More

Australia's new surveillance laws have Edward Snowden's full attention.

Women and minorities are disproportionately spied on, and Edward Snowden has had enough.

Australia's new surveillance laws have Edward Snowden's full attention.

While those of us in America were enjoying a long weekend of questionable origin, the Australian government passed some pretty crazy surveillance laws.

If you live in Australia, then basically every single thing you do involving telecommunications (Internet, phone, television — um, you know, life?) will be tracked and stored as metadata for two years. (Sound familiar?)

To put it mildly, this is a terrifying overreach of privacy. The fact is, even if the content of a message is hidden, the location and the people involved can reveal a startling amount about our personal lives.


Naturally, the newly Twitter-ified American super-patriot-at-large Edward Snowden had something to say about it.

Snowden then went on to tweet about the Tor Project, aka The Onion Router, a popular web browser that helps keep you anonymous by bouncing your computer signals across a dozen or so other computers.

Cool, cool ... but things really started to get interesting when Snowden brought up issues of power and control.

And then he got down to it:

Despite the fact that we are four times more likely to be struck by lightning than to be killed by a terrorist, the U.S. government spends $16 billion annually on anti-terrorism efforts — and a significant portion of that is spent spying on domestic "radical movements" like Black Lives Matter and Occupy. That's basically $500 million spent for every victim of terrorism.

You know what's even crazier? 90% of that money is spent snooping on normal people rather than persons of interest. Wouldn't that money be better spent — oh, I don't know — maybe fixing literally any of the ailments that plague our communities?

I'll be mulling that over the next time I'm waiting in line for airport security.

Of course, none of this is surprising to minorities who have lived their entire lives in a surveillance state.

Many of us (read: white people like me) know that Muslims are unfairly targeted by law enforcement. But surveillance overreach goes far beyond that — just check out the FBI's files on "black extremists" over the last 50 years. (Yes, 50 years. And remind me how many of those leads turned out to be terrorists?)

Shortly after the Snowden revelations first came to light in 2013, Free Press, the Center for Media Justice and Voices for Internet Freedom, hosted a forum in Washington, D.C., to address the fact that — well — none of this was actually that surprising.

During the forum, Seema Sadanandan, the American Civil Liberties Union's criminal justice director for the D.C. area, had this to say:

"The Snowden revelations really represent a terrifying moment for white people in this country, not just white people, but middle-class people, upper-middle class people, people who essentially on some level — consciously or subconsciously — believed in the document, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution, and believed that these were realities that were protecting their everyday lives. For people of color, particularly for people coming from communities with a history of discrimination, with a history of being surveilled, with a history of second-class citizenship, with a history of the type of economic oppression that prevents one from realizing any of those rights on a day-to-day basis, I think it was a little annoying and frustrating, like I told you so, I told you they were listening to all of our phone calls."

So while it's nice to see Snowden calling out the issue, it's even nicer to see him highlighting the voices of those who speak from firsthand experience.

Toward the end of his Oct. 12, 2015, Twitter spree, Snowden got into a conversation with activist and educator DeRay Mckesson:

Snowden's advice here isn't perfect or even revolutionary. But it was still nice to see his willingness to boost the voices of people like Mckesson and share that message with his 1.48 million followers instead of just speaking for the minority people being unfairly targeted.

Surveillance and inequality are both major problems in our country. But like many of the issues we face, they don't exist in isolation from each other.

It's an important thing to remember when we get into political debates. Sometimes, people trying to address issues in isolation get frustrated and say, "We're not talking about that right now!" When actually, we kind of are.

The important thing is that we all pay attention and that we all listen to each other. Because human rights issues affect all of us (hence the "human" part of the phrase).

And if we can find this kind of common ground on two things like surveillance and systemic racism, who knows what other connections we might find to unify our struggles?

In the meantime, here are a few ways you can help take action against mass surveillance.

Pexels
True
Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Photo by Naomi Hébert on Unsplash
gray steel 3-door refrigerator near modular kitchen

There's more to keeping a green kitchen than recycling your yogurt containers or opting to store your leftovers in glass Tupperware. Little things, like your trash bags, can add up, which is why it's important to try to reduce your footprint as much as possible. Fortunately, these sustainable kitchen products make it easy keep a green home!

Reusable Silicone Baking Cups



Reusable silicone cupcake liners save you money on having to buy disposable paper cupcake wrappers every time you bake. These sustainable cupcake liners are just as festive as anything you would throw away. Because the liners are made with a sturdier silicone, they can be used for other purposes, like arts and crafts projects.

Amazon Basics, $7.99 for a pack of 12; Amazon

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less
ZACHOR Foundation

"What's 'the Holocaust'?" my 11-year-old son asks me. I take a deep breath as I gauge how much to tell him. He's old enough to understand that prejudice can lead to hatred, but I can't help but feel he's too young to hear about the full spectrum of human horror that hatred can lead to.

I wrestle with that thought, considering the conversation I recently had with Ben Lesser, a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor who was just a little younger than my son when he witnessed his first Nazi atrocity.

It was September of 1939 and the Blitzkrieg occupation of Poland had just begun. Ben, his parents, and his siblings were awakened in their Krakow apartment by Nazi soldiers who pistol-whipped them out of bed and ransacked their home. As the men with the shiny black boots filled burlap sacks with the Jewish family's valuables, a scream came from the apartment across the hall. Ben and his sister ran toward the cry.

They found a Nazi swinging their neighbors' baby upside down by its legs, demanding that the baby's mother make it stop crying. As the parents screamed, "My baby! My baby!" the Nazi smirked—then swung the baby's head full force into the door frame, killing it instantly.

This story and others like it feel too terrible to tell my young son, too out of context from his life of relative safety and security. And yet Ben Lesser lived it at my son's age. And it was too terrible—for anyone, much less a 10-year-old. And it was also completely out of context from the life of relative safety and security Ben and his family had known before the Nazi tanks rolled in.

Keep Reading Show less
via WFTV

Server Flavaine Carvalho was waiting on her last table of the night at Mrs. Potatohead's, a family restaurant in Orlando, Florida when she noticed something peculiar.

The parents of an 11-year-old boy were ordering food but told her that the child would be having his dinner later that night at home. She glanced at the boy who was wearing a hoodie, glasses, and a face mask and noticed a scratch between his eyes.

A closer look revealed a bruise on his temple.

So Carvalho walked away from the table and wrote a note that said, "Do you need help?" and showed it to the boy from an angle where his parents couldn't see.

Keep Reading Show less