Things That Matter

Tourists Bring Millions Of Dollars To The Amazon Just To Try This Drug

Every year, thousands of tourists travel to the Amazon to participate in ayahuasca rituals, which are said to be life-changing spiritual experiences. Ayahuasca is a powerful drug that, when prepared correctly, allegedly has the ability to blast the most skeptical user into a hallucinogenic trance that opens their eyes to the true nature of the universe. However, the popularity of the drug is putting a drain on the Amazon region, especially in Peru, where tourist demand is creating a shortage of ayahuasca’s main ingredient, the Guardian reports.

Tourists bring fat wallets to the area, but they are putting a strain on the supply of caapi vine available to “indigenous healers.”

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 10.21.56 AM
CREDIT: Ryan Haran / Flickr

Every year, tourists bring in over 6 million dollars to the region, but the economic boom has created a crisis among the curanderos who rely on supplies that are becoming increasingly difficult to acquire. The caapi vine, a vital ingredient, can take several years to mature, and growers are currently having trouble meeting local needs. Adding to the demand, exporters are sending Amazonian ayahuasca materials to foreign countries, contributing to the overall depletion in the Amazonian region. The Guardian reports that many shamans have had to seek out alternative ingredients to accommodate the growing demand, but this has contributed to problems in the quality of the ayahuasca tea that tourists consume. Is there a solution to this current crisis? Check out the Guardian‘s piece to see what steps growers and shamans taking.

[READ MORE] The Guardian: Tourist boom for ayahuasca a mixed blessing for Amazon


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14-Year-Old Latina Student Developed Technology Allowing People To Ask Alexa Immigration Questions In English And Spanish

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14-Year-Old Latina Student Developed Technology Allowing People To Ask Alexa Immigration Questions In English And Spanish

@InfyFoundation / Twitter

Alexa, am I allowed to get a driver’s license? Alexa, how long does it take to get a visa? These are the kinds of questions immigrants are now able to ask the virtual Amazon assistant in Spanish and English, thanks to “Immigration Bonds,” an Alexa Skill created by a 14-year-old Latina.

Suguey Carmona, a high school student at KIPP Brave High School in Austin, Texas, developed an Alexa Skill that allows English- and Spanish-speaking immigrants to get answers to questions related to their rights.

Carmona first developed an interest in coding after taking a computer class in the sixth grade. She then joined Hello World, a K-12 computer science program based in Austin and San Francisco. She became exposed to different programming languages and discovered a way to meld her love of coding with an idea to help out immigrant families in her community.

The 14-year-old set out to help her own friends and family with this app.

I chose to work on this technology because I see my own friends and family who have questions and who are struggling to make a living, and I thought maybe I should do something about it,” Carmona, whose family is from Mexico, told NBC News.

Carmona’s technology helps create a judgement-free safe zone for people to ask questions freely.

Language barriers and lack of access to information can be a major source of confusion for immigrants and can prevent them from accessing the services they need, according to numerous studies. Carmona’s technology addresses those challenges by providing a judgment-free zone to ask questions at people’s pace and in their own language.

The teen worked on everything, from research to coding, to develop “Immigration Bonds.”

After interviewing people about their most pressing immigration questions and conducting research on the logistics of obtaining paperwork, finding employment and navigating other areas of life as an immigrant, Carmona began working on the technology, which she named “Immigration Bonds.” And so began a monthslong process paved with coding challenges. “I’d work on it for hours each day,” Carmona said. “I’d start a new paper and it would crash and break and I’d be like, ‘Oh, shoot. Now I have to start over again.”

Sabina Bharwani, the founder of Hello World, said that her team assisted Carmona on her app but they also let her struggle, which “made all the difference” when the teen was successful.

“Suguey struggled to use the Alexa interface, which is usually used by developers with 10-15 years of experience,” Bharwani said. “It was a steep learning curve, but when she mastered it, it meant more.” Throughout this time, Carmona experimented with different ways to present the technology. She said she wasn’t sure if she wanted it to be a video game for children or a phone app, but she ultimately decided on issuing it as an Alexa Skill because she liked “how you didn’t need certain keywords for it to work.”

Alexa would reply no matter what you respond,” Carmona said. “The problem with text boxes is that if you don’t put in certain words or phrase things a certain way, it won’t read it and that can make it really complicated for people who are trying to use it to get answers.”

After developing a prototype, Carmona tested the technology with her friends and family and made adjustments as she saw fit.

Once Alexa users download ”Immigration Bonds,” they can ask Alexa questions directly, as they would for Apple’s Siri or other voice-automated technology. For example, if a person wants to know whether they can apply for a driver’s license depending on their immigration status, the app will respond by asking them where they live, for example, so that it can provide the user details based on their geographical location, as laws differs by state.

Latinos are vastly underrepresented in computer science.

Latinos in computer science (aka. coders) only make up 7 percent of the STEM workforce, according to a 2018 study from the Pew Research Center. And at Google — one of the largest tech companies — only 1.4 percent of its new tech hires in 2019 were Latina and less than 4 percent were Latino. This is why stories like Carmona’s  draw attention to the importance of endeavors like Hello World and Computer Science Education Week — which recently took place globally from Dec. 9-15 — which foster students’ interest in computer science.

Those who are interested can download the “Immigration Bonds” app on the Alexa Skills store on the Amazon website.Though the technology was published in the Amazon app store earlier this year, Carmona plans to keep adapting it and eventually publish it as an Apple app too.

Former Amazon Mexico Executive Goes Into Hiding After Wife Was Killed

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Former Amazon Mexico Executive Goes Into Hiding After Wife Was Killed

Abril Pérez Sagaón / Facebook / Entrepreneur en Español / YouTube

A former Amazon executive is suspected to be on the run in the United States after he crossed the border two days after his estranged wife’s murder. Juan Carlos Garcia is the primary suspect in the murder of his estranged wife, Abril Pérez Sagaón, who is believed to have been assassinated via a hitman on November 25 in Mexico City. Pérez Sagaón was in Mexico City to appeal a verdict that found Garcia guilty of domestic violence after he savagely beat her with a baseball bat in January. Pérez Sagaón believes that he is guilty of attempted murder, and was in Mexico City to prove that when Garcia allegedly hired for her assassination, completing what he allegedly set out to do in January. Mexico courts ruled the beating as a domestic violence case, prompting outrage from the public on how women are treated in Mexico. International police were notified with a warrant for Garcia’s arrest after he didn’t appear for a scheduled hearing.

Interpol now believes that Garcia crossed the Tijuana-California border on foot just days after her assassination.

Abril Pérez Sagaón was murdered in front of two of her three children.

CREDIT: @JPSAGAON / TWITTER

Pérez Sagaón had moved to Monterrey from Mexico City after she was beaten by Garcia and promptly filed for divorce. She was traveling back to Mexico City to appeal the verdict that downgraded his charge from attempted murder to domestic violence. While in Mexico City, she underwent a psychological evaluation on Nov. 25 that was meant to help her case.

Ultimately, her goal in appealing the domestic violence charge was to be able to get full custody of her children. She was in the car with two of her three children and her lawyer when a man on a motorcycle opened fire on Pérez Sagaón through the passenger seat window. He shot her in the head and neck. Pérez Sagaón died six hours later after doctors were unable to save her from her injuries.

Pérez Sagaón’s family is calling for #JusticeforAbril.

CREDIT: @JPSAGAON / TWITTER

Pérez Sagaón’s brother, Javier Pérez Sagaón, tweeted the above photo of her after her death, “Despite being hit and after several days in the hospital, she was already positive and in a good mood. We miss you, little sister. #JusticeForAbril #AbrilPerez”

The family is absolutely certain that Garcia killed Pérez Sagaón. A relative that asked El País to remain anonymous told the outlet that “the only enemy she had in her life was him.” Pérez Sagaón has placed a restraining order against him, and his lawyers were informed that she would be traveling in Mexico City. “He had enough money to hire a hitman. We have no doubt it was him. The way things unfolded, because he already had shown intent, and because we know the way he is,” the relative told the outlet.

The family has tweeted out images of Pérez Sagaón’s brutal injuries to prove that Garcia had already attempted to murder her.

CREDIT: @JPSAGAON / TWITTER

“Only a coward does this to a woman,” her brother, Javier, tweeted in Spanish, along with the images. “Terrible the emotional and physical suffering April suffered at the hands of her ex-husband JUAN CARLOS GARCÍA, for years! Let this atrocity not be forgotten. The authorities must apply the force of the law and make this damn being pay for the murder of April. #JusticiaParaAbril,” tweeted another friend in Spanish.

#JusticiaParaAbril has trended in Mexico since her death, prompting calls for Judge Héctor Jiménez López’s firing.

CREDIT: @BRENDARUIZA / TWITTER

Many are calling on Judge Héctor Jiménez to step down from office for the way he handled Pérez Sagaón’s case. “Outrageous that Judge Héctor Jiménez remains in office,” tweeted one woman in Spanish. Another added that “No woman is safe in México while judges like Héctor Jiménez López keep freeing femicide offenders.” The judge freed García on counts of domestic violence, rather than attempted murder, even though he grabbed Pérez Sagaón in her sleep and beat her with a baseball bat until her head split open.

Others are marching in the streets, demanding #JusticiaParaAbril.

CREDIT: @LAPLATARADIO / TWITTER

Garcia was the CEO of Amazon Mexico from 2014 to 2017 and went on to become a Director at a Mexican tech company. Many believe that his wealth and status led to a more lenient charge against Garcia, allowing him to continue to operate among citizens and coordinate the assassination of Pérez Sagaón.

Abril Pérez Sagaón is survived by her three children. Authorities are asking for help in capturing Garcia, who entered the United States through Southern California last week.

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