Things That Matter

As Hurricane Harvey Intensifies, Airbnb Looks To Texans To Open Their Homes Up To Victims

As Hurricane Harvey intensifies in Texas, leaving large parts of Houston devastated and completely flooded, Airbnb has activated their Disaster Response Program.

The program is set to provide those who’ve been displaced by Hurricane Harvey, as well as volunteers and relief workers, a safe place to stay at no cost.

Airbnb is currently looking for people in San Antonio, Austin and Dallas to open up their homes to victims and relief workers affected by Hurricane Harvey. Homes in those cities are already open to those in need of shelter.

The Houston police chief said 2,000 people were rescued from flooding in the city over the weekend, and that at least 185 critical rescue requests were pending as Tropical Storm Harvey brought catastrophic rains into flood-prone areas. Here, Harris County Sheriff's Deputy R. Johnson rescues two children from high floodwaters in Cypress, TX. Officials released more water from Houston-area reservoirs overwhelmed by Harvey earlier in the day. The move is aimed at protecting the city's downtown from devastating floods, but that could still endanger thousands of homes, even as the nation's fourth-largest city anticipated more rain. To find out how you can help those affected by Harvey, click the ABC7 logo from our profile. Photo: @hcsotexas

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So far, Hurricane Harvey has dropped more than 20 inches of rain in some areas, and it hasn’t let up. According to the New York Times, the rains could continue another two-to-three days and add 15-to-25 inches of rain to parts of Southern Texas. Areas could see up to 50 inches of rain. The Washington Post reports that officials in Texas have put the death toll at eight so far, with more 30,000 people expected to be evacuated from their homes.

People are currently offering spare rooms, living rooms, and entire homes and apartments on Airbnb. If you’re in need of shelter or willing to offer your home for free to individuals and families, click here to find a place to stay or list your home as an evacuation shelter.


READ: After Criticism, Border Patrol Announces It Will Close Immigration Checkpoints In Path Of Hurricane Harvey

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Someone Offered A ‘Live The Revolution’ Experience On Airbnb In Chile And The Insensitivity And Disrespect Is Just Baffling

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Someone Offered A ‘Live The Revolution’ Experience On Airbnb In Chile And The Insensitivity And Disrespect Is Just Baffling

Ivan Alvarado / Getty

Someone was offering an Airbnb “experience” that involved “living the revolution.” The two-hour ‘experience’ offered a tour of Santiago’s Plaza Italia but the offer prompted fierce backlash against effort to monetize protest and was quickly taken down by the platform. 

An Airbnb tour in Chile promised the chance to ‘live the revolution’.

The two-hour “experience” offered a tour of Santiago’s Plaza Italia, which has become ground zero for a wave of mass demonstrations over social and economic inequality.

The tour was monetizing the revolution.

Priced at 19,000 Chilean pesos —about $25 USD, the excursion included a bottle of water and protective eye goggles —a nod to those worn by protesters to shield themselves from birdshot and rubber-coated pellets shot by riot police.

“Live the revolution” was up on Airbnb Experiences

www.airbnb.com

The insensitive tour was promoted on Airbnb Experiences, a platform offering “one-of-a-kind activities hosted by locals” – but was withdrawn from the site just a few days after it went live, following huge criticism on social media.

A local ideated the tour.

Promotor Sebastián Nieto told local media that he came up with the idea of the tour after noting foreign visitors’ fascination with the demonstrations. “I realized that at the protests there are always lots of spectators, people taking photos,” he said. “Of course there is a backdrop of social issues – which is totally valid – but there’s also a playful element.”

But the experience was met with a lot of backlash.

Chileans responded with fury, with some claiming the tour was a violation of Airbnb’s safety policies, while others condemned its insensitivity. “The social struggle is NOT a business” read one tweet.

The protests have been taking place for more than 3 months now.

Several clashes have unfolded at Plaza Italia between protesters and the police for almost three months. According to reports, hundreds of thousands of people have joined the rallies since they began in September as they called for radical changes to the country’s economic and political system over alleged corruption claims. The country’s security forces have also been accused of a spate of grave human rights abuses in their response to the marches, that have left at least 26 people dead and thousands more injured.

The UN human rights office reported that it had heard 345 cases involving people suffering eye injuries caused by lead pellets fired from police shotguns.

In a statement, Airbnb said: “The safety of our host and guest community is a priority for Airbnb. If we are made aware that an experience and/or host violates our platform policies, community standards, or terms of service, we take action. This experience is no longer available.”

This is a movement against capitalism.

Protester Mario Hans, who has gone to Plaza Italia every day since the unrest began said to newspaper The Guardian, that he was uncomfortable at the idea that anyone would profit from Chile’s political uprising. “This is a movement against capitalism, for equality,” he said. “The first goal here should be to inform, not to charge.”

The Government Failed To Help Them So Drug Cartels Stepped In To Deliver Lifesaving Aid

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The Government Failed To Help Them So Drug Cartels Stepped In To Deliver Lifesaving Aid

In the aftermath of the tropical storm Priscilla, the Jalisco cartel has stepped in to provide humanitarian aid to victims. Fortunately, by the time Priscilla hit Mexico’s southwestern coast last week, it was downgraded to a tropical depression as it weakened after making landfall. 

The Jalisco New Generation Cartel was recorded on video using their organized crime infrastructure to distribute packages of food in Tomatlán. 

Cartel caught on video delivering aid to victims.

“Here we are with all the people giving them aid. The people are very grateful for this support. . .” a suspected CJNG gunman says in a video. 

Another man in the footage says the aid comes courtesy of Señor Mencho also known as Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes. 

“This aid . . . comes from the boss, our boss, the señor Mencho,” the man says. “[I’m telling you] so that you know where it comes from, so that you don’t think that it’s from the [family services agency] DIF or another company.” 

In the video, two pickup trucks filled with packages of food and aid arrive. Residents of the community in Morelos are seen taking the package. 

This isn’t the first time the Jalisco cartel has done social work. 

According to Mexico News Daily, children in 15 municipalities in the Veracruz’s mountainous region received toys from the cartel on Children’s Day this summer. 

Each gift came with a card that read, “the CJNG wishes you a happy Children’s Day.” The cartel said on social media that it would deliver gifts to the “towns most forgotten by the authorities.” 

“We bring a moment of joy and happiness to the children. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel not only looks after the safety of the people of Veracruz, it also seeks to give support to those who need it the most,” they said. 

The cartel claims its job is, “is to look after and defend the rights of the working people.” As far as being up for the task? “We are here, steadfast and ready,” they wrote. 

Mexico News Daily says the cartel’s humanitarian efforts are really just recruitment methods to groom young children into trusting them. 

“The practice appears to be a part of efforts by organized crime to recruit new people. Security Secretary Alfredo Durazo said last September, before he took up his post, that at least 460,000 young people were employed by criminal gangs, according to estimates by various civil organizations,” the newspaper wrote. 

Cartels have provided emergency aid in Mexico before. 

In 2013, according to Mercury News, the Gulf Cartel which controls the country’s northeast, provided food, water, and medical supplies to a rural town effected by Hurricane Ingrid in Tamaulipas state. 

Mercury News notes that it is a common practice for cartels to present themselves as a positive force in society. 

“The powerful drug gangs strive to present themselves as the ‘good bad guys,’ interested only in smuggling narcotics to consumers in the United States while leaving Mexican communities in peace,” they wrote. 

In a 2014 video, the Gulf Cartel shared a YouTube video of members handing out cakes traditionally eaten by Catholics before Epiphany. The cartel members visited schools, hospitals, poor neighborhoods, and nursing homes. 

“We take care of our people and always help,” the video caption read, according to Newsweek. 

Cartels use social media to change their public image just like anyone else.

Newsweek suggests that as cartels used more inhumane tactics including throwing human heads into busy dance floors, sewing the face of a victim onto a soccer ball, and hanging bodies off bridges — they’ve also sought to rehab their public image. 

The public relations helps the public to “not see them as enemies but rather, as people who can help, so that when there is a police operation, the community does not report them,” says Jorge Chabat, a drug and security expert, told Newsweek

The practice was also used by Pablo Escobar, who built soccer fields and public housing in Colombia during the 1980s. However, with the rise of social media cartels have taken to YouTube and Facebook to create positive reputations. 

In a 2011 YouTube video, cartel members dressed in black with their faces obscured, holding rifles delivered a message.

“Since 2006, we have been fighting for the tranquility and safety of each and every one of our compatriots in the state,” a voice-over said. 

Like the social outreach initiatives of American gangs, cartel public service in Mexico exists in a morally grey area. As social services fail the poor, sometimes the more nefarious members of society are the only groups willing to help the most vulnerable. However, the help of the cartel will always come at a price if not for the individuals who face future recruitment than for the society at large.