Category Archives: Safety and Security

Inspirational Women Writers in Mexico–Mary Ellen Sanger

Meet Mary Ellen Sanger, author of Blackbirds in the Pomegranate Tree: Stories from Ixoctel State Penitentiary.

Mary Ellen

It’s Mary Ellen – not Mary, ever. Mom hated that name. Long story. I am from Schenectady, New York – though I left when I was just 20. Told my mom I was tired of falling on my ass in the snow. Moved to San Diego (8 years) then Mexico (17 years), New York City (9 years) and now Fort Collins, CO – because I fell in love with a chemist.

I think the smell of the ruins brought me to Mexico. Names like Nezahualcoyotl and Huitzilopochtli. Flower songs. Cacao. Jaguars. I had studied Spanish and Anthropology in college, and it seemed like the logical thing. A three-week visit to the Yucatan tickled me enough to know I needed more. A job in tourism (and a spirit of adventure) allowed me to stay for 17 years.

Our lives change with each chapter – my Mexico chapter opened me up to tectonic shifts – all those plates shifting underneath us. It felt oddly comfortable, the uneven sidewalks, the rumbling earth – made more sense to me than the staid and tidy right angles of home.  Because of Mexico, I can’t live without chile and I cry at stories of solidarity.

My experiences in Mexico introduced me to inequalities I had not before met face to face. The gloss of tourism vs the displacement of the indigenous. The fashionista vs the young girl who tapes her shoes together to get to school. There’s a heady gap to contemplate. I don’t know that mine is actually a change of belief system – but rather an opening that allowed me to see beyond the happy colored veneer of commercialized Mexico, to the reality and severity of Mexico “descalzo” (barefoot). I became activist, observer, explorer. Now, out of Mexico for 13 years, I retain that desire to contemplate what lies beneath… believing that answers are sometimes in the cracks and shadows.

I think it is a challenge to be an obvious Gringa in Mexico – and find a place that is not off-putting. To go beyond the token American, to learn enough about the country/history/food/music/telenovelas/ to meet Mexican friends on a level that demonstrates a real interest in Mexico and Mexicans.

The mom of a Mexican boyfriend from years ago said she would hold me to writing a book and planting a tree. She was present at a tree planting – so the book remained. I finally wrote a book.

I spent 17 years getting to know Mexico – there are many moments that I can easily slip back into. Watching a sea turtle leave her eggs on a beach in Akumal, meeting a wildcat in Cabo San Lucas, listening to a discussion of abuelita’s (grandma’s) best salsa with friends, listening to the songs of displaced families in Chiapas. They are small moments that stay with me, for their ability to pin me to a certain light, sound, smell.

A defining moment – while there is a temptation to say my time in jail that defined the life I live now as an advocate and writer – I think is better defined as the month spent in Chiapas with indigenous families. Observing the “other” side of life in Mexico, the side at once glorified and reviled. Glorified as symbols of the cultural richness of the country that draws tourism, and reviled as obstructions on resource-rich land. The imprint of that time reminds me to look beyond, to observe the tendrils of a vine – what do they hang on to? What throws them off?

Now that I no longer live there, I miss some things about my life in Mexico, but not things I would trade my current life for… I miss the acceptance of imperfection (rutted roads, alright) and the availability of community. I left Mexico under duress, never expected to. A brief stint unjustly incarcerated was enough to drive me back to the States to reconsider my base. I go back to Mexican as often as I can (annually, preferably) though I am happy in a committed relationship with a man who appreciates Mexico.

I, like so many I know, do not have enough free time. In the mid-90s in Cabo San Lucas, I read seed catalogs. Hadn’t seen half the flowers in there, but learned Latin names. Antirrhinum for Snapdragon. Ipomoea for morning glory. I sowed a zillion seeds, and obviously, not all wanted to live in the desert. Gardening provides metaphors for so many things – most of my free time goes to nurturing plants and observing growth. Oh, and petting cats. And the New York Times crossword puzzle with my partner.

I work for an NYC nonprofit – a remote gig, and on the campus of Colorado State University. Jobs that keep me too occupied to write the next book right now.

blackbirds

I published “Blackbirds in the Pomegranate Tree: Stories from Ixcotel State Prison” in late 2013 ten years after my release. The book is a love story to Mexico, to women, to solidarity and community. It is a product of living in New York City after the trauma of unjust incarceration and a shift in my life so large I couldn’t find footing. Then I recalled the many women I met who were victims of their own system. And I sat with them for a few years writing the stories I remembered as they shared them with me.

I met the great Elena Poniatowska while working for a Mexican organization in New York. I met her not as writer to writer, but friend to friend. We walked around New York looking for a new watchband for her, buying a suit for her upcoming presentation (Do you like the pink or the red?) and navigating the subway together. She wrote an introduction to the book for which I am forever grateful that ends – “I suppose and believe that I am not wrong in saying that for Mary Ellen, Mexico is a woman who one day, will find herself.”

May we all do the good work to find ourselves.

Blackbirds in the Pomegranate Tree: Stories from Ixcotel State Prison is an absolutely amazing read.  The author’s love for Mexico, despite it all, shines through.  She gives voice to the voiceless found in the shadows beneath the walls of the women’s penitentiary and once reading it, you will never see the world in the same light again.

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This post was proofread by Grammarly.

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Oh where, oh where have they gone?

Yesterday I got home early from my classes and was accosted by the neighbor. As we aren’t exactly friendly, I wondered what this was about. It seems that someone had stolen his borrega (sheep) and he was positive the person or persons had jumped our wall into his area and removed said animal that way.

I doubted his story at first. It seemed a far stretch to think someone would lift a full-grown sheep over the 6-foot wall. He said the tejas (roof tiles) were broken right at the entry point. I commented that we had recently bought bricks to raise two of our walls and that there had been several other robberies recently. They started about the time Chokis was poisoned.

The place where the thieves jumped the wall into the neighbor's area.

The place where the thieves jumped the wall into the neighbor’s area.

Anyway, I went inside and looked out at the goats. It seemed there were fewer than usual. When my husband got home I asked him about it. Yes, Bunny and one of Venada’s twins were missing, as were a number of tools.

Further evidence of intrusion. This cactus was full and healthy in morning. Now it's munched on and trampled.

Further evidence of intrusion. This cactus was full and healthy in morning. Now it’s munched on and trampled.

As the house was unattended between 7 am and about 2 pm, that had to be the approximate time frame of the robberies. I can’t imagine that it was a quiet burglary. Lifting 3 hefty animals over the wall surely resulted in loud, hysterical bleating. Yet no one saw a thing.

Our total loss was about 2000 pesos, no small change for us. But what can you do? Call the police. Funny you should say that. Just last week, I thought it odd that a police vehicle was making the rounds in La Yacata. Probably scoping the joint out. AND the day after the robbery, the patrol vehicle sat at the end of the road most of the day. But where was it DURING the robbery?

The neighbor across the street had 2 dogs. They were poisoned yesterday as well. Guess who is probably the next target?

We opted to add to the walls.  Now they stand at 9 feet high.  We plan on getting some barbed wire to finish off the top.  We also covered those air ventilation holes the pig guy had in his wall.  Ni modo. (Nothing to be done about it).

While we were working on the walls, we had complaints from other residents that material they had left overnight had been stolen.  So it seems the rash of robberies has not finished yet.  Well, eventually there won’t be anything left to steal and the theives will move on like hungry locusts.  Or at least that’s what we hope.

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Surviving the Zombie apocalypse in La Yacata

I have a love/hate relationship with zombies. I love to hate them. Really. So going into this post, I didn’t know much more about them other than they are resuscitated undead that can be stopped by a blow to the head. However, I did some zombie research and have discovered that the best way to survive a zombie apocalypse is to prevent from becoming a zombie because once you’ve been infected, well, that’s pretty much it for your higher thinking skills.

Therefore, as prevention is the key, I’ve listed the top 10 things that cause zombification, in no particular order, so that you can avoid them like the plague (no pun intended).

survive-zombie1. Pesticide use causes zombies. Do not breathe, touch or ingest anything with pesticides. Go organic.

For further research:

Movies :Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Les Raisin de la Mort, Toxic Zombies, Warning Sign

Articles :Long-term Health Effects of Pesticides, The problem with pesticides, Exposure to pesticides linked to long-term brain damage, Brain and nervous system damaged by low-level exposure to pesticides , Massive New Study Suggests Pesticide the Cause of Microcephaly — NOT Zika Virus, Largest-Ever GMO Crops Study Shows Massive Environmental Damage in US, Breaking: Central Florida Aerial Spraying NALED on 20,000 Acres by Planes for Mosquitos!, Study: Class of Pesticides Sprayed Over Miami May Cause Neurological Disease , Maybe You Aren’t Gluten Intolerant. Maybe You’re Just Poison Intolerant, Illegal Spraying of Monsanto-Dupont Pesticide Causes Massive Crop Damage in Multiple States, Roundup Weedkiller Found In 75% of Air and Rain Samples, Gov. Study Finds,  Class of Pesticides Sprayed Over Miami May Cause Neurological Disease, says study

chews-face

2. Steroid and synthetic drug use cause zombies. Do not use steroids or synthetic drugs. Find natural cures. Switch to marijuana. (I can’t believe I said that!)

For further research:

Movies: Goal of the Dead, Bath Salt Zombies, Ozone

Articles: Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction, Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse Neurological Effects, Opiates, Overdose and Permanent Brain Damage, Effects of Cocaine, Steroids May Cause Brain Damage?, DrugFacts: Anabolic Steroids, FSU Student, Suspected to be High on Flakka, Allegedly Ate Victim’s Face After Stabbing Him and Wife to Death, World’s 10 Most Deadly Street Drugs that Will Quickly Tear Your Body Apart

Marijuana as beneficial substance:

Movies: The cabin in the woods

Articles: 23 Health Benefits Of Marijuana, All The Reasons Pot Is Good For You, Medical cannabisResearchers Finally Confirm that Marijuana DOES NOT Lower IQ in Adolescents

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3. Alcohol abuse causes zombies. Do not overindulge in fermented beverages. There is some research that suggests alcohol in moderation may be beneficial.

For further research:

Movies: Broken Springs, The Vineyard

Articles: Alcohol’s damaging effects on the brain, Alcohol related brain impairment, Alcohol-related brain damage, Long-term effects of alcohol consumption, Long-Term Effects Of Alcohol Impair Brain’s Pathways That Underlie Impulse Control

zombie-survival-tip-alcohol_o_559191

Alcohol as beneficial substance:

Movies: Days of Darkness, Night of the Living Dorks

Articles: 11 Ways Alcohol Is Legitimately Healthy, 23 SURPRISING, HEALTHY BENEFITS OF ALCOHOL, 7 Health Benefits Of Drinking Alcohol

bit

4. Genetically modified animal or insect bites causes zombies. Avoid genetically modified creatures.

Movies: Black Sheep, Black Swarm, Quarantine 2 Terminal, A Little Bit Zombie , Zombeavers, Army of Darkness, Blood of the Beast, Braindead, REC 4 Apocalypse, Zombie Night 2 Awakening

Articles:Genetically Modified Animals , 8 Bizarre Examples of Genetic Engineering in Animals, Genetically Modified Animals, Genetically modified insect, Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes could be released in Florida Keys if British researchers win approval to use the bugs against painful viral diseases

grains

5. Ingesting a contaminated or genetically modified product causes zombies. Avoid genetically modified food and drink. Coke is bad! Grown your own food!

For further research:

Movies: Wasting Away, Surf II, Bio Zombie, Poultrygeist–Night of the Chicken Dead, Zombieland

Articles: Does Soda Affect Your Brain?, 8 Negative Effects Of Soda On Your Brain , This Is Your Teenager’s Brain on Soda,  America’s soft drink addiction,  10 IRREFUTABLE evidence that GMO can harm you! , This is how GMOs damage your brain, Health Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods, GMOs/Nanofoods, Girl, 14, left brain-damaged after eating KFC chicken twister forced into new court battle as food giant appeals $8m payout, Mad Cow Disease What the Government Isn’t Telling You!, Farmed Salmon – One of The Most Toxic Foods in the World, 10 Reasons To Avoid Soy At All Costs… , 20 Practical Uses for Coca Cola… Proof That Coke Does Not Belong In the Human Body, 9 Toxic Fake Foods Made in China Contain Plastic, Pesticides and Cancer Causing Chemicals

6. Drinking from an infected water supply causes zombies.  Avoid water laced with chemicals such as fluoride or pesticides. (See #1) Collect and distil your own drinking water.

For further research:

Movies: City of Rott, Pathogen, Rise of the Zombies, Special Dead,

Articles: The Effects of Water Pollution 8 Significant Issues, Lead in water: What are the health effects and dangers?, Contaminated water caused long-term brain damage in Camelford, say doctors study, Brain damaged children: Water that meets federal heavy metals limit is still not safe to drink, Flouride’s direct effects on brain: Animal Studies, Impact of fluoride on neurological development in children, Cocktails Of Dozens Of Drugs In Our Water Supply Remain Unfiltered

tvkids

7. Watching TV causes zombies.  Get rid of your TV.  Media is a form of brainwashing.

For further research:

Movies: The Video Dead

Articles: Children who watch too much TV may have ‘damaged brain structures’, The effects of TV on the brain, Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain, 6 Brainwashing Techniques They’re Using On You Right Now, Research Study Explains How U.S. Media Brainwashes The Public , How We Are Brainwashed by the MediaTelevision is Turning Us Into Zombies

germs

8. Receiving chemical treatment for a disease or a vaccine for prevention of a disease causes zombies. Use natural cures. Do not get vaccinated.

For further research:

Movies: Autumn, Dead Meat, Zombieland, Flight of the Living Dead, I am Legend, REC, The Sky Has Fallen, Virus Undead, Zombie Apocalypse, Silent Night Zombie Night, Bone Sickness, Playground, Insanitarium, Necropolis Awakened, Zombie Planet, Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!, Undead Pool, Resident Evil, The Returned, World War Z

Articles: 10 Shocking Facts About Mad Cow Disease, Malaria in pregnancy linked to brain damage in babies, Army units ordered to stop taking anti-malarial drug linked to brain damage, Chemotherapy ‘could cause brain damage’ in breast cancer patients, Researchers Detail Chemotherapy’s Damage to the Brain, TDAP VACCINATED MOTHERS GIVE BIRTH TO BRAIN DAMAGED BABIES, Subclinical Brain Injury Caused by H5N1 Influenza Virus Infection, Bird flu causes Alzheimer’s-like brain damage, study says, Pandemrix, FDA Approves Experimental H5N1 Bird Flu Vaccine with Reactive AS03 Adjuvant for U.S. Stockpile, Vaccines and Brain Damage, Rabies, Permanent brain damage and pertussis vaccination: is the end of the saga in sight?, Vaccines and Neurological Damage, CDC SAYS MMR AND PERTUSSIS VACCINES CAN CAUSE PERMANENT BRAIN DAMAGE, Boy Awarded $174,000 After Flu Vaccine Causes Permanent Brain Damage, What the flu shot can do to your brain, Monsanto’s Famous Herbicide Chemical Found In Childhood Vaccines And It’s Extremely Toxic, Independent Lab Discovers Glyphosate in Five Different Childhood Vaccines , Courts Quietly Confirm MMR Vaccine Causes Autism

zombie-grammar

9. Being exposed to toxic, radioactive or nuclear waste in the air, soil or water, whether by accident or design, causes zombies. Stay away from test sites, nuclear reactors and leaking facilities. (See Surviving a toXic cloud and Surviving Nuclear disaster)

For further research:

Movies: Caustic Zombies, Eat Me!, Fido, The Horror of Party Beach, Night of the Living Dead Re-Animation, Nightmare City, Remains, Zombie Bloodbath, The children, Dead Air, Deathwatch, The Earth Dies Screaming, Forest of the Dead, Hell of the Living Dead, Miruthan, Planet Terror, The Return of the Living Dead, State of Emergency, Revenge of the Living Dead Girls, Tokyo Zombie, La Morte Vivante, 28 Weeks Later

Articles: Officials: Fukushima Has Now Contaminated 1/3 Of The Worlds Oceans , Coincidence: Kansas Kids Mysteriously Ill…In The Same Town As The Forthcoming DHS Bio-Safety Level 4 Lab, Tyson Foods Now Listed as Bigger Polluter than US Department of Defense, Koch Industries and Exxon Mobile, Massive Sinkhole Opens In Florida Releasing Millions Of Gallons Of “Slightly Radioactive” Water, The New Flint: Children Exposed To Lead And Arsenic In Soil For Years, Are Now Homeless

zombie-living

10. Aliens and asteroids cause zombies. There isn’t much you can do about this one, folks. (See Surviving UFO invasion). Fortunately, it seems the least likely cause of zombies.

For further research:

Movies: Gangs of the Dead, Hide and Creep, I was a Zombie for the FBI, Invisible Invaders, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Zombie Self-Defense Force, Alien Dead, Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay, Brain Dead, Days of Darkness, The Dead and the Damned, Germ Z, Night of the Comet, Slither, They Walk, Undead, Wyrmwood

Articles: Poisonous Effects of Asteroid Impacts or Nuclear Explosions in the Western Regions of the Black Sea, Toxic Shock, Global Effects

how-to-survive-zombie-apocalypse

Certain groups of people are especially at risk to becoming zombies. If you belong to one of these groups, it behooves you to take special precautions against becoming a zombie.

staying-human

1–Being in prison places you at a higher risk of becoming a zombie. Stay out of prison.

For further research:

Movies: Dead Men Walking, Raiders of the Living Dead, Garden of the Dead, Dead Riot, Re-Animator

Articles: Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury in Prisons, Traumatic Brain Injury in Prisons and Jails: An Unrecognized Problem, Traumatic brain injury in a prison population: prevalence and risk for re-offending, Brain Injury Rate 7 Times Greater among U.S. Prisoners, Traumatic Brain Injury in Prisons: A Review

college-zombie

2–Being a college student places you at a higher risk of becoming a zombie. Don’t go to college. Self-educate.

For further research:

Movies: Brain Blockers, Dorm of the Dead, House of the Dead 2, Night of the Creeps, Re-animator, Voodoo

Articles: 9 Ways Going to College Affects Your Health, Is a College Education Worth It? , 6 Disadvantages Of Going To College, 10 Disadvantages of College

zombie-with-phone

3–Being a high school student places you at a higher risk of becoming a zombie. Unschool.

For further research:

Movies: Detention of the Dead, Night Life, One Dark Night, Scouts guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Tormented, Trailer Park Terror, Zombie High, Automaton Transfusion, Biohazardous, Stacy

Articles: Issues Schools Face that Negatively Impacts Student Learning, Negative Impacts of Modern Education – Self Centrism, Public schools do cause negative effects on a person’s education and psychological behavior

uncle-sam

4–Being in the military places you at a higher risk of becoming a zombie. Do not join the armed forces of any country.

For further research:

Movies: Uncle Sam, War of the Dead, Wasting Away, Zombie Strippers, Zone of the Dead, The Dead Next Door, Zombi 3

Articles: Malaria drug causes brain damage that mimics PTSD: case study, Traumatic Brain Injury Overview, Military-related traumatic brain injury and neurodegeneration, TBI and PTSD: Navigating the Perfect Storm, Brain-damaging Side Effects Force Army to Pull Mefloquine

zombie-end-of-world

La Yacata is the best place to survive a zombie apocalypse. We collect our own water, grow our own food, do not have a television, choose natural health options, do not use pesticides, believe in self-education, live far from nuclear facilities, and have a rooftop sniper vantage point, should worse come to worst. Yes, it would be easier to give in and become a zombie, drink coke and eat hot dogs, but where would the fun be in that? When you see the danger you are in living in modern society, we’ll see you in La Yacata!

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This post was proofread by Grammarly.

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Surviving a toXic cloud in La Yacata

Accidents happen. It’s part of life. Human error, mechanical malfunction, shoddy safety practices, deliberate terrorism, even natural disaster all could cause a life-threatening toxic cloud in your area.

Mexico has quite a history of such toxic cloud disasters. The thing is, it’s often hard to measure the real magnitude of the disaster with all the government cover-up that goes on. Here are a few examples.

In April of 2016, The Pemex facility in Coatzacoalcos had an explosion which reportedly killed 13 people and injured another 100. The explosion caused a massive fire (it is an oil refinery after all) which created a toxic cloud containing chloroethane among other toxic gasses.

Schools were suspended in six municipalities surrounding the toxic cloud site. Residents were told to stay inside their houses, although Mexican authorities insisted that the cloud posed no risk to the population. Pemex supported this statement and further assured the media that the explosion would not impact the plant’s oil exportation production. Whew! I’m sure everyone was worried about that!

This is not the first major accident for the Mexican company. In January of 2013, Pemex’s headquarters in Mexico City was hit by a massive gas explosion that killed 37 people.

In October of 2012, 30 people were killed and 42 wounded at another Pemex oil refinery in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. The smoke from the toxic cloud that resulted was visible up to 10 miles away.

In Poza Rica, Veracruz in November of 1950, the Pemex oil refinery “accidentally” released hydrogen sulfide into the air. Over 20 people were killed while they slept and 320 were treated for exposure. The toxic cloud killed 50% of the animals that were exposed to its gasses.

Another incident on Poza Rica occurred in May of 2002. A series of explosions occurred at the refinery, killing one, burning two and injuring 7 in the toxic cloud that resulted.

In May of 1991, there was an explosion and subsequent fire at the national pesticide plant ANAVERSA in Cordoba, Veracruz which created a toxic cloud made up of Xylene. The vapors killed 5 people and caused dozens to be treated for inhalation of the chemical compound that affects the central nervous system.

In Nanchital, Veracruz in April of 2005, workers attempting to repair a pipeline, mistakenly cut an ammonia pipe releasing a toxic cloud into the neighborhood. Six workers were killed, 297 others were treated for exposure and more than 1,500 were evacuated.

Pemex has numerous received accolades for its safety standards year after year, however, the death toll is in the thousands. Those listed above are only a small segment of industrial air contamination caused by the national oil company.

In 2005 alone, 516.9 thousand tons of SOx emissions were released into the atmosphere by Pemex facilities.  SOx emissions are the major precursor of acid rain.

At times a toxic cloud results from deliberate actions. An explosion on a drilling platform off the coast of Louisiana in 2010 caused a massive oil spill which was then set on fire in an attempt to keep the spill from spreading. The fire in the Gulf of Mexico created an enormous toxic cloud, which of course, the U.S. government felt would be the lesser of two evils and cause less damage than allowing the oil spill to reach land.

Then there was that naled aerial spraying in North Carolina in August of 2016. Not only were millions of bees and other beneficial insects killed, but naled is a compound toxic to humans as well, causing damaged to the nervous system, birth defects, paralysis, and death.

Smog is yet another form of toxicity found in the air.  Smog is highly toxic to humans and has been proven to cause sickness and death among those that breath it in.  Mexico City is the most smog-plagued city in Latin America

Although the Mexican government is quick to point out that Mexico City’s air quality is better than much of China and India.

So what do you do in the event of a toxic cloud in your area? Well, a biohazard suit would come in handy. However, in the event that your suit is at the cleaner’s, any cloth used to cover your mouth and nose that minimizes the amount of toxic fumes you inhale would help as you move away from the source as quickly as possible. A biohazard mask would be good to have in this case.

Another tip that might work in some areas is to go into an airtight building. I have to say though that most buildings in Mexico are far from airtight so this might not be as helpful as it would be in more modern areas.

Remove any clothing that might have been exposed to the toxic cloud and dispose of it. Then shower to remove any residue left on your skin. Unfortunately, some chemicals react negatively to water so this might cause even more problems.

Several prepper sites recommended listening for official announcements by someone in authority for instructions on evacuation. I’m going to say that again that government cover-up might preclude this as being a valid life-saving option.

La Yacata would be an excellent place to be to survive a toxic cloud catastrophe as it is far from any Pemex refineries, there are no pipes going through the area, ammonia or otherwise, and since our 95-year-old pesticide spraying neighbor no longer plants any crops, the air in and around us is totally breathable, unless you are downwind of the pig farmer that is. (See Hate thy neighbor). The area is still sparsely populated so government agencies are not spraying toxic chemicals to eliminate Zika carrying mosquitos either. They don’t really care if we get Zika or not, which is just as well I think.  Don’t you?

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