Google wants to use balloons to reconnect Puerto Rico with the outside world.
Google is doing their part to help Puerto Rico reconnect with the outside world while recovery efforts continue on the Caribbean island. How? With balloons. Essentially, Google is using weather balloons that float above flight paths (and wildlife), bringing Internet to people in rural, isolated, and remote areas where Internet access doesn’t exist. It’s called Project Loon, and Google describes it as a “network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to extend Internet connectivity to people in rural and remote areas worldwide.”
The balloons rely on existing telecommunications infrastructure, like cell phone towers, in order to transmit the signal to the people. That’s why AT&T an important part of this project, according to Engadget. The telecommunications company has reportedly restored cellular service to about 60 percent of the population in Puerto Rico. With those towers in place, balloons can receive the signal from the cell phone towers and spread that signal to a large area on earth.
“Working with AT&T, Project Loon is now supporting basic communication and Internet activities like sending text messages and accessing information online for some people with LTE enabled phones,” Alastair Westgarth, the head of Project Loon, wrote on Medium. “This is the first time we have used our new machine learning powered algorithms to keep balloons clustered over Puerto Rico, so we’re still learning how best to do this.”
You can learn more about Project Loon in the video below.
Project Loon has been deployed under emergency circumstances once before. Earlier this year, Project Loon sent their connectivity balloons to Peru to help the country recover after deadly floods. According to a BBC report, Peruvians sent 160 GB worth of data in just three months using Project Loon, which translates to 30 million instant messages, or two million emails.
Governors in the U.S. have tried and failed multiple times to enshrine discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community by passing “religious freedom” bills. At the heart of these bills is the idea that someone’s religion is enough to discriminate against those of different faiths, sexual orientations, and gender identities. Puerto Rico tried to follow the same failed path as Indiana and the backlash was swift and victorious after Ricky Martin and Bad Bunny (Benito Martinez) spoke out against the bill forcing Governor Ricardo Rosselló to backtrack on his bill to discriminate.
In April, Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló presented the Puerto Rican House of Representatives a “religious freedom” bill.
The bill was months in the making and Gov. Rosselló showed his full support for the bill, House Bill 2069. The bill would have allowed for government employees to openly discriminate against people who went against their religious beliefs.
Ricky Martin spoke up against the measure and called out the Puerto Rican government and their willingness to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.
“While the world calls for equality, respect for diversity and the defense of human rights, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives and the Governor of Puerto Rico are pushing for a measure that goes against all of the above and it encourages division, prejudice, hatred and the lack of respect for individuality,” Martin wrote on his fan website. “It does so under a premise that undermines the constitutional protections against discrimination on the basis of race, sex or belief, and in its place, justifies an irrational protection of the religious convictions of government employees.”
“As a member of the LGBTT community, I join the constituency that affirms that there has never been a willingness among our LGBTT people to allow for the validation or legalization of discrimination against us.”
“House Bill 2069, filed at the request of Governor Ricardo Rosselló and promoted by Representative Charbonier, achieve nothing more than opening the doors to hatred towards anyone who doesn’t share the same ideology, who simply belong to the LGBTT community, or who don’t have the same color skin, amidst many other discriminatory measures.”
“Authentic religious freedom calls for respecting everyone equally.”
Bad Bunny also used his platform to stand up for the LGBTQ+ community in Puerto Rico.
“While we ‘bad guys’ do out to unite people and try to send a message of respect and tolerance, the leaders of my country work to do the opposite,” he wrote on Instagram. “We cannot take steps backwards, NEVER! @ricardorossello you make excellent coffee, I know that you can also make an excellent decision.”
Calle 13’s Residente joined his Puerto Rican peers to call out the Puerto Rican government’s wishes to strip LGBTQ+ people of their humanity with the law.
These calls against the action came during Pride month when the U.S. is supposed to be celebrating and uplifting the LGBTQ+ community, which still faces discrimination and violence.
After the outcry, Gov. Rosselló reversed his support for the bill and ordered the Puerto Rican House of Representatives to shelf the bill.
“WE WON! The recent years, Western countries have made significant advances in guaranteeing equal right for the LGBTT community,” Martin tweeted.
Martin celebrated the decision by educating his followers about what the measure would mean for the LGBTQ+ community.
“These advances were threatened recently in Puerto Rico, where the House fo Representatives passed legislation that endangered the progress won in the last decade and risked feeding the division, prejudice, and tensions between the communities.”
He did not sugar coat the true meaning behind the legislation.
“By granting government employees the power to act in accordance with their religious convictions, personal values, and principles, this regressive legislation would have sanctioned the practice of institutional discrimination on the part of those who committed themselves to a life in public service.”
It just goes to show that enough public outcry can make politicians listen to the majority instead of the vocal minority.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, businesses all over the island were devastated by the destruction. Some were able to reopen months, to a year later, while others had to close for good. While more established businesses such as resorts and restaurants had backing to get back on their feet, it was the independent companies that struggled to reopen. Necromancy Cosmetica, however, is thriving after resuming business as usual.
Puerto Rico-based Necromancy Cosmetica a gothic makeup company was closed for four months after Hurricane Maria.
In an interview with Remezcla, Necromancy Cosmetica owners Desiree Rodríguez and Salvador Pérez talked about their joint venture which has a large social media following. The couple launched the brand four years ago but they said they almost had to shut down their store after the hurricane.
“The store was full of mold. It was total chaos,” Rodríguez told the publication. She adds that they had “like two free days. We got to work before we even knew how our families were doing. My family is from the west side of the island, and I didn’t hear from them for almost three weeks.”
The couple said that they had help locally, and abroad during the rebuilding process. They were able to sell their product online while they continued to work on reopening.
Like many local businesses after the hurricane, Necromancy Cosmetica has survived because of loyal and proud Puerto Rican customers. While many people might think of colorful and tropical scenes when they think of Puerto Rico but the goth community needs representation. Just because you live on an island doesn’t mean you will look like you live on an island.
Puerto Rico’s economy is struggling as the island continues to recover from a storm that devastated everything and everyone. As the Puerto Rican economy tries to build up, it is the local stores like Necromancy Cosmetica that are giving the island the support it needs. The company might not be donating money to the recovery effort but pumping their money into the local economy creating a stream of tax revenue that the government relies on.
The owners take pride that their makeup line is vegan and cruelty-free.
If you need more reason to check out the company, how about their stance for animals?
“These and all other Necromancy Cosmetica brand lipsticks are made with 100% vegan materials that have never been tested on animals, that means you can rest easy knowing that your wicked lips will always be on the up-and-up if you decide to join the Necromancy cult,” reads the Necromancy Cosmetica website. “Des and Zal work hard from their crypt in Puerto Rico to fulfill all the orders themselves and have high hopes for their independently owned, produced, and distributed non-liquid lipsticks. So take a look at their witchy works and get inspired.”
Necromancy Cosmetica is located at 59 Calle Arzuaga Local #3 Rio Piedras, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Click here for more information on the products.