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Waitt Foundation

Aside from the occasional joke about a pirate, how many of us actually think about outlaws in the oceans?

You seem ... blue. Image via Tiago Fioreze/Wikimedia Commons.


Normal, nonprofessional seafarers — like most of us — probably don't. That's the duty of ... who? Countries with coastlines? Nations have navies and law enforcement for that, right?

Image via DEMIS Mapserver/Wikimedia Commons.

Wellllll ... The New York Times looked into this in its series "Outlaw Ocean" and found out some tough truths about crimes that happen at sea.

Basically the open sea is the new Wild West.

GIF from "Once Upon a Time in the West."

While many countries, companies, and even the United Nations have written rules and laws, those laws are often weak. And get this — they're easy for criminals to break.

Typically, a ship sailing on the ocean can only be stopped by another law enforcement ship that shares the same flag. American law enforcement ships can only stop American ships and so on.

And if it is my flag? Maybe not even my problem then. Image via ACME Squares/Wikimedia Commons.

And most law enforcement agencies — even countries and their navies — just don't have the inclination or the ability to enforce the laws and rules anyway.

We're talking about ...

GIF via "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

GIF via "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

All hugely dramatic stuff, just being swept under the proverbial ocean rug.

So, when legit law enforcement turns a blind eye to legit problems, who ya gonna call?

Manta rays? No! We're gonna call someone else.

Sea vigilantes!

Yeah. Ideally we'd have legit help from official authorities. But much like Ghostbusters (only these problems are NORMAL, not paranormal), sometimes you gotta think outside the law enforcement box to get the solution started.

Here are the major players.

Have you heard of the Environmental Justice Foundation?

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

These folks won Seaweb's Seafood Champion Award in 2015 for their work monitoring illegal fishing in West Africa. Illegal fishing messed up the environment, and it's associated with some pain for humans, too.

"Illegal fishing is a widespread global problem and particularly prevalent in West Africa. It devastates vital ecosystems, ruins livelihoods, undermines food security and is associated with human trafficking and other labour abuses." — Steve Trent, executive director of the Environmental Justice Foundation

How about the movie "Blackfish"?

Remember the movie that makes everyone's favorite Twitterer, Cher, start using "SeaWorld" as a pejorative?

GIF via "Blackfish."

"Blackfish" didn't necessarily help with fighting crime on the high seas as much as it had a huge effect on keeping criminal things from continuing to happen to creatures that'd rather be swimming freely in the high seas.

This film was so effective in communicating the trouble with SeaWorld that it had an impact on SeaWorld's profits.

A documentary movie as crimefighter — what an unlikely hero.

I bet you've heard whispers of Greenpeace, too.

They're more than just those people you hear about yelling at whale murderers! (Though they do do that!)

Image by Roberta F./Wikimedia Commons.

They're out to save not just whales and fish but human beings being placed at risk for human trafficking by illegal fishing.

Their website states:

"The same unbridled economic interests that are driving destruction in our oceans are also allowing horrific labour practices and human rights abuses of workers in the seafood industry."

And it's right! To do their part to stop this madness, Greenpeace is working with the largest producer of canned tuna, Thai Union Group, and its largest brand, Chicken of the Sea, to get it together and stop massive labor violations on its supply chain.

What's perhaps my favorite part of sea crime fighting from Greenpeace involves no one getting on a boat ... but it involves investors in boats.

A fishing company in China that would've bought more vessels to fish big-eye tuna (which is already overfished) wanted to go public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Shares, stockholders, all that.

Greenpeace followed the tail of this Chinese fishing company, and it found some pretty FISHY (sorry, not sorry) finances.

According to Greenpeace's John Hocevar, the fishing company "acknowledged that overfishing was an issue, but said that there was so little enforcement it shouldn't be a problem! Greenpeace exposed their plans, and ultimately the public offering was cancelled."

Yep. After Greenpeace reported the problems to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the company, China Tuna, withdrew its plan to go public and ultimately lost around $150 million.

Greenpeace is a big name, and they have funding, and they're putting it to use to help people. Cool.

Actually, it's horrific labor practices! GIF via "Newlyweds."

And let's talk about a small but mighty aerial and satellite imaging company, SkyTruth.

Great name, right? Wait until you hear their motto.

"If you can see it, you can change it."


Satellite images are cool. But they can also be very very useful. Image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr.

Using satellite technology in partnership with an equally cool-named company, SpaceQuest, SkyTruth tracked a notoriously law-breaking ocean cargo ship, the Dona Liberta. This boat was seen suspiciously close to a huge dump of oily bilge.

As The New York Times Outlaw Ocean series reported, SkyTruth pointed out a stripe of dirty water (you could see it from space!) that "stretched about 92 miles from Cabinda, Angola."

With the possibilities of satellite technology, it could be much easier to keep an eye on the far reaches of the seas, cutting down on human trafficking, murder, and profiteering. Will governments continue to turn their back on enforcing laws? Or will they embrace technology and crack down on some egregious law-breaking?

I don't think it's a reach to say that we'd maybe rather have actual certified law enforcement enforce these laws. But until then, at least there are some sea cowboys — behind film cameras, on boats, and in satellites — out there lookin' out.

GIF via "A Fistful of Dollars."

Giddyup.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

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Prior to baby formula, breastfeeding was the norm, but that doesn't mean it always worked.

As if the past handful of years weren't challenging enough, the U.S. is currently dealing with a baby formula crisis.

Due to a perfect storm of supply chain issues, product recalls, labor shortages and inflation, manufacturers are struggling to keep up with formula demand and retailers are rationing supplies. As a result, families that rely on formula are scrambling to ensure that their babies get the food they need.

Naturally, people are weighing in on the crisis, with some throwing out simplistic advice like, "Why don't you just do what people did before baby formula was invented and just breastfeed?"

That might seem logical, unless you understand how breastfeeding works and know a bit about infant mortality throughout human history.

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Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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Your cat knows you better than you think.

Cats are often seen as being aloof or standoffish, even with their owners. Of course, that differs based on who that cat lives with and their lifetime of experience with humans. But when compared to man’s best friend, cats usually seem less interested in those around them, regardless of species.

However, a new study out of Japan has found that cats may be paying more attention to their fellow felines and human friends than most people thought. In fact, they could be listening to human conversations.

"What we discovered is astonishing," Saho Takagi, a research fellow specializing in animal science at Azabu University in Kanagawa Prefecture, told The Asahi Shimbun. "I want people to know the truth. Felines do not appear to listen to people's conversations, but as a matter of fact, they do."

How do we know they’re listening? Because the study shows that household cats often know the names of their human and feline friends.

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via Pexels

If you know how to fix this tape, you grew up in the 1990s.

There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

But, you gotta admit, that TV is still pretty damn good.

A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

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