A mom is going viral for her thoughtful response to her kid using curse words.

Imagine you’re cooking dinner while your kid plays on the floor in the kitchen.

You open the oven door to peek at the casserole inside. Hmm … wonder how it’s coming along.

You boldly extend your index finger, completely unprotected, and stick it into the dish. Warm, but not quite there.

As you withdraw your finger, you accidentally make momentary contact with the blazing-hot glass baking dish. SEARING PAIN. Your nerve endings fire emergency signals to your brain. Retreat! Retreat!

Then the words come out: “Ow! Shit!!”

You pull out and slam the oven door shut, immediately bringing your scorched finger to your mouth for some reason. You turn around, and your 4-year-old is laughing maniacally, parroting you:

“Shit! Shit! Shit!”

Congratulations. You have ruined your child.

Just kidding. Mom and blogger Constance Hall recently had a similar experience, and you know what? She says it’s no big deal.

In a viral Facebook post, Hall writes that her young son, Arlo, “has been dropping a few bombs,” after overhearing her.

“Does it bother me?” she wrote. “Not much, meanness would bother me more.”

She explains: Her son is getting to an age where he’s going to copy his friends, no matter what she teaches him. Better that he learns to surround himself with good people than to adhere to a rule like “Never curse!”

“But what we can do is teach them how to recognise qualities that we respect. Point out, ‘how kind was Charley lending you his drink bottle?’ And ‘did you see how Sam helped out that younger kid?’ ‘I love the way Sophia is always making funny jokes.’

So while it’s important to say ‘don’t swear it’s not cool’ it’s equally important to teach your kids to strive to find friends with similar moral codes to your family.

That way when they do ignore you and run off with their mates, they are in good hands, maybe cheeky ones, maybe sweary ones, but good ones none the less.

Because our house hold might be a sweary one, but it’s a bloody kind one and it’s full to the brim with love.”

You can read the full post below:

I swear, no shit right.

I even sometimes swear in front of my kids. I justify it to myself be saying I only ever swear…

Posted by Constance Hall onWednesday, July 5, 2017

Hall raises a great point and science agrees: Swearing isn’t inherently bad.

Yelling out the F-word when you stub your toe doesn’t teach your kids much of anything. However, if they see you abusively yelling “F*ck you!” at someone who cuts you off in traffic, that’s a different story.

You could even replace swearing with plenty of other behaviors considered to be “bad.” Does your kid like to sleep in a little too much? Have too much of a sweet tooth?

OK. Maybe those are things to work on. Maybe not.

But remember that one of the best things you can do as a parent is to raise your children to be kind to others and to themselves.

It’s not the only thing that matters, but it helps put all the other “shit” into perspective.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/a-mom-is-going-viral-for-her-thoughtful-response-to-her-kid-using-curse-words

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Think of the fun you’ll have with this tiny smartphone breathalyzer

Image: pixabay

Just to let you know, if you buy something featured here, Mashable might earn an affiliate commission.

We all do dumb things when we drink: call an ex, send a profanity-laced email to the boss, buy used jeans on eBay that arent returnable. We know we shouldnt be doing these things, but theres never a responsible person next to us to say hey, I think youve had too much to drink.

Fortunately, theres now a smartphone accessory that takes care of this for us: the DrinkMate Breathalyzer. Drinkmate promises that you can plug this tiny, 1.9-inch breathalyzer into your phone, blow into it, and get an accurate reading of your BAC level within seconds. When was that last time one of your drinking buddies did that?

The DrinkMate Breathalyzer connects to your iPhones lightning jack (an Android version is also available) so you never have to worry about needing an external power source. It easily hooks to your keychain or slips it into your pocket too. And since your lips dont actually make contact with the DrinkMate Breathalyzer, you can even share it with your friends. Compete to see who has the lowest BAC. Or to ensure that everyone in your group makes smart decisions.

Actually, you should always do that. Safety first!

The DrinkMate Breathalyzer normally costs $40, but you can get it for just $27.99, a savings of 30 percent. Buy it here.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/07/14/drinkmate-smartphone-breathalyzer-deal/

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Is my tower block safe? – BBC News

Phil Murphy watched the Grenfell disaster unfold on television from his flat on the eighth floor of a Manchester tower block. The former firefighter immediately decided to check out his own building’s safety – and was horrified at what he discovered.

On the morning of 14 June, as he switched on the news, Murphy knew straight away how serious the situation in North Kensington was.

Murphy had joined the fire service at the age of 28. Going into a fire, he remembers, was “absolutely frightening”.

Image copyright Phil Murphy
Image caption Phil Murphy is second from the left, front row, after completing his 12 weeks basic firefighter training

But he had found the job, which he did for six years, extremely rewarding. He moved up through the ranks and became a fire safety officer.

The worst kind of call out? “Anything to do with children.”

Image copyright Phil Murphy
Image caption Phil Murphy teaching schoolchildren CPR

Now, he lived in a tower that, like Grenfell, stood 23 storeys above ground, with a single staircase. And he wanted reassurance that the same thing couldn’t happen in his building.

For the past eight years, Murphy has occupied a flat in Stretford House, a 50-year-old block that sits between Manchester’s inner ring road and Stretford Mall shopping centre on one of the main routes into the city.

“I love living here,” he says. “We work hard to make it a community that we all enjoy.” Quite a few of his neighbours are elderly or disabled, and the residents’ committee, chaired by Murphy, works hard to stop them feeling isolated. There are plans to grow fruit and vegetables on the roof, as well as to start a recycling club in the shed.

He left the fire service a decade ago. But once you’ve been a fireman “it never leaves you”, he says. “You always read the fire safety in a building when you walk in.”

Murphy wasted no time – the day after the Grenfell fire he requested a meeting with Stretford House’s landlords, Trafford Housing Trust. He persuaded his local MP, Kate Green, to come with him.

“They were quite firm in reassuring us that everything was fine and they gave me a copy of the 2016 fire risk assessment for the building to take with me,” Murphy says.

If this was meant to reassure him, it failed.

“I was horrified, frightened and astonished at the contents of that document,” Murphy says.

He found there was a lack of documentation to show that fire alarms, emergency lights and dry risers – pipes which allow water to travel up a building in case of fire – were working or had been looked after.

There was also evidence that compartmentation – the barriers that prevent fire spreading from one part of the building to another – had been breached six years ago when new kitchens, new bathrooms and a communal energy system had been fitted. As a result, says Murphy, “the building was, in fact, full of opportunities for fire to spread”.

Find out more

The housing trust “appeared not to understand what [the 2016 fire] risk assessment was screaming at them, and I mean screaming at them,” he adds.

So he began a forensic, line-by-line analysis of the risk assessment and, over four days, compiled a 14-page report. “I went into a bubble. I wasn’t sleeping very much at all. And I was completely obsessed with completing it,” he says.

He sent the report to the trust, deciding not to raise his concerns with fellow residents immediately.

“Surrounded by people that have been coming to me and crying and telling me all about their fears and why they were scared and why they weren’t sleeping, after seeing those horrific scenes from Grenfell – I just thought it might push them over the edge if I showed them that document, frankly,” he says.

The report was highly detailed and technical, but in the accompanying email Murphy was very clear about the levels of anxiety felt by the people living in his block.

The housing trust responded to Murphy’s email at 04:00 the morning after he sent it. By mid-morning there was a representative from the trust in the foyer “taking on board the concerns” of residents.

Eventually Murphy had a chance to fully voice his worries at a meeting with the trust and the local fire service. A more detailed inspection was carried out by the fire service and Murphy’s concerns about the compartmentation were confirmed.

Image copyright Getty Images

When we meet Murphy at the entrance to his building, 13 maintenance vans are parked nearby. Inside, the sound of builder’s radios echoes round the corridors as workmen busily undertake fire safety repairs.

“On Thursday, as soon as the fire officer had been in, and confirmed that my report was correct, the building was full of people, putting fire stopping [insulation] round because it’s fatal. The place is a death trap without that fire stopping in place”, Murphy says.

We go to the flat of one of his neighbours, Pat. Her flat has just been inspected. Four areas in need of fire safety work had been identified – by her front door, in her kitchen, in her living room and in her boiler room.

Image caption Pat enjoys the view from her tower block window

“I call it my cubby hole,” Pat says.

The room is linked to a dry riser which runs the full length of the tower block.

Because it hasn’t been fireproofed, Murphy says, “if there is any smoke or fire in that riser, it will penetrate right through the building”.

“I’m frightened about smoke,” says Pat, 70, who has breathing problems. “That would kill me straight away.”

Image caption Pat as a young woman

To her relief, workmen are now scheduled to fix the problems.

“Maybe I’m the one who has lost more sleep,” says Murphy. “Because I’ve seen instances like this turn into real catastrophes.”

“And that’s why everyone is grateful for what you’ve done,” says Pat, holding back tears. “I mean it, Phil.”

Trafford Housing Trust, which owns and manages Stretford House, says it has reviewed its risk assessments, is undertaking urgent works on the blocks it owns and has fire wardens patrolling 24 hours a day.

Back on the ground floor, in the caretaker’s office, we meet Mike Corfield, Trafford Housing Trust’s assistant director for customers. He says the work being done in the block is not solely down to Murphy’s report.

Image caption Mike Corfield

“Within days of the fire at Grenfell we decided we would commission something called a level four risk assessment, the highest level fire risk assessment you can take,” he says.

He admits the 2016 fire risk assessment which worried Phil did highlight some issues with the compartmentation, but “didn’t flag them as a serious risk” and says it was written by a “trained and professional expert”.

Outside, looking at the rows of maintenance vehicles, we ask Murphy if he’s pleased the problems are now being fixed.

Image caption Murphy with Stretford resident Wendy

“There’s still some very, very serious things for them lot to do,” he says. “It’s certainly warranted this level of reaction.”

He’s not giving up, though, until he feels all his concerns have been addressed. There is one thing he keeps telling the landlords: “If you lived here, it would be different.”

And he is not just thinking about his own block of flats. He wants to develop an app to allow residents to run their own safety checks.

“I want to do something to empower residents of high-rise blocks all around the country to look after their own fire safety,” he says. “Because at the moment we’re all feeling very disempowered and frightened.”

Photographs by Luke Jones unless otherwise stated

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Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-40507260

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Here’s what Dr. Suess’ green eggs and ham actually looks like IRL

Dr. Seuss’ green eggs and ham comes to life with a twist in a new way in this episode of Fiction Kitchen.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/07/12/fiction-kitchen-green-eggs-and-ham/

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Marley Spoon launches affordable meal kit Dinnerly

Given that Blue Apron hasnt exactly hit it out of the IPO park, you be forgiven for thinking that the meal kit market has gotten a little overripe. However, it appears that companies in the space arent out of fresh ideas just yet with news that Marley Spoon, a startup that originally hails from Berlin but has since made its focus the U.S., is launching what it claims to be the first affordable meal kit offering.

Entirely separate from its premium brand Martha & Marley Spoon (which is a partnership between household name Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon), the newly launched Dinnerly promises to work out at $5 per serving.

Thats roughly half the average headline price of other meal kits, including HelloFresh, Blue Apron, and Marley Spoon itself, but unlike the aforementioned, the price doesnt include shipping. That said, Dinnerly is definitely still cheaper and undoubtedly targeted at a more mass market audience.

The new Dinnerly works like other recipe kits: the company sends you all the fresh ingredients based a number of set meals/portions, ready for you to get busy in the kitchen. Some of the cost has been reduced by moving recipe instructions online and printing the ingredient list on the box, rather than including glossy paper recipe cards, but otherwise Marley Spoon is talking up the quality of ingredients, citing the use of grass-fed ground beef and antibiotic-free chicken. I also understand that margins are similar for what is otherwise a lower basket price item.

Dinnerly customers will receive a weekly menu of three picky-eater approved dishes designed to suit adults and kids alike, including classics like Spaghetti and Spicy Sausage Meatballs, Cheesy Chipotle Beef Tacos, Pan Roasted Chicken with Potatoes and Spinach, and Pepper Jack Turkey Burgers with Caramelized Onions and Sweet Potato Fries, says the company.

In a call with Marley Spoon co-founder and CEO Fabian Siegel who Im told is relocating to the U.S. later this year he said that until now meal kit services have really been luxury meal kit services, aimed at more affluent customers and with recipes that require more expensive ingredients. That has potentially held back adoption of what is supposed to be an alternative to your weekly fresh grocery shop.

To back this up, Fabian cites research by Nielson that was conducted in March 2017 and revealed that almost half (46 per cent) of U.S. consumers said they would be more likely to purchase a meal kit if it were less expensive.

Asked if he is expecting Dinnerly to outgrow Martha and Marley Spoon, Fabian said he didnt know for sure but given that Dinnerly is targeting a much bigger market, it would be logical to believe so. He cautioned of course that Martha and Marley Spoon might still be more profitable, likening it to the iPhones smaller market share but high ticket price and corresponding profits compared to cheaper phones on the market.

Dinnerly will start with delivery on the U.S. West Coast, beginning with California, and will be followed by most of Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah and Idaho, with expansion to other regions expected by the end of 2017.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/07/11/dinnerly/

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Angry Scottish person goes on 18-tweet rant about the way Americans eat eggs

This is an egg cup. It holds your boiled egg so you can eat it with a spoon.

Image: Mito Images/REX/Shutterstock

The USA and the UK have a fair bit in common we both speak essentially the same language; we both like dogs and cats; we both enjoy eating pizza and watching TV.

When it comes to certain topics, though, there’s a cultural gulf between our two fair nations twice the size of the ocean that separates us.

Today’s topic of contention? Eggs.

Or, more specifically, egg cups.

On Sunday night, a Scottish video games programmer embarked on an impressively sweary rant about the fact people in America don’t use egg cups (those little containers that you can use to hold a boiled egg while you eat it with a spoon).

Here’s the full 18-tweet rant, in all its glory…

Your move, America.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/07/10/angry-scottish-egg-cup-rant/

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Angry Scottish person goes on 18-tweet rant about the way Americans eat eggs

This is an egg cup. It holds your boiled egg so you can eat it with a spoon.

Image: Mito Images/REX/Shutterstock

The USA and the UK have a fair bit in common we both speak essentially the same language; we both like dogs and cats; we both enjoy eating pizza and watching TV.

When it comes to certain topics, though, there’s a cultural gulf between our two fair nations twice the size of the ocean that separates us.

Today’s topic of contention? Eggs.

Or, more specifically, egg cups.

On Sunday night, a Scottish video games programmer embarked on an impressively sweary rant about the fact people in America don’t use egg cups (those little containers that you can use to hold a boiled egg while you eat it with a spoon).

Here’s the full 18-tweet rant, in all its glory…

Your move, America.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/07/10/angry-scottish-egg-cup-rant/

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Guns, political turmoil and hummingbirds in the living room my farewell to Latin America

Venezuelan president Hugo Chvez took one look at the Guardians correspondent and yelled out: Hey, Gringo! But if he could never quite fit in, Jonathan Watts has come to love the continent he is now leaving after five years

It was the merest of glimpses, but no less thrilling for that. A dark, sleek body, roughly the size of a person, arched elegantly out of the Tapajs river as we approached the So Luis rapids deep in the Amazon. A fraction of a second later, it plunged back below the swirling waters, leaving me wondering if my imagination or the morning mist were playing tricks. But no, it was real. It had been close enough to the boat to be sure of that. But what was it?

Hugo Chvez took one look at Jonathan Watts (above) and yelled out: Hey, Gringo!

Perhaps a pirarucu (AKA arapaima), the giant of the Amazon, which can grow up to 10ft in length. But the lack of scales suggested it was more likely to be a dolphin. There were two species in these waters: the pink boto and the darker tucuxi. I concluded it was the latter.

The thought filled me with both hope and dread. Eleven years earlier during my previous post as China correspondent I had joined an international team of scientists on an expedition along the Yangtze river looking for the baiji freshwater dolphin. It was too late. Not one could be found. The animal was declared functionally extinct a victim of industrial pollution, river traffic, overfishing and hydroelectric dams. After 20m years of existence, it was an alarming indication of a dying river. Yet here in Brazil on the Tapajs, the freshwater dolphins albeit of a different genus could be found without searching. There was still time to save them. It felt like a second chance.

One of the reasons I moved from China to Brazil to become Latin America correspondent in 2012 was to look for a more sustainable development model. Back then, Brazil seemed to be doing a lot of things right. Its booming economy had just overtaken that of the UK; the popular leftwing government was reducing inequality; deforestation of the Amazon was slowing; Brazilian negotiators had played a positive role in climate and biodiversity negotiations; and my new home of Rio de Janeiro was about to host the 2012 Rio +20 Earth Summit, the 2014 World Cup final and the 2016 Olympic Games. Besides, I told my teenage daughters, who were doubtful about leaving Beijing, there would be less smog, more blue skies and a warm and friendly vibe. We were all in for a shock.

Adjustment was tougher than I expected. The differences were so vast. On the plus side, I grinned just to walk along the street and take in the views of what is surely among the most beautiful cities on the planet. My daily jog around the Lagoa took in the sights of the Christ the Redeemer statue, forested hillsides, the Rocinha favela, the peaks of Pedra da Gavea, Pedra Bonita and Dois Irmos. I also saw more species of trees, birds, insects and mammals on those 7.4km (4.6-mile) runs than I would see in a whole year in Beijing. Similarly, I heard more good live music in my first week in Rio than perhaps my entire nine years in China.

After the communist states of east Asia, the openness and accessibility of democratic Latin American leaders was also a welcome shock. Having spent years in usually fruitless applications to interview ministers and heads of state in China and North Korea, I came to my new post in Brazil with a target list of three prominent politicians that I would like to meet during my first year Dilma Rousseff, Marina Silva and Alfredo Sirkis. Within a week, I had seen all of them either in press conferences or for lunch. As I was later to learn, getting politicians in this part of the world to talk is often less of a problem than getting them to stop.

Dilma Rousseff: one of the great leaders of South America, before she was toppled. Photograph: Brazil Photo Press/CON/LatinContent/Getty Images

Other initial comparisons were less favourable. Cariocas (as residents of Rio call themselves) seemed far less focussed on education, culture, history, science and work than Beijingers. If they had spare time and money, many preferred to spend it on their body (tattoos, gyms or cosmetic surgery) so they could look good on the beach. And, contrary to the happy-go-lucky party-people image, they could be extremely conservative. One time, I was denied entry to a press conference I was supposed to be moderating because I failed to meet the dress code (although admittedly flower-patterned shorts and flip-flops werent the ideal match for my dress shirt). They also voted repeatedly for several of the countrys most rightwing politicians and some took to the streets calling for a return to the 1964-85 military dictatorship.

In those early days, however, I was mainly frustrated. Everything felt unambitious, slow and unreliable compared with China. Was it necessary to have three different types of plug socket? Why on earth did I have to keep providing my mothers birth name for the most routine applications? The grotesque bureaucracy was not my only grumble. The notorious inequality was quickly evident, as was the enduring social legacy of what had been the worlds biggest slave-trading nation. Apart from music, cultural life seemed poor and the food was bland compared with Asia. Property rental was absurdly complicated and the apartments were horrendously overpriced due to the countrys then super-strong currency (Brazil was infamous at the time for selling the worlds most expensive iPhones). I spent much of the first year sleeping in a mouldy shed that leaked in tropical rainstorms, obliging me to have a bucket by the pillow to catch the drops.

More importantly, it became apparent that I had been sold an overhyped image of Brazil. Far from being a new model, the past five years have proved a case study in how not to run a country.

This has been a spectacularly tumultuous period, encompassing the impeachment of a president, the worst economic contraction in 100 years, the biggest corruption scandal in the countrys history, millions taking to the streets in protest, an unimaginable 1-7 defeat in the World Cup, a pre-Olympic Zika epidemic and a resurgence of violent crime and environmental destruction. My Brazilian journalist friends are not sure whether to feel grateful for the abundance of work or horrified at the flood of miserable stories. Weve had 40 years of news packed into the last four years, observed one. Its surreal. We seem to be reporting on the collapse of the republic, lamented another. It is impossible not to feel sorry for the country.

Brazil has slipped into reverse gear on just about every front. Since 2012, the economy has shrunk by 9% and unemployment has almost doubled. Last year, deforestation of the Amazon accelerated by 29% and violent killings in Rio de Janeiro increased by almost 30%. Not surprisingly, the public has never been more frustrated with the government. Five years ago, the then-president Dilma Rousseff enjoyed approval ratings of 64%. That had fallen to 10% when she was politically lynched by her former allies last year. Her successor, Michel Temer, is even more unpopular. The most recent poll could find only 2% of voters who thought he was doing a good job.

A country in turmoil: protesters during a nationwide general strike in Rio de Janeiro on 30 June. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

In some ways, the story of Brazil from 2012 to 2017 has been the inverse of China from 2003 to 2012. In Asias biggest country, I observed sometimes brutal stability and spectacular economic growth. In Latin Americas, I have witnessed turmoil and contraction. I have certainly inhaled a lot more teargas, particularly since the mass protests ahead of the 2013 Confederations Cup, which were a turning point.

Regionally, the broad political trend has been a weakening of populist, leftwing power. In the past five years, the two great figureheads of the Latin left Fidel Castro and Hugo Chvez have died. The Brazilian Workers party founder Luiz Incio Lula da Silva has been put on trial and his party usurped from office by centre-right parties that have proved at least as corrupt. In Argentina, the formerly Pernist government of Cristina Fernndez de Kirchner has been replaced by the more conservative Mauricio Macri. In Bolivia, Evo Morales lost a referendum that would have allowed him to stand again for re-election. Venezuela, meanwhile, plunges ever deeper into crisis under Nicols Maduro. But Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Mexico are all exceptions in different ways. Latin American politics are too heterogenous for perfect generalisations.

A clearer pattern and one perhaps that underlines the tumult both here and elsewhere in the world is the increasing evidence of climate change across the region. Patagonian lakes are drying up and glaciers retreating; Rios beaches have been battered by record storm surges; Chiles forests were devastated earlier this year by unprecedentedly high temperatures and wildfires; and then Lima was hit by freak floods. Perhaps the most alarming story, however, was So Paulo the biggest city in Latin America suffering the most prolonged drought in its history. I recall a dystopian moment when I was told there was no coffee at a Starbucks on Avenida Paulista the citys main thoroughfare because the taps had run dry. We only have beer or Coke, the cashier said.

The destruction of the rainforest is making matters worse in ways that are only slowly being understood. But it often appears to be a bigger story overseas than in the media of Brazil and other Amazonian nations. As well as being a major source of carbon emissions and a threat to biodiversity, the loss of foliage is also eroding the forests role as a climate regulator. Recent studies have shown that the Amazon acts as a giant water pump, channelling moisture inland via aerial rivers and rainclouds that form over the forest more dramatically than over the sea. As trees are felled, this function is weakened, which leads to more severe droughts and more extreme weather events.

The Xingu river near the area where the Belo Monte dam complex is under construction in the Amazon basin. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Yet, even as scientists grow more alarmed, politicians are becoming less willing to act. In response to demands from the agribusiness lobby (which has become more powerful due to demand from China), Rousseff relaxed the Forest Code, Brazils main law against illegal logging and land clearance. The current administration of Michel Temer has slashed the environment ministry budget, diluted licensing regulations, and is moving to reduce the size of conservation parks and indigenous territories. In Brazil and elsewhere in the region, activists who stand up against the loggers, farmers, miners and dam builders run the risk of beatings and murder as I saw on an unforgettable trip to Lbrea. More often than not, those in the frontline are indigenous communities who are trying to protect their territory, such as the Juruna, the Kaapor and the Mundruku and the Kichwa and Shuar. These days, the tribes wear T-shirts, ride motorbikes and use laptops, but they still often suffer the same fate as their ancestors when the first European settlers arrived either driven off their land or murdered for resisting. Most prominent among them in this period was Berta Cceres, an indigenous rights and environment activist in Honduras who won the Goldman prize in 2015 for her campaigns against deforestation and hydropower dams. In an email exchange at the time, she told me environmental protection was a cause worth fighting for. We must undertake the struggle in all parts of the world, wherever we may be, because we have no other spare or replacement planet. We have only this one, and we have to take action, she said. A year later she was assassinated by a gunman.

This is the worlds most murderous continent. In Central America, violence is the main driver for perilous child migration to the US, though it remains to be seen how this might be affected by the wall on the Mexican border being planned by the new caudilho in the White House.

Reporting here has its risks, though local journalists are far more exposed than foreign correspondents. The only time I saw a gang member fire a gun up close was after a visit to a crack den in the town of Lins, when I asked him why he had chosen his weapon. On a street in broad daylight, he squeezed a dozen or so rounds into the air that made me instantly regret my question. A few weeks later, police pushed his gang out of Lins in a pacification operation. I imagine they are back now. Thanks to a series of scandals and cuts in the police budget, the sound of gunfire is sadly becoming common again in Rio. Recently, I went to sleep three nights in a row listening to protracted shootouts echoing across the valley.

Apart from that, there were few hairy moments. The only crimes I experienced were having my credit card cloned three times and being pickpocketed. I was generally more worried about flying over the Andes (which often comes with gut-wrenching turbulence), the interruption of a dinner in Maranho in north-eastern Brazil by an uninvited tarantula, and the possibility of diseases such as malaria, dengue and chikungunya. Zika was added to the list in 2016. Although my head told me the risks were mainly only to pregnant women, I could not help but feel a little unease as well as irony at being bitten by a mosquito during a press conference in which the head of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan, explained why the Zika epidemic had just been declared a global emergency. The concerns were genuine, though the imminent Olympics meant the risks were overhyped. When the Brazilian government subsequently launched its biggest ever military operation against the tiny insect, it felt a little like something out of a science-fiction film.

In this continent of magical realism, the weird and wonderful were never far away. Evangelicals in a heavy-metal church in the Mar favela described visits by an angel in the form of a head-banger who would dance among them, shirtless with long hair, army boots, black trousers and chains. In the Andean mountains, I witnessed what looked at first like something out of an ancient myth: a beast with wings and horns charging down a matador. It was, in fact, a cruel and dangerous sport that involved stitching the talons of an endangered condor into the hide of a traumatised bull for the entertainment of a chicha-sodden crowd at a Yawar festival bullfight. Then there was a mass in the countryside of Rio by rebel anti-Vatican priests who insisted the pope was not Catholic enough. They preferred Vladimir Putin.

There have also been inspiring, uplifting stories: the end of the worlds oldest civil war in Colombia, the overcoming of cold war hostilities between Cuba and the United States and the subsequent visits to Havana by Pope Francis, Barack Obama and the Rolling Stones.

But when it comes to liberal, well-run countries, Uruguay led the way by legalising marijuana, ramping up renewable energy and boasting a former president, Jos Mujica, who lived his anti-consumerist values by eschewing a palace home for his charmingly ramshackle farmhouse.

Despite Brazils many woes, there was cause for hope in the success of Brazils bolsa familia poverty relief programme (though it is now threatened by austerity cuts), the courage and canninness of indigenous groups fighting against loggers, the idealism of activists and prosecutors fighting illegal deforestation and exposing timber laundering , and the courage and talent of community journalists who provided a diary of life in Rios favelas ahead of the Olympics.

A vibrant culture: a dancer takes part in carnival. Photograph: PeopleImages/Getty Images

I will miss this continent. It has been an immense privilege to visit stunningly beautiful places such as Patagonia, Alter do Cho, Machu Picchu, Yasuni and Havana, and I am grateful to collaborators and editors who have worked with me on stories ranging from guerrilla graffiti pedants in Quito and the worlds greatest vinyl collector in So Paulo, to the source-to-sewer journey of a drop of water in Mexico City and a retracing of part of a journey taken by the Edwardian explorer Percy Fawcett.

Although I could never claim to blend in (Chvez took one look at me and yelled out: Hey, Gringo!), I now think of Latin America as home (particularly since I moved out of the shed and into a forest apartment). I still dont appreciate the three-plug electrical system or Brazils bureaucracy, but I have come to love the geniality of the people, the vibrancy of the markets and much of the food especially aai, caldo de cana, tapioca wraps and Amazonian fish.

I leave at a difficult time. Troubles lie ahead for Rio, Brazil and the world. This is not just because of a poor Olympic legacy (though homelessness has surged alarmingly in the host city since the Games) or woeful national leadership (Temer is the first sitting president to be charged with corruption and eight of his cabinet are implicated in bribery scandals).

In China, I came to believe environmental crises underlie much of the economic and political tension in the world. In Latin America, I found reason to hope it is not too late to do something about that. For sure, the trends are bad. But there is much here worth fighting for. Latin America may not offer a model of sustainable development, but compared with Asia it is relatively unscarred in terms of overpopulation and pollution, and compared with the US and Europe, average consumption is modest and biodiversity is rich. River dolphins in the Amazon are only a part of that wealth. The value of this natural heritage is easier to feel than to measure

I will leave Brazil healthier and happier than I arrived. As I write this, the sun is streaming through the papaya and mango trees from a gloriously clear blue sky. It is midwinter, but the temperature is a balmy 25C. This morning, I cycled through the forest up to the Vista Chinesa viewpoint. Marmosets were waiting in the garden for food when I returned a couple of hours later. A hummingbird just flew into the living room looking for the nectar water that I forgot to leave at its usual spot by the window. Before I go, maybe Ill catch a final glimpse of a toucan, a jacu or a porcupine. Perhaps the gang of capuchin will invade the kitchen in search of an egg or a banana. There will be at least one possum. Then after 21 years on the road it will be time to return to London, to a new job, to an office, to a flat, and to pigeons, sparrows and, who knows, perhaps a squirrel. Im curious whether my old home will feel like a foreign country.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/09/guns-political-turmoil-and-hummingbirds-in-the-living-room-my-farewell-to-latin-america

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‘True Blood’ Star Nelsan Ellis Dies at 39

Nelsan Ellis, known for his role as Lafayette Reynolds on HBOs “True Blood,” has died at age 39, reports Variety.

The actor died after complications from heart failure.

We were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Nelsan Ellis, HBO said in a statement. Nelsan was a long-time member of the HBO family whose groundbreaking portrayal of Lafayette will be remembered fondly within the overall legacy of True Blood. Nelsan will be dearly missed by his fans and all of us at HBO.

“Nelsan has passed away after complications with heart failure,” Emily Gerson Saines, his manager, told The Hollywood Reporter. “He was a great talent, and his words and presence will be forever missed.”

Ellis The Help costar Octavia Spencer broke the news on Instagram Saturday morning, saying, Just got word that we lost (Nelsan). My heart breaks for his kids and family.

The Illinois-born actor, who studied at Juilliard, played the role of Lafayette on the HBO drama from 2008 to 2014, and more recently appeared in the CBS detective series “Elementary.” He also was a playwright and a stage director.

Ellis also appeared as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Lee Daniels’ “The Butler,” and as singer Bobby Byrd in the James Brown biopic “Get On Up.”

On Twitter, some fans posted one of his more famous scenes as Lafayette, where the character marches out of the kitchen to confront some bigoted diners.

In a 2012 TV interview in Chicago, Ellis recalled that it took four auditions for him to nail the role of Lafayette. At first, he said, he was playing the role as a caricature, and was told to “go back to the drawing board and figure it out.”

He then began to channel his mother. “Once I started to act like my Mama, my fourth audition, I got the part,” he said.

“True Blood” creator Alan Ball called Ellis “a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.”

Born in Harvey, Illinois, Ellis attended Thornridge High School, where he credited teachers with instilling the craft of theater in him. He later attended Juilliard in New York City.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2017/07/08/true-blood-star-nelsan-ellis-dies-at-39.html

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True Blood actor Nelsan Ellis dies aged 39

Tributes paid to genius and beautiful soul after actor who played Lafayette Reynolds suffers complications from heart failure

The actor Nelsan Ellis, best known for his portrayal of Lafayette Reynolds on HBOs series True Blood, has died at the age of 39.

Ellis manager, Emily Gerson Saines, confirmed the actors death on Saturday. The Hollywood Reporter, which was first to report Elliss death, quoted her as saying he had died from complications of heart failure.

The Illinois-born actor played Lafayette, a gay short order cook, on the HBO drama from 2008 to 2014, and more recently appeared in the CBS detective series Elementary. He was also a playwright and a stage director.

Ellis appeared as Martin Luther King Jr. in Lee Daniels film The Butler and as singer Bobby Byrd in the James Brown biopic Get On Up. He also appeared in The Help, and his fellow cast member Octavia Spencer mourned his death on Instagram. My heart breaks for his kids and family, she wrote.

Some fans tweeted one of his more famous scenes as Lafayette, in which the character marches out of the kitchen to confront some bigoted diners.

HBO released a statement saying the network was extremely saddened by Elliss death. Nelsan was a long-time member of the HBO family whose groundbreaking portrayal of Lafayette will be remembered fondly within the overall legacy of True Blood, the statement read. Nelsan will be dearly missed by his fans and all of us at HBO.

True Bloods creator, Alan Ball, called Ellis a singular talent whose creativity never ceased to amaze me. Working with him was a privilege.

In a 2012 TV interview in Chicago, Ellis recalled that it took four auditions for him to win the role of Lafayette. At first, he said, he was playing the role as a caricature and was told to go back to the drawing board and figure it out.

He then began to channel his mother. Once I started to act like my Mama, my fourth audition, I got the part, he said.

Born in Harvey, Illinois, Ellis attended Thornridge high school, where he credited teachers with instilling in him a love of theatre. He later attended the Juilliard performing arts school in New York City.

Also among those paying tribute to him were his True Blood co-stars Aisha Hinds, Michael McMillian, Lauren Bowles and Kristin Bauer.

Bauer wrote on Instagram: One of the sweetest most talented men Ive ever met. A terrible loss for all of us. Rest In Peace Nelsan. You will be missed. I dont know how else to put words to this terribly sad news

McMillian said on Twitter:

Michael McMillian (@McMillzz)

Stunned, devastated by the terrible news of @OfficialNelsan‘s passing. Nelsan was a genius and a beautiful soul. Sending love to his family.

July 8, 2017

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/jul/08/true-blood-nelsan-ellis-dies-lafayette-reynolds

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