A deep dive into the bloody mines of the Healing Crystal industry

New Age spirituality has never been my thing. If you're into it, hey, that's cool; it's just not for me. I don't really stay up nights worrying about it, and I certainly haven't given much thought to healing crystals. I've never considered what they do, or where they come from.

But someone has thought about this (besides the people profiting off of it). In May 2018, the New Republic published an article tracing the sources of these supposedly-powerful stones. And perhaps unsurprisingly, it's shadier than one might expect:

I tried to track down the sources of crystals sold on popular websites. I found that some were mined in countries with notoriously lax labor and environmental regulations, and some came from large-scale U.S. mines that have contaminated ecosystems and drinking water. The impacts of extracting crystals are admittedly low compared to those of industrial gold, copper, granite, or rare earth mining, but crystals have gone from a new-age fad to a multi-billion dollar industry. And given that crystals can be used to “make a promise to mama earth,” it would seem important to know how they were extracted from mama earth.

While healing crystals are still a ways away from Blood Diamond levels of volatility, it turns out that many of them do come from ethically questionable mines, often in places like Myanmar or the Democratic Republic of Congo. Even more fascinating is what author Emily Atkin finds about supply lines, distributor relationships, and regulatory standards (or a lack thereof) for those little gems of spirituality. Read the rest

Ebola's still raging

The last time I wrote about Ebola, there were 117 confirmed related deaths along with the 35 deaths likely related to the most recent outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Roll forward eight months and more than 2,100 people have been infected and 1,400 are now dead from the disease. In this past week, it was announced that the viral hemorrhagic fever had made its way into Congo's neighbor, Uganda. It's become the second-most devastating outbreak of Ebola in history. The only outbreak of the disease more severe took place between 2013 and 2016. Then, 11,000 people died.

A panel made up of 10 infections disease experts told the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) announced that, as dire as the situation might be, calling the outbreak, what it is--sn international emergency--would be a bad idea. It makes sense: as the New York Times points out, saying that the hemorrhagic fever is an international emergency could lead to neighboring countries shuttering their borders to the Democratic Republic of Congo and forbidding flights to and from the region. That'd be a non-starter for keeping much-needed medical and scientific aid flowing into the hot zone. Despite the fact that folks are dying painfully and on a startling scale, the international community is doing jack shit to help stamp out the outbreak. This is especially troubling, given the fact that the hot zone for this outbreak also happens to be in a war zone. Medical operations have been chronically stalled or stopped do to the dangerous working environment that the individuals brave enough to face the disease have been subjected to. Read the rest

Ebola outbreak in Congo: things are getting worse

The latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has proven a sumbitch to contain. Since this latest "oh shit" moment in the history of this infectious outbreak started on August 1st, the brave healthcare professionals and epidemiologists throwing their shoulders into the problem have reported 200 total cases of the disease, 117 confirmed Ebola-related deaths and 35 deaths that are probably related to the illness. This latest outbreak, the 10th to have cropped up in Congo since 1976, is proving more difficult, logistically, than past outbreaks have been. The epicenter of the outbreak is in North Kivu Province: chockablock with danger as government forces, local militias and regional warlords get their violence on. This makes getting folks in the region to the care that they need and, just as vital, containing the disease, far more difficult than it already is.

From The New York Times:

Congolese rebels have killed 15 civilians and abducted a dozen children in an attack in the center of the latest outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, Congo’s military said Sunday. The violence threatened to again force the suspension of efforts to contain the virus.

Congo’s health ministry has reported “numerous aggressions” in the new outbreak against health workers, who have described hearing gunshots daily. Many are operating under the armed escort of United Nations peacekeepers or Congolese security forces, and ending work by sundown to lower the risk of attack.

The World Health Organization hasn't classified the outbreak as a world health emergency, yet. Read the rest

Leak: Trump will allow US companies to buy "conflict minerals" that fund terrorist warlords in the DRC

A leaked draft presidential memo from the Trump administration would suspend the provisions in Dodd-Frank that limit US firms in sourcing their "conflict minerals" from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the trade in these minerals provides funding to warlords who target civilian populations for campaigns of terror. Read the rest