, and not to abuse it. “If you are going to trip, you need to do a lot of research and be in a safe environment with people you trust.”  While they continue to experience long-term positive effects, they know it is not the same for everyone. 

MDMA

MDMA, more commonly known as ecstasy, is in its third and last phase of clinical trials and is hoping to win approval by the FDA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Findings from the study also suggest that the drug can help treat social anxiety in autistic adults when used in combination with psychotherapy. Twelve adults in the study with moderate to severe anxiety showed “significant and long-lasting reductions in their symptoms” according to the research. 

“Social anxiety is prevalent in autistic adults and few treatment options have been shown to be effective,” said Alicia Danforth, Ph.D., of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, who conducted the study. MDMA and therapy, based on this research, could be a potential breakthrough for this condition.

These studies only represent a small percentage of a larger database of information on the potential benefits of psychedelic drugs. While the findings are promising, more research is needed. Self-treatment using these drugs is risky and potentially dangerous.

If you are interested, contact a medical professional and continue to do extensive research before taking any type of psychedelic. Waiting until they are an FDA approved treatment option will be the safest and most effective way to treat any mental health condition.

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