Can we all agree that slashing $7.1 billion from education is asinine?

Of all of the hair-brained, short-sighted budget proposal ideas, removing billions of dollars from education takes the cake.

If there’s anything that people of all political persuasions should be able to agree on, it’s the importance of education.

A well-educated citizenry is the chassis that supports everything we need to keep moving forward—a thriving economy, safer communities, advances in science and technology, strong international standing, and more.

And as the top-performing educational systems in the world prove, a well-funded, equitable, government-funded school system is the most reliable engine humans have designed to keep the machine of civilized society running.

However, the 2020 budget proposal coming from the White House includes cutting $7.1 billion from the Department of Education. On the chopping block include summer and after school programs in low-income areas, Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs, and subsidized Stafford loans for higher education. And while those programs would be cut, more funds would go to charter and magnet school initiatives.

Why? Because public education doesn’t require money, duh! College graduates can pay soaring tuition rates with their bootstraps, don’tcha know? And nobody needs after school or summer programs, especially not kids in high poverty areas, right? Nah. We just need to make sure that for-profit charter schools get a bigger piece of the taxpayer pie, because government-funded capitalism is totally the way to make sure everyone has equal access to quality education.

Or maybe we don’t actually need to know the best way to educate our diverse and growing populace, because guess what— funding for scientific educational research is on the chopping block too!

(Sorry, sometimes sarcasm is the only reasonable response to absurdity.)

Federal fund allocations are complicated. But this part shouldn’t be.

I know the arguments about education being funded locally instead of federally. I understand the sorta-nice-on-paper idea of “school choice.” But we have models of successful educational systems around the world, and the vast majority of top-performing systems are government funded with a small percentage of parents choosing private education.

Considering how many schools in America struggle and how many teachers have to pay for materials out of their own pockets, I see very few scenarios where cutting money from education could be considered wise. Even if an educational program is ineffective, it makes more sense to funnel that money into expanding and increasing programs that are working rather than cutting funding altogether.

Call me crazy, but I think education should get every last drop of money we can throw at it. I attended public schools and I’ve taught in public schools. I know what a challenge it to meet the needs of all students. I chose to homeschool my own kids but still vote yes on every single public school funding measure that comes across my path. I’ve seen how money makes a difference in what schools are able to offer, and I prefer to live in a well-educated society.

It’s not like we don’t have the money for more books, when we clearly have the money for more bombs.

What really chaps my hide is that this budget proposes cutting $7.1 billion from education while adding $8.6 billion for a border wall and a 5% increase in defense spending (which equates to an extra $30 billion plus). I can get behind the proposed military pay increase of 3.1% because military families make enough sacrifices as it is, but do we really need to increase defense spending by that much?

We are already the most powerful military force on the planet and we spend more on defense than the next seven countries combined. At what point do we decide that the hundreds of billions we already spend on defense and destruction is enough, and start investing more heavily in the education and health of our people?

The vast majority of educational professionals I know believe that our current administration is taking education in the wrong direction, and this budget proposal highlights why. Both the president of the American Federation of Teachers and the president of the National Education Association—the country’s largest teacher unions—denounced the budget cuts. AFT president Randi Weingarten said in a statement:

“This budget doesn’t fund the future; it does quite the opposite, forfeiting children by yet again cutting the education budget while safeguarding the tax cuts given to the wealthy last year. President Trump and Secretary DeVos have made a choice with this budget—enriching those who are rich and who don’t want for anything, on the backs of our children. Even their so-called priorities, career and technical education and child care, aren’t funded in a meaningful way. By eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, they are sending a message that public service doesn’t matter…”

“Rather than increase funding for kids with special needs or for those who live below the poverty line in both rural and urban America, or addressing the issues raised in their own safety report, DeVos once again seeks to divert funding for private purposes in the name of ‘choice.’ However, if they listened to parents, they would hear that, overwhelmingly, parents want well-funded public schools as their choice. By assaulting public education again, Trump and DeVos are defying the will of parents, educators and the American people who continue to march, rally and even strike to secure the investment our children and their public schools desperately need.”

Let’s bring this privatized war on public schools disguised as educational reform to an end.

It’s time to put actual educational professionals with actual teaching experience in charge of education, provide them with enough funding to make our public education system what it could be, and then get out of their way.

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Trump Calls For America To Implement A Technology That Doesn’t Exist, Gets Brutally Mocked

The President is very clear on his desire for America to be ahead of the rest of the world. The competition from other countries such as China with their space program, or South Korea with their high-speed Internet clearly has him spooked.

In his latest series of tweets, it’s become apparent that he’s quite annoyed that America is lagging behind on implementing technologies that don’t even exist.

In a widely mocked thread, Donald Trump claimed the US was lagging behind on implementing 6G technology, already bored with 5G which, at the best predictions, won’t even be rolled out until 2020-2022.

“I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible. It is far more powerful, faster, and smarter than the current standard. American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind. There is no reason that we should be lagging behind on something that is so obviously the future,” the President wrote on Twitter.

“I want the United States to win through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies. We must always be the leader in everything we do, especially when it comes to the very exciting world of technology!”

Trump, who once said “I know tech better than anyone” will know that 5G refers to it being the fifth generation of mobile Internet technology. It uses higher frequency radio waves (around 28 and 39 GHz) to carry data. These bands have higher capacity than previous cellular networks, which work between 700 MHz and 3 GHz in the microwave band.

Because of the shorter wavelengths, the range is lower and signals will likely have to be carried by many more smaller phone masts to transmit data. There’s no guarantee when full 5G will come to the US.

“All generations take years to roll out. The investment is substantial, it has to be done while keeping the previous generation up and running, and requires new network infrastructure, mobile devices, software, and even applications,” US electronics company Keysight Technologies told Newsweek.

“Full 5G is not an objective term.”

It’s extremely unclear what 6G will even be. There are predictions that 6G will be rolled out in around 2030 when 5G is no-longer adequate for our needs, with one university already working on it, but at the moment it only really exists as a concept, a combination of the number 6 and the letter G, and an admittedly very cool video.

It’s certainly not something that America is lagging behind on, because basically, it doesn’t exist.

People have of course been mocking Trump for his impatience to skip 5 and go right to 6G. It quickly escalated into a war of who could want the most Gs.

Here are some of our favorites.

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100-Plus Years After International Women’s Day Began, This Equality Issue Is Still A Big Deal

Jack Taylor/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Here’s Why Labor Is Still A Big Issue For Women On International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) might have been born from a strike demanding better working conditions, but in the hundred-plus years since, it’s become a worldwide revolution. On March 8, people from all across the world will celebrate this monumental day in history, which matters to so many women across the globe. You might not know this, but labor is at the heart of International Women’s Day, and it’s been that way for over a century.

On Friday, March 8, people all over the world will celebrate International Women’s Day, and its 2019 United Nations theme “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change.” This year’s theme focuses thinking ofinnovations that disrupt business as usual, paying attention to how and by whom technology is used and accessed, and ensuring that women and girls play a decisive role in emerging industries,” per UNWomen. By celebrating International Women’s Day, advocates for equality fight against issues still impacting women today, such as the wage gap, sexual harassment, parental leave, and more.

And while women’s rights have certainly come far in the past hundred-plus years, it’s also striking that issues of work and economic empowerment are in fact… where the day began. International Women’s Day started off as a labor protest in 1908, where thousands of garment workers in New York City, including many immigrants, went on strike and marched around the city to fight for better working conditions, such as better pay and working conditions. The following year, the the Socialist Party of America organized a march to commemorate the strike, labeling it National Women’s Day, and advocating for women worker’s rights and the right to vote. The movement also managed to cross classes, according to, with women’s labor unions bringing together the mostly white and Protestant middle class reformers with the working-class women who were usually Irish, Jewish, or Italian immigrants. Over the next few years, women in Europe started taking a stand to demand more equality in the workplace, with the two celebrations merging together. Finally in 1975, the United Nations declared March 8 International Women’s Day.

Today, however, work and economic empowerment is still a major issue in striving for women’s equality. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 47 percent of the American workforce is female, or some 73 million women. Despite women’s prevalence in the workforce, women as a group still struggle with serious problems like pay inequality, lack of family leave, and sexual harassment. And that doesn’t even acknowledge the disparities for women from marginalized communities. Women are also overrepresented in low-wage work — according to a 2017 study from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the majority of workers in low-wage jobs are female, with women making up nearly 70 percent of those earning less than $10 an hour.

Women of color are also disproportionately affected — the NWLC notes that more than half of women making less than $11 an hour are women of color, despite the fact that women of color only make up about 35 percent of the national workforce. Although Black women make up about 13 percent of the overall national workforce, they comprise 18 percent of those making less than $11 an hour, while 24 percent of Latina women are making that rate, despite making up only 15 percent of the national labor pool.

The fields women tend to dominate in are so structurally undervalued.

According to New America, workers in female-dominated, low-wage jobs have the most reported incidences of sexual harassment than other fields. One in four women working a low-wage job is also raising a child, and more than three-quarters are unmarried (meaning they don’t have another income to rely on), per the NWLC. Given the fact that only 16 percent of workers have access to defined paid family leave nationally, per think tank AEI, this means finding adequate childcare is yet another obstacle. And that’s not even considering the gender pay gap — according to pay equality organization Narrow the Gap, women make 82 cents to the dollar men earn in the same job, and pay gaps can differ based on the field. A 2017 report from nonprofit American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that the number decreases for women of color, with Black women making about 61 percent of white men’s earnings, and Latina women taking home 53 percent.

“There’s such a tremendous disparity that those groups of women are earning on average, even when they’re working full time, are earning so much less,” Jennifer Reisch, legal director of women’s equality organization Equal Rights Advocates, tells Elite Daily in an interview. “Not only because of discrimination because of the field they’re in, but the fields women tend to dominate in are so structurally undervalued.”

Sean Garnsworthy/Getty Images News/Getty Images

When it comes to women’s economic empowerment and low-wage work, the restaurant industry can offer a good perspective. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the majority of restaurant workers in the United States are women, an industry where food service workers have a median yearly pay of just about $20,000, per BLS. The industry also is notorious for a pernicious sexual harassment problem.

“Most women in America are part of the labor force,” Saru Jayaraman, the president and director of the food labor research center with restaurant union Restaurant Opportunity Centers United (ROC United) tells Elite Daily in an interview. She calls the issue of women’s equality and labor rights “intimately interconnected.

In order for [women] to live with dignity, labor issues are critical.

“In order for them to live with dignity, labor issues are critical,” she says. “[Women] should be paid with living wages and have a voice in their job.” At ROC, Jayaraman works with her team to fight against issues plaguing women in the restaurant industry, such as sexual harassment, pay inequality, and more.

While the world was rocked by the #MeToo allegations against powerful men in 2017 and 2018, much of the attention focused on celebrities and other high-profile women, and there was relatively little talk about the prevalence of harassment issues for low-wage workers. Jayaraman was actress Amy Poehler’s date to the 2018 Golden Globes as a way to raise awareness of #TimesUp movement, which spotlights gender inequalities women face within the workforce. “The Golden Globes was a moment of women’s solidarity,” Jayaraman says. “It was a moment of empowerment.”

According to a January 2018 report from harassment in lower-wage jobs such as hospitality and the service industry, which predominantly consist of women workers, receive less coverage than higher-income careers, despite sexual harassment being one of the leading problems within these fields. According to a 2018 report from Stop Street Harassment, 38 percent of women have reportedly experienced sexual harassment in their workplace across numerous industries, but the rates are even higher in certain fields. According to the Center for American Progress, in 2016 more than 14 percent — around 6,000 — of all sexual harassment charges filed by industry nationally came from workers in the “accommodation and food services” field alone, followed by the retail trade (some 13 percent), manufacturing (12 percent), and health care (11 percent). Added up, those four industries accounted for half of all charges filed.

Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The pay structure in restaurants — particularly tips — can also be a good example of the way that women’s issues like sexual harassment and labor issues can be tied together. Jayaraman states that relying on tips not only forces women to live in poverty, but also leads to sexual harassment by creating incentives and pressure to allow possible inappropriate behavior from customers. According to Jayaraman, women who allow themselves to be touched receive more tips than those who refuse to be touched. “There’s a culture of living off tips, and unfortunately all the biases of customers show off in the pay,” Jayaraman says. “If you’re a woman and touch, and are allowed to be touched, you get more tips.”

ROC is combatting the problem with issues like the One Fair Wage campaign, which encourages restaurants to pay workers a full minimum wage salary while also receiving tips. (Currently, restaurants in most states are allowed to pay tipped workers as little as $2.13 an hour, with the assumption that tips will increase their take home pay.) So far, seven states including California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Montana, and Minnesota have passed legislation raising the tipped minimum wage. It’s a good example of how a labor law can affect the real lives of women. “Seventy percent of tipped workers today are women,” Jayaraman notes.

Darren Hauck/Getty Images News/Getty Images

There’s also the issue of paid family and maternity leave: about one-third of women making less than $11 an hour are mothers, and about 10 percent of them have children under four, per NLWC. And yet, only about 16 percent of civilian workers have access to paid family leave, according to a March 2018 report from BLS. For women in low-income work — who again, are often women of color — the problem can be dire. According to the Pew Research Center, only 6 percent of workers in hospitality fields receive paid family leave, while 37 percent of workers in more white-collar fields like insurance and finance receive paid leave. According to a BLS data analysis from January 2019, Black and Hispanic workers of both genders were also less likely to have access to paid parental leave than white workers, with white workers nearly twice as likely as Hispanic workers to have access to paid parental leave.

“If you think about the fact that 40 percent of workers are single moms, you know, what do they do with their kids?” Jayaraman asks. A 2013 analysis from the Pew Research Center found that mothers were the “sole or primary” breadwinner for 40 percent of American families with children.

Taylor Weidman/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Under President Donald Trump’s administration, women’s economic empowerment has been a focus thanks to the efforts of first daughter and adviser to the president Ivanka Trump, who has taken the lead on supporting women’s economic empowerment. In recent months, the first daughter has spearheaded initiatives for women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, and launched a $50 million global initiative to empower women. She’s specifically advocated for issues such as paid family leave, including in a speech at the Republican National Convention in July 2016. “As a mother myself, of three young children, I know how hard it is to work while raising a family,” she said in her speech. “I also know that I’m far more fortunate than most. American families need relief. Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties, they should be the norm.”

In February 2018, the administration proposed to include six weeks’ paid leave for new mothers and fathers as a part of the 2018 budget. However, it hasn’t progressed very far. In July 2018, Ivanka joined Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to push for a paid family leave initiative, which would work by taking money out of workers’ social security benefits. The proposal was met with criticism that this would delay or deplete workers’ benefit checks when they retire, potentially leaving women with the choice of forgoing their needed family leave or laying the burden on their future selves. Elite Daily reached out to both the White House and Sen. Rubio’s offices for comment on the status on the initiative, but did not hear back in time for publication.

Despite the fumbling progress, Reisch agrees that family leave is an important issue to address when it comes to women’s equality — and men’s, for that matter. “Is paid family leave an essential component to economic security and gender equality? Absolutely,” Reisch says. “If there’s one thing I can agree with is that this is a very important thing that all workers need.”

Storytelling is a powerful vehicle.

Both Reisch and Jayaraman agree that change can be possible. In addition to paid family leave, Reisch says that paid sick leave is also one of the issues that needs to be addressed. Currently, the United States is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave, which especially impacts low-wage workers who money relies on hourly wages and tips.

“We need to accept the argument that providing these basic fundamental protections like workers being able to take a day off when they, or their family member, is sick without losing their job or income is key to economic growth,” Reisch says.

In the meantime, there’s plenty that we can be thinking about. Whether it’s calling representatives about actions being taken against sexual harassment, such as the Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Initiative (SHWI) introduced in February 2018, supporting city, state, or federal legislations that tackle the gender pay gap such as The Paycheck Fairness Act and The Fair Pay Act, or even making a donation to organizations that support women’s rights and or support women in the workplace. Even sharing a personal story about being a woman in the workplace can help. A small contribution can a long way.

“Storytelling is a powerful vehicle,” Reisch says. “It can be extremely powerful not only in terms of starting conversations and moving things in the world around you, but it can be an individually and personally transformative experience.”

The future of women’s rights in the workforce still hangs in the balance, but the fight continues. On March 8, consider how you can do your part in challenging gender inequalities. One small gesture might make all the difference.

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Neutrinos And Astrology: Could This Ghost Particle Be the Force Behind Human Consciousness?
Cataloged in Astrology

Neutrinos And Astrology: Could This ‘Ghost Particle’ Be the Force Behind Human Consciousness?

Astrology is finally making a compelling presence in modern society; though slowly but surely making its comeback in scientific fact. I’ve published information on sociophysics and even how astrology can be tested (and has been tested) with the scientific methods despite popular misconception.

Of course, this article is mostly for exploring (and entertaining) some degree of quantum theory and perhaps the underlying connections it has to human development. By no means is this scientifically proven and is only intended to start dialogue on the topic.

First, let’s talk about neutrinos.

What are they?

Neutrinos are considered the building blocks of our universe as they particles even smaller than electrons. These “ghost particles”, according to quantum theory, compose the quantum fields which are more than just subatomic particles but also energy fields in which these subatomic particles interact.

Where are they?

They pass through the poles of the Earth, through our bodies, all life on Earth, and throughout our entire universe.  They are transmitted mostly from the sun and form from nuclear reactions in stars and other celestial objects.

What do they do?

Here’s the twist: due to these particles accumulating little to no atomic mass, they can’t interact with “normal” matter. Which is where scientists, theorists, and philosophers alike are raising their eyebrows. We can somehow observe the effects of protons, neutrons, electrons, and other particles; however, these little “ghost” particles seem to have “no purpose”.

So let me get this straight……. Scientists have been itching to know where the heck human emotions (consciousness) came from because we can’t see them (without reading human behavior)….. but we finally see a particle that we kind of can’t see, but also can……. That come from massive bodies of energy in space……. Which pass through anything and everything around us…… Which is depicted in astrology.

But it gets weirder…..

According to the standard model for quantum fields, there are 12 fundamental subatomic particles.

Wow………. How freakin’ convenient! 12 is a familiar number…… oh yeah! Maybe because there’s 12 zodiac signs.

Okay, let’s start with the fact neutrinos conjoin with the 3 particles of life: electron, muon, and tau particles. They each behave similarly; however, each carries a different mass where the muon particle is 200x greater than the electron while the tau particle is 3000x greater.

This is where astrology is growing more and more plausible. What has 3 in astrology? Modalities, which astrology depicts as how energy is processed and transformed specifically through consciousness. Then from there we see how the 12 signs and 4 elements can be subdivided into 3 modalities. All of this is demonstrated on a “new period table” where the rows and columns of these 12 particles are interrelated somehow.

Let’s take a look at the Tesla Code:

Nicolas Tesla, known for his breakthroughs in engineering and science, united science, technology, math, and as I am specifically focusing on: human consciousness. The Tesla Code stresses this universal algorithm where, in vortex math, everything adds up to 9, 3, and 6. Conceptually speaking, these numbers are technically not physical and actually govern the quantum realm.

Now take a look back at the link/table. Quantum theorists can’t tell you why there’s 12 total while their energetic properties break down into 3s. They’ve tried. They have no scientific explanation.

This is one of things there sometimes the intuitive matters as much as, if not more than, the logical. If there’s something we should take from this, it’s that we can’t fully understand the universe around and within us without integrating the perspectives of social, physical, and natural sciences.

Similarly to Tesla and understanding even particle systems of electricity, it comes to show how the universe within us and the human interactions behave exactly like that of electricity. If our universe is theoretically expanding, which can only be done with energy which requires matter, then that means humanity and the consciousness driving our existence is expanding too.

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New York mayor says Amazon headquarters debacle was ‘an abuse of corporate power’

New York (CNN Business)New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is still upset that Amazon isn’t coming to New York.

“This is an example of an abuse of corporate power,” de Blasio told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.” “Amazon just took their ball and went home. And what they did was confirm people’s worst fears about corporate America.” He made similar comments in a New York Times op-ed Saturday.
Amazon (AMZN) canceled the deal just months after announcing plans to split its new, second headquarters between New York and Virginia. The Seattle-based company, which is trying to grow its footprint at home and abroad, spent a year reviewing hundreds of “HQ2” proposals from all over North America before settling on the two regions.
    Last November, de Blasio cheered the news and promised that it would benefit locals, including residents of a large public-housing development located nearby.
    But critics — including many Democrats — lambasted the massive subsidies that New York offered to lure Amazon, including $1.525 billion in incentives that were contingent on the company creating 25,000 new jobs with an average salary of $150,000.
    On Sunday, de Blasio, a Democrat, said New York offered Amazon a “fair deal,” and blamed the company for making what he called an “arbitrary” decision to leave after some people objected.
    “They said they wanted a partnership, but the minute there were criticisms, they walked away,” he added. “What does that say to working people that a company would leave them high and dry simply because some people raised criticisms?”
    Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment about de Blasio’s latest remarks. But the company last week criticized “a number of state and local politicians” who it said “have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required” to complete the project.
    The fallout over the Amazon headquarters exposed a rift among Democrats. While de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo welcomed the company late last year, others in the party chafed at the plans — including freshman Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, whose district is near the site in Queens where Amazon would have been located.
    That divide continued last week when Amazon reneged on the deal. Cuomo attacked politicians who he felt “put their own narrow political interests above their community.” Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, declared victory.
    Asked Sunday about the disconnect among progressives, de Blasio said they are capable of governing and giving back to working people.
      “I am representing 8.6 million people, and a clear majority of those people believe we need more fairness in our economy. But of course, we need jobs, we need growth, we need revenue,” said the mayor, who called himself a progressive. “Progressives can do both.”
      Amazon said last week that it will not look to replace New York with another city, but will still move forward with existing plans in Virginia. It also is working on a hub in Nashville.

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      Self-driving cars less likely to spot pedestrians of color, study shows


      If youre a person of color, add self-driving cars to your list of worries that white people don’t have to bother with.

      According to a study released last month by Georgia Tech, Predictive Inequity in Object Detection, self-driving cars were 5 percent better at predicting pedestrians with lighter skin tones than darker ones. For the study, researchersdivvied up images of pedestrians into groups based on the Fitzpatrick scale, which classifies skin tone. The object-detection models noticed more imagesfrom the group with the lighter skin tones.

      However, the study has not yet been peer-reviewed, which limits its scope of verification to some extent, and the object-detection models used are not ones found in any self-driving cars.

      Still,this doesnt help the case of self-driving cars, which already have been a cause for concern. They are considered to be more accident-prone;Googles self-driving car had had its first accident within two years of its launch. Not to mention, the politics of facial recognition is real. In 2015, Google apologized after its facial recognition system mistakenly matched photos of gorillas to Black people.

      The larger issue at hand is clearly about a lack of diversity, as a Vox analysis points out. Algorithms are designed in a manner where they detect what theyre being exposed to, and if theyre not being exposed to a certain demographic with a certain skin color, they might simply not know to identify it as human.

      In this regard, Google isnt the only company thats lagging behind. Firms such as Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft have all been flagged for having facial recognition algorithms that have racial and gender bias. This makes sense considering the world of technology continues to be dominated by white men.

      H/T Vox

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      ISIS Chemical-Weapons Expert Speaks

      BAGHDADISIS was looking for scientists, said Ahmed, a 36-year-old follower of the so-called Islamic State who holds a Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry and drug design. And Ahmed was looking for a chance to put his scientific knowledge to use.

      This would not be theoretical research. ISIS and al Qaeda before it have been working since at least the 1990s to obtain biological and chemical weapons. But as with many gruesome enterprises, ISIS has been more methodical than its predecessors and competitors.

      We do not yet know for sure the extent to which ISIS was successful and cannot confirm some of the claims made by Ahmed, but they fit with those made by an Iraqi geologist, Suleiman al-Afari, who told The Washington Post recently that he supervised a mustard gas production line for the Islamic State.

      We also know that ISIS, through its global social media and internet recruiting, managed to create a corps of scientists interacting in person and on dark web forums to support the creation of a WMD arsenal, and Ahmed, whose name has been changed here, was part of the team. We interviewed him last month along with other ISIS prisoners being held in the Iraqi capital.

      At the height of its power four years ago, ISIS worldwide recruiting effort offered top dollar to equip labs and support scientists to an extent much greater than anything Ahmed had been offered in Iraq, which basically was nothing.

      I knew I could synthesize the biological and chemical weapons I researched on the web, he told us. I just needed the supplies and a well-equipped lab.

      U.S. coalition and Iraqi forces have recently announced the discovery of an installation in Mosul where ISIS was indeed working on such weapons, and Ahmed says he was involved in that same labs operations.

      We should be careful not to confuse the attempts by ISIS to develop and use chemical weapons with the infamous attacks launched by the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. Of an estimated 300 such attacks in Syria in the course of the conflict there, a new study from the Global Public Policy Institute (PDF) estimates 98 percent are attributable to the regime, and only about 2 percent to ISIS.

      But the groups aspirations in this regard, and some usage, is well documented. For instance, the group successfully deployed mustard and chlorine gas against the Kurdish Peshmerga. ISIS also set up a secret chemical weapons production facility in northern Iraq and has been quite innovative in using drones as dispersal devices for biological and chemical materials.

      Surprisingly, research on the extent to which the group used or desired to expand on the use of chemical and biological weapons remains rare and largely under-researched, as noted in a report published last year by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

      Ahmed, imprisoned inside the compounds of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Services, recounted in detail his rise from a promising but frustrated young scientist, to one who saw himself as a galvanized agent of social change at the time he joined ISIS, to his eventual capture.

      Ahmed, like so many who joined and served ISIS, had come into contact with the group via social media while a Ph.D. student in India after a scientist friend, who was already working for them, encouraged him to join up.

      While initially attracted to the idea of an Islamic State, he claimed it was not so much the ideology as what he thought would be the ability to show off his scientific and technical skills that actually drew him to ISIS: At first I was looking into their ideology because of their interest in science and technology. I was convinced I would join an authentic scientific community. Many scientists joined from many countries, he claimed in our interview. Lots of nuclear physicists and engineers, especially from Russia joined them.

      Ahmed said he did not ever join the group physically, but supported them virtually and substantially. Searching the worldwide web and pursuing scientific journals, some of which he hacked into, allowed him to pass on knowledge about manufacturing chemical and biological weapons to those scientists already working in the Mosul lab.

      While Ahmed started his work for ISIS by spreading this research and interacting on web forums on behalf of the group in 2015 and 2016, he fully intended to join the lab in Mosul upon his graduation and was confident of his ability to create the desired chemical and biological weapons. At the time, he believed ISIS was already an established state and would continue to expand.

      I would upload and [my research] would get read by the high command of the Caliphate, he told us. They were interested in my posts and asked how we can acquire these chemicals. I also summarized books from a Russian website. There are loads of [scientific] journals I could access on the web and its not classified. I told them everything was in my summary, but also told them, you must have a real lab.

      The operation in Mosul succeeded in producing mustard gas, which it dispersed in various operations using drones. In Baghdad, we viewed pictures of victims allegedly burned in ISIS mustard gas attacks.

      Ahmed and his research colleagues working in the Mosul lab were not the only ISIS members striving for biological weapons. A chilling arrest occurred as recently as June 2018, in Germany, when Sief Allah H, a Tunisian man living in Cologne, was arrested after preparing the deadly biological poison ricin, made from castor beans. Security sources told ICSVEthe International Center for the Study of Violent Extremismthat the police knew of his activities and that he was following instructions provided over the internet by ISIS, and that police surveillance of the operation was terminated and arrests made after he succeeded, but before he was actually able to deploy the infamous compound.

      Ahmed proudly boasted about his knowledge of computer science and the ability to modify, synthesize, and manufacture lethal weapons from raw substances, at times appearing highly ecstatic and fervent in his answers during the interview.

      There are loads of scientific journals and its not classified. You just have to access them through a scientific institution, said Ahmed, explaining how he managed to access the latest in science by going to the dark web and using a Russian website that cracked these journals codes.

      My friend [in ISIS] told me about WMD, that they were interested in making mustard gas, nitrogen, and sulfur. Nerve agents are easy to synthesize

      I used Russian search engines that no one can penetrate and a Tor browser to hide and search, Ahmed said. For instance, the first item I put up for them was from the journal of Organic Phosphorus Chemistry aboutVX gas in Israel. Its a new generationnerve agent. The authors told how they made particle Isomers and structural modifications to enhance the activity of the gas in use, Ahmed said. I can tell a scientist about how to carry out the organic synthesis for this in micro quantities.

      There was onearticle on pyrophoric [flammable] materials from a hazardous materials journal, Ahmed went on. These pyrophoric materials become flammable with water and moisture creating gas, fire and choking smoke to cause asphyxiation. The article was speaking about the flammability [of the materials] and what kind of gas was being generated, about the hazardous materials you could throw to troops, and on streets, on floating bridges, etc. All the necessary materials are available on the market… There was also a book from a Russian website about the experimental synthesis of all explosives. For me, I can synthesize any of these.

      My friend [in ISIS] told me about WMD, that they were interested in making mustard gas, nitrogen, and sulfur. Nerve agents are easy to synthesize, Ahmed said, noting that he was disappointed that ISIS wasnt going further into the subjects he felt proficient in.

      Its like writing a paper. I can search and modify the structure. I passed this to them. If I gain access to a lab, then I can do it. In our lab in India [where he was studying] I learned how to synthesize theoretically. We take the structure into a software and see how it works on this nerve, then we try it on animals. I synthesized for anti-diabetic and anti-epileptic activity and it worked, so I know I can do it for these substances as well.

      Ahmed, who does not appear particularly connected to his own emotions, insisted that his work for ISIS was to help them as a state to be able to defend against and repel attackers. When reminded that ISIS had been at war with the Iraqis, Syrians and Western powers at that point, he kept insisting that the weapons he hoped to build for them were only for defense.

      He also seemed oblivious to ISISs already deployed use of mustard gas against civilian populations. My idea was to use weapons as a deterrent, not to be used against humankind. He also seemed oblivious to the extraordinary brutality of ISIS during the time he was working for them and much more interested in and excited by the recognition he could achieve.

      He hoped to branch out from poisons and plagues to explore new technologies for delivering them. I learned in the engineering world they [ISIS] were interested in anti-aircraft missiles and drones. They complain about coalition jet fighters destroying their troops on the ground. The admin on the website, there was a guy on the website who provided links from a British university to make drones from organic synthesis to make the whole body of the drone. It was some kind of solution, liquid phase synthesis, polymer science. We have already developed anti-aircraft missiles. We were going to use them.

      It appears that Ahmed was not particularly religious prior to joining ISIS. He articulated only a very rudimentary grasp of the Islamic faith, which he said he rarely practiced. I was not very religious. I was not looking for an Islamic State. They [ISIS] were more interested in science and technology. They were thinking forward. My family is interested in science and technology. I find religion suspicious.

      Although incongruous on its face, it has been common for many ISIS recruits to believe that somehow the Caliphate could fulfill their dreams, even if those had little to do with the way ISIS twisted the teachings of the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.

      Ahmed said he was deeply dissatisfied with widespread corruption and sectarian discrimination in the Iraqi job market following the 2003 toppling of the Saddam regime. As a Sunni, and despite being qualified, he felt he was kept out of jobs in areas of national defense and in any government-sector related to science.

      Political things, the quality of the regime after 2003, it pushed me to interact and work against the regime, he said. I worked as a student in a lab in Iraq for four years. It was not possible to gain employment there. After, I worked in a pharmaceutical lab. It was totally corrupt. The whole facility was corrupt and it lacked in everything. I was completely frustrated. I considered it a primary school, he said.

      Ahmed claimed he was compelled to look for jobs elsewhere, first in Qatar and then Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, but to no avail. His disconnected personality probably contributed to his failure in that regard, but all the same he was a gifted individual frustrated by his inability to pursue his chosen fielduntil ISIS came along.

      Ahmed was arrested in 2018 by the Kurdish security forces during an undercover counterterrorism operation in Erbil, the capital of the Iraqs Kurdish regional government. He was then handed over to the U.S. Army in Erbil for further interrogation and later transferred to Iraqi authorities in Baghdad.

      While Ahmed claimed he had stopped working for ISIS after he looked more closely into their violent Islamic ideology, he continued to see himself, as many jihadists are encouraged to do, as a sort of chivalric hero and, in his case, a chemical whiz kid.

      During our interview, he expressed regret over his decision to join ISIS.

      My advice to everyone in the world is not to believe [ISIS] propaganda and media. Real jihad is to support your country and families and provide them with the best knowledge. Dont believe ISIS or join any upcoming group.

      At the same time, he seemed to still be angling for a job in his chosen field. Appearing to think we could bounce him out of prison, he offered to help the Americans now to fight ISIS. He had made a similar egotistic offer to the Peshmerga and also to others who had handled him following his capture.

      Ahmeds story serves to demonstrate ISIS horrifying ambitions and tryst with chemical and biological weapons in Iraq and Syria, nearly actualized through their power to attract scientists like him from around the globe.

      These experts are capable of researching methods for and carrying out the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction from raw substances and materials that ISIS also appears adept at procuring.

      The notion that ISIS and its operatives can deploy weapons of mass destruction outside of Syria and Iraq still remains far-fetched, but even if Ahmed is overstating his abilities by a considerable margin, there is no question that the Caliphate had a substantial group of capable scientists, engineers and technicians.

      ISIS capacity for innovation and the ability to replicate itself elsewherethat is, engage in transfer of tools and techniques learned abroad for use in Europe, Asia or the Americasmust be taken seriously.

      The Islamic State may have lost every last acre of the Caliphate in Iraq and Syria, but it lives on in the the minds of many who would inflict terrible attacks on its enemies, and may yet acquire the means to do so.

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      This Instagram Account Reveals Scenes From Famous Movies With And Without Special Effects

      Have you ever watched an old movie with amateur special effects and laughed how ridiculous they look? Well, we guess the movie industry is the one that is laughing now, because nowadays special effects are so incredible, you watch a movie believing it’s all real – only to have your expectations shattered.

      One Instagram account that goes by the name movies.effects dedicated their platform to teach people about the power of CGI and how unbelievably these effects can change the entire movie. With over 398k followers this account finds unique never-seen before movie scenes and shows what happens before they are turned into magical shots.

      But before you go any further, prepare yourself, because some of these before shots might change your entire understanding of the movie industry.

      #1 Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince (2009)

      If Hogwarts was real, there would be mandatory CGI classes. Because if not for the visual effects’ wizards, the magic of the silver screen wouldn’t exist. Yet, on the other hand, a wooden magic stick is cheaper than a team of experts with all the necessary equipment. That being said, Harry Potter films cost from $100 to $250 million each. The higher the price, the more revolutionary the effects, which paved the road for a new generation of CGI standards in the industry.

      #2 Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

      Back in 2006 the world saw Davy Jones, the infamous squid-captain for the first time, and everyone agreed – this is one hell of a villain. Considering the fact that the movie was made more than 10 years ago, the CGI that was necessary to create the ghastly-looking character, was revolutionary. It must have cost a fortune to create it, but that didn’t bother producers, as the movie wrote itself into the top of all-time highest-grossing films with an astronomical $1,066,179,725 in the box office.

      #3 Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)

      Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014), tells the story of a group of intergalactic superheroes and their cosmic adventures. The superhero crew is far from usual, with a raccoon, together with a talking three, who belongs to it. Watching this film it’s evident that in order to make a movie like this, CGI is just as important as the cameras. Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the budget of this movie reached $232.3 million.

      Interesting trivia: the big, muscular guy Drax, in the picture above, is eye-catching for more reasons than the size of his biceps. His appearance is not generated with computers, which tells us a lot about the power of Hollywood makeup. Oh, and in the comics, Drax is green. The reason why they changed his color for the movie? Because that would have been too similar to the Hulk.

      #4 Atomic Blonde (2017)

      Atomic Blonde (2017), is an American spy thriller film with a story that takes place in Berlin. And here’s where the CGI comes in. The programmers had to recreate entire areas of Berlin. Traveling to Berlin and getting some aerial shots were not that easy, or in some cases, legal. The creators explain their decision logically: “Even if they were allowed to fly around in the skies over Berlin, it would have been 2017 Berlin of course so, we built the entire district from scratch.”

      #5 War For The Planet Of The Apes (2017)

      You know you’re gonna have to use a lot of CGI if you’re about to make a movie about monkey warlords and monkey soldiers. Yet, this animal-based cast was extremely appreciated by P.E.T.A. which expressed its support by saying that the movie “proves that computer-generated imagery, or CGI, has no limits, offering powerful anti-captivity, pro-animal rights messages along the way.”

      #6 Alice In Wonderland (2010)

      Alice in Wonderland (2010) is a computer-generated film finished done mainly with green screens. Directed by Tim Burton, famous for dark, eccentric horror and fantasy films, the movie portrays the bizarre and fantastical world of Wonderland in a believable way. Ironically enough it was criticized precisely for its overuse of computer-generated imagery.

      Fun trivia: did you know that there’s a syndrome named after the main character of the story? Alice in Wonderland Syndrome refers to a neuropsychological condition that affects perception. It manifests itself as distortions in visual perception wherein objects can appear smaller, larger, closer or further away than they actually are. 

      #7 Game Of Thrones (2011)

      The night might be dark and full of terrors, but the budget for Game Of Thrones is big and full of 10 digit numbers. The series easily stands out as one of the most expensive TV series ever made, and it’s easy to see why, as the budget for a single episode, at least in season six, was estimated to be around $10 million. So, if you’ve got 10 episodes, then – well you do the math. Watching the show it’s not difficult to see why it costs so much moolah. The cast, the locations, the costumes and… A stress ball that becomes the most badass-looking dragon on the TV screen’s history.

      #8 The Jungle Book (2016)

      In 2016 the iconic boy of the jungles, Mowgli, was reborn. “The Jungle Book” offered a new and more realistic way of seeing Baloo, Bagheera, Kaa and others. Thanks to CGI everyone was able to encounter these jungle dwellers at a closer distance. The director Jon Favreau even received an award from P.E.T.A. for finding an innovative way to prevent exploiting and harming any animals for the production of the film.

      #9 Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011)

      If not for CGI programmers, Voldemort wouldn’t have had his iconic nose-less look. Even if it seems like a minor detail when compared to dragons or entire planets in other movies, it was essential in turning Voldemort into one of the most recognizable villains ever. One could argue that the use of CGI here is excessive and a professional makeup artist could do the job. Yes, but that would take too much time, therefore the final image of Voldemort was the result of combined efforts of makeup and CGI artists.

      #10 The Matrix (1999)

      Back in 1999, when “The Matrix” was presented to the world, it was applauded as a CGI revolution. The fights, the stopped bullets, the clones, the massiveness of the artificiality that looked so real was overwhelming. The movies’ cost varied from $60 to $150 million and even though some of the effects might look a bit aged today, no one can deny their legendary status.

      #11 Beauty And The Beast (2017)

      The Beauty And The Beast (2017) is another major step in the CGI books. The Beast, of course, is the beauty, if we’re talking about the effects. Yet not many know that The Beast was originally planned to be brought to life with just the use of prosthetic make-up. Eventually, CGI took over.

      #12 Deadpool (2016)

      Deadpool 2 (2018) is pretty badass, even if we’re talking about the movie itself, not about the character. 48 hours until the creators received the permission to make the movie, the budget for the whole project was cut down to $58 million. Yet $786,717,745 is how this movie’s worldwide box office looks like. That’s a success. Obviously, thanks to CGI.

      #13 Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

      When CGI programmers create entire oceans, islands, continents, ships and undead armies for a single movie, the result can be quite expensive. In fact, Pirates Of Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth movie of the saga, was the most expensive movie ever. The cost of creating it reached $379 million, easily crowning it with this achievement.

      #14 The Avengers (2012)

      Back in 2012, when The world saw The Avengers for the first time, it became pretty obvious. CGI is here to stay for real. Every Avengers movie is either one of the most expensive movies ever, or one of the highest-grossing movies ever, or both. 

      #15 Pirates Of The Caribbean (2003)

      No surprise that Davy Jones and his crew from Pirates Of Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006), receives attention more than once in a list, dedicated to CGI masterpieces. The flawless character will go down in CGi history books and it’s easy to see why.

      #16 Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

      Avengers: Infinity War (2018) is often praised as an example of how to use CGI creatively and originally. One only can imagine what will follow in the future.

      #17 Doctor Strange (2016)

      Upon its cinematic release, fans were sure that this movie is about to change the CGI game. And yes, it surely did. Many scenes were unusual, unseen and multi-layered, which itself raised the bar for upcoming CGI-based movies. As someone put it: “Doctor Strange is Marvel’s marvel”.

      #18 Jurassic Park (1993)

      Back in 1993, Steven Spielberg released what we now call a cinema classic – Jurassic Park, which won 3 Oscars and set a whole new standard for dinosaur movies. Interestingly enough, despite the dinosaurs being the biggest selling point of the movie, “Jurassic Park” features only 15 minutes of actual footage with the creatures, but its lasting effect on movies has been monumental. In addition to this, back in the 90s, CGI was still largely unproven in the movie industry and Hollywood was hesitant to gamble on high-tech special effects due to it being too expensive. However, it seems as if it really paid out as the film eventually became the 31st highest-grossing movie in the history of US cinema.

      #19 Harry Potter (2001)

      If you go and search ‘Quidditch’ on Youtube, you can easily see what the game of quidditch looks like when played by muggles. Thanks to CGI magic, we were granted the gift of witnessing something way more out of this world.

      #20 Deadpool (2016)

      Interesting fact: the iconic Deadpool costume is actually a real, physical costume and is not generated by CGI.

      #21 Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (2016)

      Written by none other than the legendary J.K. Rowling, the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them depicts the adventures of one writer in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards. The movie was to portray New York City in the roaring 1920s. Surprisingly (or not), the movie used a whole lot of CGI – the background buildings, and even their doors – most of them weren’t real. However, the movie did pretty well and while the budget for it was roughly $200 million, it grossed $814 million in return after its release in November 2016.

      #22 King Kong (2005)

      King Kong, an epic remake of the 1933 film of the same name, was co-written, produced, and directed by Peter Jackson and was filmed on one of the scenic islands of New Zealand. While the budget for the film was originally set to $150 million, over the course of production it reached a then-record-breaking $273 million over additional visual effects and extended film’s running time. Interestingly, it took eighteen months for the filmmakers to craft the CGI version of the Empire State Building, while the real thing was built in fourteen months.

      #23 Ghost In The Shell (2017)

      Interesting fact: Visual effects were used for more various purposes than simply generating spaceships, monsters, and explosions. It was reported that the producers of this movie tested the effects to make white actors appear Asian.

      #24 Iron Man 2 (2010)

      The actor behind Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. Would only wear the helmet, sleeves, and chest of the costume over a motion capture suit. No need for the whole thing, there’s CGI for that.

      #25 Avengers: Infinity Wars (2018)

      Benedict Cumberbatch knows how to be in the right place and on the right time each time CGI technology advances one step further.

      #26 Avengers: Infiity War (2018)

      Avengers: Infiity War (2018) holds the record of the highest opening weekend and single weekend gross, which is a modest $640.5 million. Thanks to CGI, of course.

      #27 Avatar (2009)

      James Cameron waited 10 years until the CGI got advanced enough to make his grandiose vision of AVATAR (2009) possible and affordable to make.

      #28 Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

      Once Thanos entered the big screen, he was quick to become as iconic as other Marvel villains. Maybe ever more. Yet his appearance did not convince all critics. Some even descrbed Thanos as “an eight-foot purple madman”.

      #29 The Avengers (2012)

      Yeah, who would have though that the Incredible Hulk is actually… A weirdly shaped, deformed green man. Yet The Incredible Hulk is constantly evolving, since the technology to generate the always-angry superhero is evolving just as much.

      #30 Terminator Genisys (2015)

      During the production of Terminator Genisys, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been cooperating with CGI programmers in order to recreate his current and younger CGI body models in order to create this movie. 

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      Hipster complains his image was used for a study on hipsterism and ends up proving it correct

      While blessedly the trend seems to be ebbing we are still inundated with hipsters. Close your eyes and you could compile a character in mind quickly, from the nerdy specs, the anti-fashion clothes they pay top dollar for, the tattoos — the beards!

      Recently a piece covering this social group was published at the MIT Technology Review, entitled “The hipster effect: Why anti-conformists always end up looking the same.” It details some of the curious aspects behind such trends and references another college study about the effects on societal change and possibly even how this may influence financials. But the focus here is on the header image.

      The Editor In Chief at Tech Review, Gideon Lichfield detailed a process he endured immediately after the article was posted.

      The header image on the piece does have a caption crediting Getty Images, so at this point all seems above board. But Lichfield performed due dilligence.

      The article itself does not make any negative comments about hipsters, it only was about charting the effect of their being created and the influences leading to them. All is delivered in an even handed manner.

      Then comes the punchline:

      This means of course someone spotted their image being used in an article about hipsters, resented that he was classified as someone who fit the stereotype of so many others trying to non-conform, and ends up finding out that in fact it was not his picture, meaning that he misidentified himself because he does in fact closely resemble others trying to not comform with the masses.

      Sounds like someone needs to hike his Eddie Bauer snow boots to the craft brew house, take off his Sundance skull cap, and sip a pumpkin porter until he calms down.

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      I Dont Have My Shit Together And I Hope I Never Will
      Cataloged in Self-Improvement / Growing Up

      I Don’t Have My Shit Together And I Hope I Never Will

      We’re persuaded today that there are the three critical indigents to a destination of accomplishment, achievement, and fulfillment. They are, go to college, get a job, and have a family, and in that order of course. Allegedly, following that formula of those before us will keep us on a straight and narrow path to indisputable bliss.

      But then, college tuition inflates astronomically while demand for jobs goes up and supply goes down, all alongside increasing infertility rates with time. So how is this formula supposed to work today?

      Well if you ask me, even though you didn’t, I don’t think this formula worked for everyone at either time. It works for some temporarily and maybe even some long term, but it’s hard to even meet the prerequisites today if you’re dreaming of a white picket fence.

      But for me, this is precisely why I don’t want to have my shit together. I went to college, got a great job, and I wasn’t happy. Sure, I could have adapted and learned to ignore the things I hated. Who knows, maybe I’d still even be there today. But I’m not, and I believe I’m better for it.

      I may not have my shit together now, but I know what it was like to have my shit together then. I’ve worked corporate jobs that have pushed me towards creative and freelance jobs that have helped me discover a balance I didn’t know that I needed. I failed and I’ve succeeded doing things I’ve loved and doing things I’ve hated. I’ve traveled and lived in several places over the last few years, and I just want to keep exploring.

      So maybe for just a moment, right now, I don’t have my shit together.

      I fall out of line with the norm. But I’m better for it. I’m going to continue to find my place as a creative professional, and I’m going to have my shit together. And at times I’m not going to have my shit together. But the fluctuation in between keeps me sharp, flexible and growing. That’s precisely where I want to be.

      Let your story play out according to your guidance, your instinct, and your voice. It’s going to be one for the books.

      Alyssa Lynn Malmquist

      Buy my book “Put The Damn Phone Down” available now on Amazon.

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