Cajun Navy Arrives in Carolinas To Assist With Florence Recovery

As much of the eastern seaboard braces for Hurricane Florence, the Cajun Navy is prepared to bring food, aid, and shelter to people who need it most. The group of citizen boaters organized a massive expedition into the Carolinas. Many are driving into the storm from Texas and Louisiana.

A Storied History

When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, boaters from Texas and Arkansas showed up to assist with the rescue effort. The Baton Rouge Advocate described the group when it assisted with another flood rescue years later:

“The heroes hailed from the Cajun Navy, the nickname for an impromptu flotilla of volunteers who had no admiral, no uniforms, no military medals awaiting them for acts of valor. It was conscience, not a commanding officer, that summoned them into treacherous currents to carry endangered citizens to higher ground.”

Last year, when Hurricane Harvey struck, Louisianans and Mississippians showed up for their neighbors in Texas. These volunteers coordinated a response effort that pulled people out of flooded homes and delivered them to safety. Though the organization accepts donations, most of the rescuers travel to disaster zones at their own expense.

Hurricane Florence

This time around, the Cajun Navy’s volunteers have more organization and technology than ever before. The group now coordinates with multiple government agencies. Boaters rely on secure radio technology to communicate in places with no cell service. This time around, they’ll even use a drone to survey the landscape and guide boats to stranded people. The Cajun Navy’s Texas captain, Taylor Fontenot, drove 18 hours to be ready for a massive recovery effort. He told KHOU news, “We have government contacts, DOD (Department of Defense), local military that will kind of guide us cause nobody wants to see what happened in Harvey and Katrina happen again.”

Forecasters predict that flooding from Florence could reach far inland. As residents evacuate, the Cajun Navy knows they’ll have their work cut out for them by a historic storm.

Trump, FEMA, Waffle House Advise Caution Ahead of Hurricane Florence

President Trump took to Twitter to urge Americans to be safe during Hurricane Florence. As the storm gains strength off the Carolina coast, Trump wrote, ‘It is imperative that everyone follow local evacuation orders. This storm is extremely dangerous. Be SAFE!” He’s not the only one calling on residents to prepare for the worst. FEMA  – and Waffle House – are both preparing to ride out the storm.

Waffle House Index

Back in 2004, FEMA started using an unofficial tool to measure the destruction caused by a weather event. The federal agency looked at how many Waffle House restaurants closed due to inclement weather. If Waffle House stays open, experts say, the community is doing well. The restaurant aims to stay open 24/7, every single day. It goes to great lengths to keep restaurants open whenever possible. The corporate office even opened a Storm Center to watch Florence’s path. As of yet, the company has not announced any restaurant closures, though that may change in the coming days.

FEMA also looks at when Waffle House locations offer a limited menu, or reopen after closure. The popular restaurant chain prepares its staff well in advance of a weather event. According to Reason, “When a storm is particularly bad, Waffle House provides its employees with a storm manual, which includes instructions on keeping personnel safe and serving up a limited menu of items that can be cooked without power, gas, or water. When a storm is completely devastating, Waffle House will close, usually because the building has been destroyed.”

In other words, if your local Waffle House closes, your neighborhood faces very severe weather. When a Waffle House reopens, FEMA takes it as a sign that the community is beginning to function somewhat normally again.

FEMA’s Advice

The federal agency in charge of disaster relief has advised people to follow evacuation orders from local and state authorities. In addition, the agency tells citizens to have a communications plan in place, stock up on food and drinking water, and be sure to have enough medication for anyone in your household who needs it. The agency maintains a preparedness website with additional instructions.

Although the wind speed dropped slightly from 140mph to 125mph, the storm expanded in size. Experts predict that Florence will drop torrential rain on much of the eastern seaboard. Now, residents are evacuating, and waiting to see the outcome of this large hurricane.

The Rock Faces Criticism After Aquarium Visit

After taking his family to the aquarium this past weekend, actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is facing a lot of criticism from animal rights supporters.

Johnson, along with his girlfriend and 2-year-old daughter, took a visit to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta where he posted some pictures from the trip on social media.

In one of the pictures, it showed the star and his family admiring a tank of whale sharks. The second picture had Johnson playing with a beluga whale, while another showed the actor smiling at a sea lion. He even shared a video of himself pretending to have a conversation with the sea lion.

The Rock and The Fish

While these images and video may seem harmless enough, many animal rights activists were quick to criticize the actor. They have been accusing Johnson of supporting animal captivity by visiting the aquarium. After sharing the pictures on Instagram, fans have been flooding the comments section with critical remarks.

On one of Johnson’s pictures, a fan commented,

“Animal cruelty and captivity should not be supported, let alone promoted. I thought you were a man of principles whose views would be against such concepts.”

Overly Sensitive Fans?

Despite the disapproval from some, others have come to the support of Johnson, praising him for supporting his local aquarium.

The ones supporting Johnson called out the critics for being too sensitive. They also defended aquariums, saying they are harmless institutions. Defenders claim that the animals born there wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild on their own.

In one of the comments defending the actor, it read,

“Man, when did visiting an aquarium become a crime?”

People support the Georgia Aquarium because it focuses on conservation efforts. It conducts research to improve methods of animal care and medicine. It also has many outreach programs to educate students on conservation and preservation programs.

Aquariums, zoos, and animal parks such as Sea World have been highly protested against by animal rights supporters. This cause regained a lot of momentum when the documentary “Blackfish” came out in 2013. It detailed the treatment of an orca whale in captivity in SeaWorld.

Johnson has not yet responded to the criticism.

Opinion: The Straw That Is Breaking My Back

by Mark Armstrong
Editor’s Note: This is an opinion piece written by one of our many petition creators on

Leave it to the masses to embrace stupidity in its purest form. Only once in a while will something so ridiculous gain traction that the world’s largest corporations will buy into such hysteria along with the masses. The hysteria du jour? Straws.

Starbucks, Disney, restaurants, cities are all banning plastic drinking straws mainly because a then 9-year-old, Milo Cress, called and asked some plastic companies how many straws they THINK people use in a day. The world took the theoretical research conducted by a 9-year-old and ran with it. 9, not even 10, and he’s creating movements with popularity researchers at MIT would die for. Cue the pandemonium.

The Hysteria Begins

As a result, cities started banning them, companies starting banning them, some even handing out jail time and fines to employees that GIVE THEM TO CUSTOMERS. Pair this bogus research with a viral video of a sea turtle getting one removed from its nose and you have a recipe for some good old-fashioned grassroots uprising against the notorious, hateful, evil plastic drinking straw.

I could go on about how people with disabilities rely on plastic straws for their ability rebound from being crushed, or I could tell you that it takes more energy to make paper straws, or even that metal straws are dangerous because of conductive properties, but clearly there is no room for real data or facts.

The truth is people who study waste management and pollution will be the first to tell you that plastic straws are not the problem. Over 99% of the trash in oceans comes from other countries. The 1% that the US is responsible for? The overwhelming majority of it is fishing trash. Abandoned nets, lines, etc. The rest is too diverse to qualify as anything specific.

So What Can We Do?

If anybody really cares about plastic waste, here’s a list of things to think about:

*Next party you may be at, don’t use that red cup. Or that plastic fork. Or that plastic drink stirrer. Or that plastic spoon. And don’t even think about sitting in that plastic Adirondack chair.

*Next time you are at Starbucks and you want a Frappuccino, think about how that lid on your drink was tripled in volume of plastic to accommodate your paper straw that is 4 minutes away from being soggy.

*Next time you go to a restaurant that serves anything plastic, ask them who they use for waste removal. Follow up with that waste company and ask about their processes, process auditing, quality assurance, recycling practices, and statements on ocean pollution.

*Next time you eat seafood, ask where it was sourced from. How it was caught, harvested, raised, and how much they trust the actual fishermen to not pollute by leaving nets and other equipment behind.

If we are serious about plastic, speak to the automotive industries. Your car is full of plastics. Talk to toy manufacturers, make sure they are operating to a standard you are satisfied with. Talk to food companies. How many products are bottled or jarred in plastic containers? What did you bring your leftovers in today?

My final thoughts: Calm down. Straws aren’t the problem. China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand are responsible for the oceanic pollution problem. Not our country, not our states, not our cities, not our restaurants, and not even our waste removal companies. Plastic isn’t evil, littering is.

This whole trend…sucks. I had to.

If you enjoyed this opinion piece, why don’t you start a petition of your own? You could be featured on NewsStand, too!

Lesser Known National Parks

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North Cascades National Park

Located in Washington state, this park has the highest number of record plant species of any national park in the United States.

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USDA Cyanide Animal-Killing Program Needs to End

A secretive government program that kills native carnivores and birds in great numbers might be losing support, after some locations in the United States have told the federal program to get lost.

The program, called “Wildlife Services,” is a U.S. Department of Agriculture invention that, officials claim, is for predator control. It uses aerial shooting, trapping, and even cyanide bombs called M-44s, killing millions of animals per year.

The program received national attention in March of 2017 when a 14-year-old boy and his dog came upon a device near the boy’s home in Pocatello, ID. When the boy touched the device – which looked like a sprinkler – it exploded, covering both boy and dog in cyanide. The dog convulsed and died at the boy’s feet.

The USDA called it an “unintentional lethal take” and said it would stop using the traps – but only on public land. The traps still exist on private land, a constant threat to domestic animals and even humans in the area.

Now, however, certain parts of the United States have notified the USDA that their “wildlife services” are not ethical, moral, or welcome. The editorial board of the Sacramento Bee asked Congress to end the use of poisons for lethal predator control and published an expose explaining just how bad the program is.

Meanwhile, other rumblings around the U.S. show that Americans may be waking up to the dangers of the USDA’s program.

In October, state and federal officials temporarily stopped a program meant to control mountain lions in Colorado after several wildlife and environmental law groups engaged in legal maneuvers against authorities. At the same time, 16 California counties were stopped by a federal judge from using cyanide traps, snaring, and aerial gunning of coyotes.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) have sponsored bipartisan legislation H.R. 1817 to ban the use of poisons by Wildlife Services. The bill is currently referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.

Wildfires Destroyed This Man’s Home; His Response is Inspiring

Wildfires in Santa Rosa, California and the surrounding area have destroyed over 3,500 buildings and forced 20,000 people to evacuate. Fire destroyed the homes and neighborhoods of people like John Graves.

Graves has lived in Santa Rosa for 25 years. He evacuated before the blaze engulfed his home, destroying it entirely. When an ABC7 reporter asked Graves about the devastation, his answer stunned and inspired.

Time to Rebuild

Graves said, “It’s mother nature at her worst, I guess. I’m sure everybody did there best, but it just didn’t work out. We’ll put her all back together. It’s only stuff.” Many people would feel angry or heartbroken after such a huge loss, but Graves is looking to the future. After the fire clears, Graves will rebuild. He has practical concerns, too: “I’m thinking I’m glad I’m insured!” he said. “It’s not an easy thing to take.”

The Kane Show, a radio show, highlighted this man’s thoughtful perspective. Now, Graves is inspiring people across the country.



Alleged Teacher Hoped Trump Voters Died in Las Vegas

Following the Las Vegas shooting, the nation mourned the 59 dead and hundreds injured by a gunman. Some, however, took the opportunity to wish death on their political opponents.

A twitter user who called herself @theresistANNce wrote, “Pray only trumptards die.” In the bio, this twitter user claimed to be a teacher.  No school district has verified the teacher’s identity or employment.

Following the tweet, @theresistANNce received a great deal of backlash, and she appears to have deleted her account, which is no longer active. Unfortunately, she was not the only person to let politics get in the way of condolences.

Political Posturing

Hayley Geftman-Gold, formerly a vice president at CBS, openly disrespected the victims, wrote on Facebook: “I have no hope that Repugs will ever do the right thing. I’m actually not even sympathetic to country music fans bc country music fans are often republican gun toters.”

In an official statement, CBS announced that Geftman-Gold’s post was unacceptable, and that she had been dismissed from the network. CNN’s Jeff Zeleny also thought it necessary to point out that many of the country music fans present might have been Trump supporters.

Even Trump opponents abroad made a mockery of the attack. Notorious British atheist Richard Dawkins openly derided the Second Amendment and those who support it. Dawkins tweeted, “Cool dude sertin’ he’s 2nd Mendment rahts. Hell yeah!” He continued, writing “Every country has its psychopaths. In US they have guns.”

In contrast, country music’s biggest stars offered their condolences to the victims and their families. A group of country musicians and fans gathered on Monday night for a vigil to honor those who tragically lost their lives.

Trump Visits Puerto Rico, Explains Recovery Challenges

Faced with the logistic problems of restoring electricity and water to an isolated island, the Trump administration has been working non-stop to help Puerto Ricans get back on their feet. On Tuesday morning, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump landed on the destroyed island.

Trump met with local leaders, including San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. Yulin Cruz has made a name for herself by claiming the President is failing Puerto Rico. However, others claim that she has failed to attend FEMA meetings, and has more interest in television appearances than she does in the relief effort. Trump extended an olive branch to one of his fiercest detractors.

The President helped distribute goods at a relief center, though the huge crowd made clear that recovery will take time. Part of the delays result from the lack of local truck drivers who can distribute generators, food, and water to rural part of the island. President Trump mentioned that supplies from the federal government still needed drivers to transport them to hurricane victims. As he said, “We need their truck drivers to start driving trucks. On a local level, they have to give us more help.”

During his trip, President Trump was briefed by officials at the Luis Muniz Air National Guard base. He met with storm victims to hear their experiences and their needs. Following that, he met with the governors of the United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on a Navy ship.

In a part of the United States plagued by an ineffective local government and weak infrastructure, recovery will not be easy. The area’s mountainous geography only makes relief efforts more difficult.

To make the situation worse, a naval base on the island is no longer open to help coordinate relief efforts. The Naval Station Roosevelt Roads used to exist at Ceiba, Puerto Rico. After protests by locals, it was eventually shuttered in 2004. Now, a part of the former military base is used as a ship recycling facility. While this might make the island more environmentally sustainable, it has resulted in one less military base for relief efforts.

Currently, the military, first responders and FEMA are all working to improve conditions on the island. [3] Puerto Rico is without electricity, water and transportation on many parts of the island. Food shortages are common as Puerto Ricans work to recover from the storm. Despite the difficulties faced by the administration, relief efforts are still soldiering on. President Trump maintains that the government has done an excellent job responding to this brutal hurricane season.

Trump Approves Pipeline; Activists Block Construction

Environmental activists are ramping up a new protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL). 

This comes just months after the failed Dakota Access Pipeline protests, at which protesters literally destroyed the area with trash. These “environmentalTheir environmentalist message was tarnished by the heaps of trash and debris they left behind. This time around, the solar panels might actually help the environment. But will they stop the pipeline?

Legal Battles Ahead

The proposed KXL runs through Nebraska and Montana, where it faces the most legal challenges to its construction. First, Nebraska’s Public Service Commission must approve KXL’s route through its state. Next, environmental and indigenous groups in Montana have filed three lawsuits to stop KXL’s construction. The groups resisting in Montana strike similarities to those opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Lawyers in court are backed up by farmers on the land. Farmers started installing solar panels. Bob Allpress, a Nebraska farmer, In addition to legal resistance, farmers and other groups have launched a solar panel protest on the proposed route. Bob Allpress, in Nebraska, is planning to install solar panels where the route passes through his ranch. His hopes are that having to tear down a clean energy source will deter the Trump administration from continuing forward with the pipeline. Sorry, Bob, but that doesn’t seem likely.

A Plan Put in Action

In early March, President Trump approved the initiative and gave TransCanada a Presidential Permit to start building the Keystone XL Pipeline. KXL would create a more direct path to carry oil from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska. TransCanada first proposed the project in 2008, but the Obama Administration stalled its progress at every turn.

The KXL would run 1,179 miles, and carry over 800,000 barrels of oil per day. This effectively doubles the volume of oil transport between the two cities. Proponents of the pipeline tout its job creating potential, as well as the benefits to U.S. energy security and economic growth. 

We Want YOU!

Will you take a stand for energy independence? If you want to see the Keystone XL Pipeline built, you can start a petition today. The process takes just a few minutes. As soon as you publish the petition, we’ll feature it in an update to this post!