Slave labor isn’t dead; it’s just fighting fires

Photo via Pixabay

The tragic fires sweeping through southern California have resulted in dozens of deaths and have brought out only the best of the best to help contain the rampant flames. While many of the best include the Los Angeles and Santa Barbara Fire Departments, it also includes local prisoners.

Several thousand prisoners throughout the state have volunteered for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation volunteer firefighting program, which entails prisoners taking on the role of conservation specialists. When they are providing hard physical labor such as cutting down trees, helping in the upkeep of state parks and assisting in tasks meant to protect areas from floods, these inmates only earn $2 a day. If they happen to be taking their stances on the front lines with highly trained California wildfire fighting professionals, they earn $1 an hour.

While many are reasonably terrified for the lives of California civilians caught in these wildfires the prisoners are fighting, there has been little conversation about prisoners who are putting their own lives at risk. Despite the influx of human rights protests and advocation for equality being that the year is 2018, slave labor is still very much in full force.

As previously reported by CNBC, prison firefighter advocates claim that along with saving the state millions of dollars every year in funding career firefighters, the program actually helps prisoners prepare for a career in the firefighting industry. While that is a nice intention, California law prohibits former prisoners from obtaining an EMT license – a requirement to become a firefighter in the state – such a career is actually impossible.  

The danger in permitting such a program is not that it provides much needed help to fight devastating fires throughout the state, but that it puts an already highly disadvantaged group into a disadvantaged situation that can likely cause lifelong medical issues and can even prove fatal. Being in the wake of intense fire and smoke can result in severe lung and heart complications and intense reactions in the ears, nose and throat that last for decades. Considering California Correctional Health Care Services only allocated $26,275 to the medical, dental and mental maintenance of prisoners in the entire state of California, there is hardly room for serious medical assistance if it was needed.

And of course, there is the issue of the money these prison workers earn. Even if one of these prisoners happens to be on the front lines 12 hours a day for a week, they will still have only earned $84, which is barely enough to cover getting basic needs such as deodorant, toothpaste, razors other hygiene items, and additional food. If that prisoner is a woman, much of that money will be lost to tampons or other feminine hygiene products. If the prisoner is responsible for providing for their family, which many are, that money would hardly put a dent in the family’s total income. That amount of money is negligent to the well-being of the prisoner.

Several firefighters have died within 2018 alone battling the wildfires that have taken over much of California and a few of those deaths are inmates. With the Santa Ana winds adding fuel to the fire, there is no telling how much damage the state’s slave labor system will have on the incarcerated population.

What Amazon’s new headquarters means for Long Island City residents

Photo by Li Cohen

The announcement that Amazon will be opening a new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens has thousands of New Yorkers in an uproar, and it may be for good reason.

While the company has promised that the move will bring 25,000 new jobs to the city, an investigation published in February shows a different scenario. The Economic Policy Institute found that Amazon’s fulfillment centers offered no net growth in jobs overall after being built. While there are new jobs offered, the displacement caused by the development of the site itself is practically devastating to the community and makes the new jobs offered essentially negligible.

It is also essential to factor in the cost automatically associated with the state allowing Amazon to move its headquarters into Long Island City. New York officials offered the company more than $1.5 billion in tax credits and $500 million in construction funding, as well as funding for a helipad.

Residents of Long Island City and surrounding areas have already expressed concern over gentrification. LIC is a minority-majority neighborhood, with 41 percent of residents being immigrants. The cost of living in the city has most families paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent and 19 percent of residents living in poverty.

Despite the city’s original plans to use the headquarter location around Anable Basin for much-needed apartments, public education services and tech jobs, Amazon will occupy the four-million-square-foot area directly on the East River. They hope to double that area over the next decade, displacing more people, more jobs and more businesses within the area.  The recently upgraded Anable Basin includes 335,000-square-feet of space for creative purposes, 4,995 housing units – 25 percent of which is affordable housing – a public school, water recreation, and numerous small businesses.

Protests about the plan flared up within 24 hours of the announcement. ABC 7 reported one LIC resident saying that if Amazon wishes to make its way to her city, they need to invest back in the area’s infrastructure. She told reporters that having a new and large distribution center from a major company is going to cause a spike in rent and basic goods. Others are saying that the money spent on Amazon should be spent on fixing New York’s transportation issues, housing, schools and small businesses.

Long Island City was selected for Amazon’s new location along with National Landing in Arlington, Virginia out of 238 bids from cities last year. The exact logistics of the move to New York have not yet been announced, but Amazon expects to begin hiring people in early 2019.

Embrace the Challenge Pt. 2

There are times when everything seems to be going right, but then, all of a sudden, it seems to go completely wrong. That great job falls through, the new apartment that offered such a great deal is actually terrible, or, in my case, that dream school is no longer a possibility.

When these seemingly unfortunate events happen, it’s OK to be sad, angry, and bewildered. Humans are meant to express emotion and disappointment is an emotion. It’s a sucky emotion, but hey, it happens. The important thing to remember is that everything happens for a reason. No matter what obstacles occur, it is all part of a bigger picture that will ultimately lead to the most ideal situation. But in order for that to happen, it is crucial to remain positive, flexible, and open to every opportunity that presents itself.

I’d be lying if I said that not being able to go to American University because of finances doesn’t absolutely break my heart. Throughout the last few days, I cried (a lot), yelled, and indulged in a bit too much wine, but I’ve also realized that it is not the end of the world. A school does not define me. A location does not determine my potential. Choosing another option does not mean I’m a failure.

There are infinite opportunities in this world. The inability to take one of them is not worth the heartache. Yes, it will be stressful and upsetting, but do not let that one loss dictate your ability to realize all that you can gain.

Embrace the challenge and embrace everything life brings.

Proud to be an American¿

It might be midnight, but I’m way too excited to sleep because….

*drum roll please* ​

​…I’m officially attending American ​University next fall! That’s right. You’re favorite coffee addict is going to pursue journalism at the watering hole of the media world (I’m comin’ for ya Washington Post). 

For someone who never even wanted to go to grad school, I really haven’t been able to contain my excitement. Getting accepted into AU’s Masters in  journalism program just feels like Christmas morning, which is kind of a big deal (yes, I’m Jewish and I freakin’ love Christmas). 

So, for all those in Washington, D.C., here’s your chance to prepare. Hide your coffee, hide your pens, cause I’m gonna be taking over all of your newspapers up there.

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Post-Thanksgiving Tummy Talk

My Fellow Coffee Addicts & News Enthusiasts,

Thanksgiving 2016 was one for the books. Not only was it the first full holiday I spent with my incredible boyfriend and his family, as well as his and I‘s birthdays (yes, two Sagitarrius independents can make relationships work), but it was a week beaming in love and bliss. 

The weekend was filled with stargazing, warm fires, and wondrous cheer. The winter holidays are the most joyous time of the year, and with tummies full of Turkey and green bean casserole, clothes covered in warm fleece, and hearts filled with love, it’s hard to kick off the holiday season without happiness. 

Now that the weekend is over, and we have but a few weeks until Christmas is upon us, it’s time to revamp some items in life to prepare for the new year. After having an outdated website for so long, I am pleased to announce that my new site is finally up and running! In journalism, and just about every other career field, it’s crucial to continuously update your personal brand (vintage only looks good on home decor). 

So with my stomach still full and the ease of stress still upon me, I prepared the latest and greatest website that has everything you need to know about your favorite Christmas-loving Brooklyn Princess. The next few weeks are going to be filled with some exciting adventures, so stay tuned to find out what’s going on in my crazy, wonderful, kinda sorta weird life. 

With Peace & Love,

Li Yakira 


*NEWS* Woman suffers medical crisis during flight

A woman on board American Airways flight 1525 to Portland, Oregon experienced a medical emergency about an hour into the flight today.

At approximately 9:45 a.m., the woman suddenly became unresponsive to her husband when the passenger sitting next to her realized she needed help. The second passenger was a nurse who recognized that the woman had a low pulse and quickly got the flight attendant’s attention.

The attendants quickly found two doctors who were on board to assist. Crew members provided the doctors with a medical kit, oxygen tank and blankets to help with the care.

The doctors believe a combination of factors, including past breathing problems, contributed to the emergency.

The woman recovered shortly and spent the remainder of the flight lying down in the row of seats with her feet elevated. She was accompanied by her husband, who expressed much gratitude to the doctors, nurse, and crew members who were on board.

Flight attendants reacted to the crisis quickly and efficiently and other passengers assisted in whatever ways they could. American Airlines filed an incident report and the woman made a full recovery by the end of the flight.

No one involved was available for comment.

A Lesson on Judgment

We are all human. Yes, all of us.

That means that the feelings you have within your soul are the same exact feelings the person next to you has. Whether they are on display for the world to see or they are hidden from the universe, they still exist.

It doesn’t matter if you’re strangers sharing a bench, meeting for the first time, or the best of friends. All that matters is that you understand the concept of what it means to fulfill the purpose of human beings–to show compassion and live with love.
We are all doing our best to get through another day.
We are all attempting to jump over the hurdles that life puts on our tracks.
We are all trying to find a way to count our blessings in the morning so that we can remain positive.
We are all trying to live and not just be alive.

When you’re in a line with someone, say hello. If you hear someone sneeze, bless them. When you meet someone who doesn’t seem to be happy, do something to make them smile. You never know what someone else is going through, and if you choose to ignore their well-being, the universe will do the same to you.

Casting judgment on others is only an outward expression of casting judgment on yourself. When you want to understand your self-image, pay attention to how you treat others.

Love upon others begins with love for oneself.