JoyBinge Podcast Ep. 13: Introducing New Co-Host: Sinowbeats!
Hi and welcome to JoyBinge, a podcast where we re-learn that good things are happening in the world and celebrate those good things because we are tired of only hearing about the bad crap. My name is Kimmy Mauldin and I am not a journalist or a professional of any sort in the news industry. I’m just a Texas girl in need of some happy news and want to share what I find. And I realized over the past 13 episodes that doing this podcast alone is stale and rather boring. So I talked with a good friend of mine and Sinow will be joining me! Good news is best shared as a discussion rather than me just reporting it to you. So. Let’s binge on some joy!
My good friend, known as Sinowbeats on Twitch, is joining me to be a co-host! Sinow is from Glasgow, Scotland and streams several different types of games, primarily focusing on retro games, mystery games, and does Japanese translation on the side. We met through my boyfriend, John, several years ago and have been good friends ever since.
Since we have streamed together several times over the last several years, we thought it would be a natural next step to co-host JoyBinge together. I’ve become quite overwhelmed with the daily tasks of keeping the podcast together so Sinow agreed to give this a shot with me.
Don’t forget that we are now on Stitcher, iTunes, and SoundCloud. We are still trying to get onto Spotify so keep your ears and eyes open for that announcement which will hopefully happen sooner rather than later.
So moving forward, Sinow will be joining me every other week to bring you the news! During the off weeks, I will post a mini JoyBinge episode with tips, cool quotes, smaller stories that aren’t really news but can hopefully bring you a small dose of joy for the week!
We are aware of times when the audio skips a bit. Unfortunately we are at the mercies of the internet to record since we are communicating over the ocean so please bare with us! I did my best to get rid of as many of them as I could.
The blog posts will no longer be a word for mostly word transcript of the podcast because trying to write out a full conversation would be extremely time consuming and difficult. Instead, I’ve written out the normal style of summary for the articles we covered that I’ve been using up to this point. After this episode, you will notice a change in how we structure the blog posts. Hopefully making them shorter and have more of a focus on encouraging you to visit the articles themselves. Now, let’s binge on some joy!
This week, I found a couple of stories that tackle difficult issues. But what was different about these articles is the focus on the positive progress that has been made despite how truly awful the situations are. Celebrating these little victories while on the journey to achieving big goals is important. Let’s start with this article written by Amrit Dhillon for The Guardian on November 26th.
India has made some great strides in their fight against human traffickers lately. Train stations have been one of the main ways these traffickers will transport the children they plan to sell as slaves in sweatshops, brothels, factories, food stalls, and more. Because of how awful this is, we are celebrating all of the hard work and lives saved by the Childline India Foundation! They have done some amazing things and rescued over 48,000 children since they revised their tactics to fight human trafficking since 2015, according to the article.
In 2015, Childline partnered with Indian Railways to rescue children at train stations in major cities. Many traffickers use the trains as a way to transport the children. Since then, the numbers have raised from 2 or 3 children rescued a month to over 100 at the Old Delhi station alone. The Howrah station in Calcutta has seen a monthly rescue of about 150 children. Specialized trainings, awareness for the public to call 1098 if they spot anything weird, and expanding their forces by combining the efforts of Childline and the Railway Protection Force have all assisted the rising averages.
Around 8,000 stations exist in India so there is a lot of work to be done. According to the article, “Childline kiosks were set up at 83 stations deemed high-risk on the basis of their location. They are manned 24/7 by a team of a dozen staff. Night trains are used regularly by traffickers trying to avoid detection. By March, another 75 stations will have Childline kiosks on platforms.”
And this isn’t the only way Childline is working to intervene. The article states, “Trains and platforms were adorned with 200,000 posters advertising the Childline Helpline number. The railways added the number to labels on packaged water bottles and disposable tea cups. And announcements asking passengers to be vigilant about abducted or trafficked children are now made on the PA systems of major trains and stations.”
The cry for help to the community has worked really well. The regional head of Childline, Heenu Singh, told Dhillon, “The response has been amazing. We get hundreds of calls a day from passengers suspicious of something. Often we get calls from disgruntled members of the trafficking gang who weren’t paid their share and are calling to inform on others.”
And Neeraj Kapoor who manages a book and newspaper stand at one of the stations spoke with Dhillon saying, “Once you know the signs, it’s not hard to detect trafficked children. It’s just that earlier we weren’t paying attention. Earlier, I had no idea the problem was so serious.” He makes a good point. If you don’t know what to look for, you will miss the signs entirely!
What are the signs? Dhillon reports, “Railway personnel are trained to look out for children who appear distressed or confused; children dressed more shabbily than the adults accompanying them, or speaking a different dialect; children who give limited, repetitive, or evasive answers about where they are going; and any kind of mismatch between the children and the adults with them.”
Dr. Anjaiah Pandiri, the executive director for the foundation told Dhillon, “We began training the entire railway system - the porters (who board the train as it arrives), ticket collectors, catering staff, platform staff, platform vendors, sweepers. All of them are taught to be alert, to look out for telltale signs. That’s the only way to intercept children en route, to catch them before it’s too late.” Clearly these trainings have been very effective. Awareness changes the game for Childline and these children entirely.
What I found even more amazing in this article is that Dhillon worked with a man named Ajish who actually finds the children and takes them to safety. Ajish works with the foundation and is among those who work the frontlines rescuing children. Patience is one of the greatest tools you need for his job as children need time to feel safe and realize what is going on. This is such a confusing situation for these little ones because many times they have been told they will be making money to send home to their families or have even been sold to the traffickers by their families. Many times, the traffickers will tell the children to call them “Uncle.” Ajish sees these terrible circumstances every day and works hard to rescue as many kids as he possibly can.
Dhillon quotes Ajish saying, “You have to sift through the lies the children tell. The uncle (trafficker) has told them that he is a good guy helping the children and their parents. Then we appear on the scene as the good guys saying the uncle is a bad guy. That’s very confusing for the child. It takes days for them to trust us enough to open up. … Some are tutored in advance and say the man with them is their real uncle. Others are taken aback and get confused. They tell me they have come to see the Taj Mahal, not knowing it is in another city, or say they have come to Delhi to celebrate Diwali, not knowing it’s the wrong month. … Usually, when one child, an older child, decides to trust us and tell us the real story, that’s when the others also decide it’s safe to do so.”
Once the children are able to tell the authorities what is really going on, Childline works hard to return the children to their families and explain to the parents what has happened. And especially in cases where parents sold their children due to poverty, Childline will work with other nonprofit groups to follow up with the children and teach the parents why this action was wrong, how awful this is for the child in the long run, and what the repercussions will be for them if they try to do this again.
Now I know this story is rough and may not feel like it is full of a lot of joy. But what we have here are passionate people working hard to preserve the lives of these children being taken advantage of. They work hard around the clock ensuring the safety of these children so they don’t get sold into slavery and what is amazing is how well they have improved on their ability to accomplish this. This must be celebrated! They are doing great work! Let’s hear it again, 48,000 children have been rescued since 2015 and that number is rising every day! I thought the best way to wrap up this story is in the same way Dhillon ended her article, by quoting Ajish. He told her, “When you rescue them, you have a feeling of saving a child’s whole life - their education, their health and their family life - and of course their childhood.”
Now let’s turn to an exciting story that doesn’t have a down side! On November 26th, NASA endured many long tense moments waiting to see if their spacecraft InSight actually landed on the surface of Mars. Great news! It landed without a hitch! ABC News brings us this exciting story written by Soo Youn.
You probably saw the news about Insight this past week but let’s celebrate how exciting it is to have a man made craft land on Mars. The mission is studying pictures taken by InSight to scope out the landscape of our extraterrestrial neighbor, as well as digging into the surface to learn more about Mars’ composition as a planet. According to NASA’s InSight website, “The InSight lander is equipped with sensitive instruments with which to investigate Mars’ deep interior for the first time. The mission will study the size, thickness, density and overall structure of the core, mantle and crust, as well as the rate at which heat escapes from the planet’s interior. This will provide glimpses into the evolutionary processes of all the rocky planets in the inner solar system.”
InSight’s journey began on May 5th of this year, launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Since then, the spacecraft has been making its way to Mars from Earth which takes roughly 6 months. Youn reports, “Spacecraft from Earth can only attempt a Mars visit approximately every 26 months when the two planets’ orbits align around the sun at a distance that uses the least amount of energy to make the trip.” So if this mission had failed to land, they would have not only had to rebuild, refund, and redesign the program and shuttle, they would have had to time every thing or wait until the correct window of time opened again.
How will InSight maintain energy on Mars, you ask? Youn tells us, “InSight’s twin solar panels are each seven feet wide, make the lander as big as a 1960’s convertible when they are open, according to NASA. The solar panels will provide 600 to 700 watts on a clear day, or the amount needed to power a home blender, which is enough to operate the instruments. Mars has weaker sunlight than Earth because it’s further from the sun.” Weighing in at 794lbs, InSight is a large lander that will dig into Mars’ surface for exploratory research. NASA’s website says, “[It] will dig about 16 feet (five meters) into the Martian subsurface, deeper than all previous arms, scoops, drills and probes. It will measure heat coming from Mars’ interior and reveal the planet’s thermal history.”
You can see updates as well as photographs taken by the lander on its Twitter account @NASAInSight. The first landscape focused picture taken by the spacecraft was posted on Nov 26th and it displays a stunningly barren place. I mean, of course, I don’t know what I was expecting but I felt so struck by the fact that we can easily obtain pictures taken on another planet. Not just our moon which are absolutely stunning, but from another planet. I’m blown away by all of this.
Curiosity is another vehicle NASA sent to Mars last year but is at a different site about 373 miles or 600 kilometers away, again according to NASA’s website. InSight will be working on Mars for 709 Sols or Mars days which are 728 Earth days. That’s almost 2 years. And during all this time, the lander will be checking in with Earth twice a day for the first several weeks then just once a day as it gathers more data the further it digs into Mars’ ground.
If you want to learn more specifics about InSight’s mission, check out NASA’s website where they break down the mission in the Surface Operations Timeline page. Or you can get updated through the News section on the website, and through their Twitter and Facebook pages.
Now let’s tackle another tough topic: drug abuse and overdose. I know, this is tough stuff but some countries have seen dramatic decreases in drug-induced deaths and people getting help through drug consumption rooms. The article we are looking at today comes from The Guardian, written by Mattha Busby on November 21st.
When people report on drug problems, especially overdose, the stories are usually terrifying. The drug epidemic we see here in the US is not isolated to our country alone of course. Europe and other countries are seeing massive problems with drugs and overdose specifically. But Busby found a way to shine the light of hope on some creative solutions countries like Denmark and Spain are implementing and finding great progress to reducing the number of drug related deaths in their countries.
The article talks quite a bit about the drug overdose statistics in the UK, especially Scotland where overdose and unsafe drug usage are out of control. I will give a very brief overview of some of these facts to give you more context, but don’t worry, we will be focusing on the good stuff because there are some serious wins we need to celebrate here.
Busby starts the article with a devastating fact, saying, “While European overdose rates are falling, the UK now has the worst drug death rate across the continent: one in three of the approximate 8,000 people who die as a result of drugs in Europe will do so in Britain.” But other countries have found ways to lower their numbers of drug-related deaths and illnesses by implementing ‘fixing rooms,’ places managed and supervised by medically trained staff to test the drug the user wants to use, supplying clean needles and ways to safely dispose of tools used, as well as administer any emergency medical treatments in cases of overdose or other reactions before calling an ambulance for further treatment.
These ‘consumption rooms’ as they are also known as, have been quite controversial for years. But since different places such as Germany, Switzerland, and of course as mentioned before, Denmark, have seen pretty drastic decreases in overdose deaths and other issues, the rooms have become more widely accepted. One of the main reason these safe spaces have been under such heavy scrutiny is that people feared the rooms would encourage more drug usage, that people would see the rooms as a sort of blessing from the government to use drugs and have it be legal and accepted behavior. Honestly, I found this to be a pretty fair assessment of the basic idea but you have to dig deeper and learn more about how these rooms operate before making such a judgment call.
The rooms are operated by medically trained staff as I mentioned before. They also tend to work in conjunction with social workers, hospitals, nonprofits, and other organizations that assist the people who use the room in order to treat their addiction and help them get back on their feet.
Busby reports on one consumption room called Skyen in Denmark, saying, “Their wraparound service delivers harm reduction and social work, in conjunction with the shelter next door, by providing assistance with housing applications and organising hospital appointments. Crucially, most of their visitors are extremely marginalised - “hard-to-reach, hard-to treat” - and may never have any other contact with non-users, or officialdom.” Skyen is open 24 hrs a day, has assisted over 7,800 people perform over 1 million injections over the past 6 years, and never had a single fatality. That’s right, no deaths recorded from their facility!
The article goes on to say, “In fact, there has never been a recorded death in any of the 78 drug consumption rooms in Europe. Why? Because nurses quickly administer antidotes and immediately resuscitate the person before calling an ambulance. Elsewhere, the death rate from opiate overdoses is about 6%.” I was honestly shocked to read this. The article includes link showing where they got this information, so check those out on my blog if you want to look into it further.
Vesterbro is a district within Denmark which used to find over 10,000 needles discarded on their streets weekly and within a year after the rooms opened, only find about 1,000 discarded needles a week. If this doesn’t point to progress for their city, I don’t know what does!
Busby interviewed an employee at Skyen who works as a social worker and chemist named Anders Larsen. He told Busby, “These people are really sick, they cannot just suddenly stop taking drugs. All we can do is make it as safe as possible, and if they decide that they want to give up, then we will immediately direct them to addiction support services.” This is an important point to bring up - that addiction, especially to hard drug - is not something the person can just stop. Not only is addiction itself incredibly difficult to fight, but the physical aspects to quitting hard drugs can often be lethal if not done with great care and medical support. Withdrawal is a huge problem people fighting addiction have to deal with in order to come out the other side. That is one of the big reasons rooms like Skyen are so important to have available, so people can have actual help in quitting drugs.
Larsen also told Busby, “What’s the point of sending people to jail, where there are no harm reduction measures despite drugs being so easy to buy. People will scratch a needle on the floor to sharpen it so they can get their hit. I wish we could give them free, clean drugs. All this crime is for nothing, the proceeds go back into crime. The war on drugs is lost.”
The act of quitting a strong substance is multi-layered. Psychologically the person has to be in a place where they are ready to move past the addiction. This can take years of counseling to even reach this step. Or the person has to reach some pretty dark depths to realize the impact the substance has on their life and body. People who fight addiction should not be viewed as weak or bad. They are people first and foremost. They are people who must be respected, valued, and supported during their difficult time. We don’t shame people with addiction to sugar or television with the same intensity as we do those with addiction to heroin, cocaine, or even alcohol or cigarettes. Sure, we have a tier of shame that we inflict on people dealing with different forms of addiction. But shouldn’t we see how wrong it is to shame them at all? They already know the addiction is hurting them so why do we try to make that pain even worse? Not shaming someone doesn’t mean we have to accept or approve of their actions. It simply means we stay loyal to them, loyal to their personhood, to valuing their life and helping them get healthy. And these consumption rooms are the first stepping stone to achieving this loyalty and path of freedom from addiction.
Busby highlights the countries that have implemented these rooms, reporting, “Across Europe the legal status of injecting rooms differs. Germany and Switzerland changed the law to allow for drug consumption rooms. Spain did not need to because it does not criminalise personal possession. In France, the safe spaces (housed in public hospitals in Paris and Strasbourg) are more contentious because the country has some of the strictest narcotics laws in Europe.
“In Portugal, which is set to soon introduce consumption rooms, the decriminalisation of drug use caused a steep fall in the drug death rate which now stands at a 10th of that in the UK. Ireland and Belgium are also soon to introduce them too.”
All the data over the past 6 years shows how integral supplying a safe and clean place for people to use drugs is for helping them beat their addiction. When people are able to overcome substance abuse, they can be active members of our societies again, able to hold steady jobs and sustain themselves. I hope the United States will one day allow these rooms in all cities as we desperately need this type of intervention.
CBS posted a very important story on November 18th written by David Rothman. Sean Sherman is a chef who came out with a beautiful cookbook that is more than just a collection of recipes. It’s a collection of memories and culture from the oldest people groups in the United States - the Native Americans.
Hailing from the Oglala Lakota Tribe in Minnesota, Sherman cooked in Minneapolis for years and years before working on this cookbook. But to say this is just a cookbook would be undermining the actual goal. The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen contains recipes the ways people cooked for years, not using any ingredients Europeans brought with them like sugar, dairy, flour, pork or beef. This book is about regaining a lost past stolen from the native people, helping to restore the knowledge once passed down from generation to generation.
Rothman reports, “Sherman said he is ‘“decolonizing” their diet.’” Martha Teichner is a CBS correspondent who spoke with Sherman. He told her, “It’s fun to put artistry on the plates and make food look pretty, but it’s really about having these food pieces tell their story. Cause we think about our grandparents and great-grandparents and the foods they ate, and for a lot of Native American people who were removed from their food ways, they started to lose those stories.” He goes on to tell her, “If you look at the epidemics that we have and health crisis on native reservations, you see immense amount of type-2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, all these things based off a bad diet.”
Because of all the diet-induced health issues Sherman has witnessed on reservations, he has taken his book and created workshops that he teaches on such reservations like the Prairie Island Indian Community home to the Dakota Nation. He worked with the children to teach them how to gather the foods needed and then how to prepare the meal itself. They cooked cedar braised bison with wild aronia berries.
Rothman wrote, “Sean Sherman’s goal is not just to produce a healthy meal, but to feed the soul of a nation…” He goes on to quote Sherman saying, “Having this chance to impact communities, all of my being poured into it, you know, I really feel it...and I am gaining a voice that we’re able to share to help others have a voice. That feels great.”
CBS Sunday Morning has a great video interviewing him and showing his work, which is what the article as based from. If you want to buy a copy of the book, Amazon is selling it for $28.44 right now. But be sure to visit his website at sioux-chef.com to watch his video and read more about his mission. On the website is a banner that says a restaurant is coming soon! I hope to be able to visit it one day. He also has a Twitter, Facebook page, and Instagram account if you want to follow on his journey to share the stories of America’s past.
Slice of Scotland
Sinow brought an exciting article from The Guardian written by Libby Brooks on November 9th. The article states, “Scotland will become the first country in the world to embed the teaching of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights in the school curriculum, in what campaigners have described as a historic moment.”
Regardless of what people believe about the homosexual or “non-traditional” lifestyles individuals may lead, it is important to teach our children about the context in which many people accomplished amazing things. And for many important historical figures, understanding their sexual orientation and how that impacted their life is a vital fact that we need to know in order to fully appreciate what they did.
The Time for Inclusion Education (TIE) Campaign is what got section 28 amended. Section 28, according to the article, was “introduced in 1988, banned local authorities in the UK from ‘promoting’ homosexuality, until it was eventually repealed in Scotland 2001 and in the rest of the UK two years later.” Scotland has had a difficult past with homosexuality, waiting 13 years after England and Wales to decriminalize the lifestyle. Many people have experienced bullying and homophobia at school with a staggering 27% of individuals attempting suicide afterwards according to a study conducted by TIE.
Now, Scotland is much more progressive, even being stated as “one of the best countries in Europe in relation to legal protections for LGBTI people.” The article even reports, “In 2016, the former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale described the country as having ‘the gayest parliament in the world’: at the time four of Scotland’s six party leaders (Dugdale, the Conservatives’ Ruth Davidson, Ukip’s David Coburn and the Green’s Patrick Harvie) identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual.”
Even more exciting, Scotland’s example is influencing other countries like Wales to include LGTBQI inclusive curriculum for their relationship and sex education courses for their schools. We are excited for Scotland and rooting for the progress!
Slice of Texas
For this week’s Slice of Texas, I have a really weird story with a happy ending for you. Goodwill, a nonprofit that deals with tons of strange donations, got a particularly remarkable donation earlier in November: a boa constrictor. TexasMonthly brings us this story written by Dan Solomon.
As a Goodwill worker was sorting through some donated clothing, she discovered the boa constrictor trying to keep warm. Now, if this were me, I would have screamed and run straight out of that room. Not terribly helpful but I know myself. Apparently, according to the original news story from the Star-Telegram, which reported the snake as a python, the lady who found the snake remained calm. Liz Confiliano, a spokesperson for Goodwill told Star-Telegram, “So she sort of shook the bin it was in, and it stuck its tongue out at her...She was very surprised, but stayed calm and asked coworkers to come assist her.” Thankfully, James Murphy is an assistant manager at the Fort Worth location where the boa constrictor ended up and is a snake enthusiast himself. He was able to contain the snake in a tub while they figured out next moves.
How did this happen? Well, Austin Pair was out of town when Toki, his red-tailed boa constrictor coming in at 3 feet, escaped his aquarium. When Pair got back home, he was really sad to see his beloved pet was missing. He and his roommates searched the house through without finding the snake and enough time passed that they had to move. Pair took two couches and some clothing to a Goodwill donation center still disappointed that he couldn’t find his slithery friend. According to the article, “...Pair assumed that the snake had slithered out of his life of comfort and was roughing it on the mean streets.”
Thank goodness a friend of Pair’s saw the story and shared it with him. Quickly Pair got to the proper location and was able to reclaim Toki. Solomon reports, “Pair told the paper that he thinks Toki might have toppled his habitat because he missed his owner - they would snuggle up, snake and man, to watch hockey together or hang out while Pair played video games. Now, the two are reunited and can resume their friendship.” How’s that for a happy ending?
Thanks for listening to some of the joy found in the world this past week. If you have stories of good people doing good things in your neighborhood or anywhere, send them to us! We’ve got an email, email@example.com or tweet at us @joybingepodcast or visit our Facebook page and Instagram account. TELL US THE GOOD STUFF!
The music for this podcast is "Industrious Ferret" by Kevin MacLeod. Thanks for listening and have a great week!