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Ben Shapiro Says It's A 'You Problem' If You Work A Second Job And People Are Furious

Controversial conservative commentator Ben Shapiro sparked backlash on Twitter for saying it’s “a you problem” if you’re forced to take a second job to make ends meet.

“If you had to work more than one job to have a roof over your head or food on the table, you probably shouldn’t have taken the job that’s not paying you enough,” Shapiro said in a clip from his radio show that was circulated by a researcher for progressive watchdog group Media Matters on Wednesday.

Shapiro made his comment as a response to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris’ assertion that people should not have to work more than one job just to pay the bills.

Shapiro attempted to clarify his position with this Twitter thread:

But not before drawing ire from many other people online:

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Suspected White Nationalist Leader Suspended From State Department: Reports

The State Department has placed one of its employees on leave following a Wednesday expose from the Southern Poverty Law Center linking the man with white nationalist beliefs, according to reports from Politico and NBC News.

The employee, Matthew Q. Gebert, worked as a foreign affairs officer for the department’s Bureau of Energy Resources. 

A State Department spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment, and HuffPost was unable to reach Gebert.

The SPLC, which runs a blog monitoring extremism, outlined copious evidence tying Gebert to the white nationalist movement. He reportedly espoused alarming beliefs about his desire to see a white ethnostate in a May 2018 episode of “The Fatherland,” a white nationalist podcast.

“[Whites] need a country of our own with nukes, and we will retake this thing lickety split,” Gebert said under a pseudonym, Coach Finstock, the SPLC blog Hatewatch reported. “That’s all that we need. We need a country founded for white people with a nuclear deterrent. And you watch how the world trembles.”

Gebert, as Coach Finstock, also said he was prepared to lose his job over his beliefs because “this is the most important thing to me in my life” next to his family.

On another podcast in early 2018, Hatewatch reported, Gebert explicitly says that he considers himself a white nationalist, speaking under his alleged pseudonym.

According to Hatewatch, Gebert also led a Washington, D.C., chapter of The Right Stuff, a group founded by white nationalist blogger Mike Enoch. Sources told the blog that they had witnessed gatherings at Gebert’s northern Virginia home that included Enoch and another prominent white nationalist, the host of a podcast called “Fash the Nation.”

Gebert began working at the State Department in 2013, according to a note in the George Washington University alumni magazine.

Hatewatch reported that Gebert’s radicalization began around 2015, citing a blog post made under the pseudonym.

Gebert’s wife, Anna Vuckovic, was also linked to white nationalism by four sources who spoke to Hatewatch.

A Twitter account linked to her suspected pseudonym, “Wolfie James,” featured this post in 2017: “Still justifying that you live in a neighborhood bc it’s ‘safe’ or there are ‘good schools’? Admit it: you want to live near #WhitePeople.”

Although the SPLC has archived versions of the tweets cited in its report, the specific accounts are currently suspended on Twitter.

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The True Origins Of The Seth Rich Conspiracy Theory

WASHINGTON — In the summer of 2016, Russian intelligence agents secretly planted a fake report claiming that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was gunned down by a squad of assassins working for Hillary Clinton, giving rise to a notorious conspiracy theory that captivated conservative activists and was later promoted from inside President Trump’s White House, a Yahoo News investigation has found.

Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, first circulated a phony “bulletin” — disguised to read as a real intelligence report —about the alleged murder of the former DNC staffer on July 13, 2016, according to the U.S. federal prosecutor who was in charge of the Rich case. That was just three days after Rich, 27, was killed in what police believed was a botched robbery while walking home to his group house in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., about 30 blocks north of the Capitol.

The purported details in the SVR account seemed improbable on their face: that Rich, a data director in the DNC’s voter protection division, was on his way to alert the FBI to corrupt dealings by Clinton when he was slain in the early hours of a Sunday morning by the former secretary of state’s hit squad.

Yet in a graphic example of how fake news infects the internet, those precise details popped up the same day on an obscure website,, that is a frequent vehicle for Russian propaganda. The website’s article, which attributed its claims to “Russian intelligence,” was the first known instance of Rich’s murder being publicly linked to a political conspiracy.

“To me, having a foreign intelligence agency set up one of my decedents with lies and planting false stories, to me that’s pretty outrageous,” said Deborah Sines, the former assistant U.S. attorney in charge of the Rich case until her retirement last year. “Maybe other people don’t think it’s that outrageous. I did … once it became clear to me that this was coming from the SVR, then that triggers a lot of very serious [questions about] ‘What do I do with this?’”

The previously unreported role of Russian intelligence in creating and fostering one of the most insidious conspiracy theories to arise out of the 2016 election is disclosed in “Yahoo News presents: Conspiracyland,” a six-part series by the news organization’s podcast “Skullduggery” that debuts this week on the third anniversary of Rich’s murder.

The Russian effort to exploit Rich’s tragic death didn’t stop with the fake SVR bulletin. Over the course of the next two and a half years, the Russian government-owned media organizations RT and Sputnik repeatedly played up stories that baselessly alleged that Rich, a relatively junior-level staffer, was the source of Democratic Party emails that had been leaked to WikiLeaks. It was an idea first floated by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who on Aug. 9, 2016, announced a $20,000 reward for information about Rich’s murder, saying — somewhat cryptically — that “our sources take risks.”

At the same time, online trolls working in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the Internet Research Agency (IRA) — the same shadowy outfit that conducted the Russian social media operation during the 2016 election — aggressively boosted the conspiracy theories. IRA-created fake accounts, masquerading as those of American citizens or political groups, tweeted and retweeted more than 2,000 times about Rich, helping to keep the bogus claims about his death in the social media bloodstream, according to an analysis of a database of Russia troll accounts by Yahoo News.

Speaking publicly about the case for the first time, Sines, the former prosecutor, said that the Russian conspiracy-mongering vastly complicated her efforts to solve the murder by forcing her and the Washington, D.C., police department to investigate a blizzard of false allegations in order to make sure there was nothing to any of them. “To waste your time investigating BS is just horrible,” said Sines.

The Russian-inspired conspiracy theories also have had a devastating effect on the Rich family, especially after the theories migrated to alt-right websites and, ultimately, primetime Fox News shows. As they did so, there were repeated suggestions by alt-right commentators that the DNC staffer’s parents and brother were concealing information about his conduct.

“You’re used, you’re lied to, you’re a pawn in your own son’s death,” said Mary Rich, Seth Rich’s mother, who, along with her husband, Joel, was interviewed for the podcast. “I wish they had the chance to experience the hell we have gone through. Because this is worse than losing my son the first time. This is like losing him all over again.”

In her efforts to better understand where the conspiracy theories were coming from, Sines used her security clearance to access copies of two SVR intelligence reports about Seth Rich that had been intercepted by U.S. intelligence officials. She later wrote a memo documenting the Russian role in fomenting the conspiracy theories that she sent to the Justice Department’s national security division, and personally briefed special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors on her findings.

“It appeared to me that it was a very clear campaign to deflect an ongoing federal criminal investigation,” Sines said. “So then you have to look at why is Russia doing this? … It’s not rocket science before you add it up and you go, ’Oh, if Seth is the leaker to WikiLeaks — it doesn’t have anything to do with the Russians. So of course Russia’s interest in doing this is incredibly transparent.” The Russian strategy, Sines said, was diabolically simple: “Let’s blame it on Seth Rich. He’s a very convenient target.”

The “Conspiracyland” podcast traces the spread of the conspiracy theories about Rich. From their origins as a Russian disinformation plant, the bogus theories about his murder emerged as a persistent theme on alt-right websites and then were fanned by right-wing conspiracy entrepreneurs such as Alex Jones of Infowars and Matt Couch, the founder of an Arkansas-based group called America First Media, which bills itself as “the leading investigative team in America in the Seth Rich murder.”

Along the way, the idea that Rich was murdered in retaliation for leaking DNC emails to WikiLeaks was championed by multiple allies of Trump, including Roger Stone. The same day Assange falsely hinted that Rich may have been his source for DNC emails, Stone tweeted a picture of Rich, calling the late DNC staffer in a tweet “another dead body in the Clinton’s wake.” He then added: “Coincidence? I think not.”

Within months, the Rich conspiracy story was also being quietly promoted inside Trump’s White House. Questions about whether the White House pushed the conspiracy theories about Rich have been raised periodically over the last two and a half years — and were consistently denied by White House officials. But the Yahoo News investigation uncovered new evidence that the false claim that Rich was the victim of a political assassination was advanced by one of the White House’s most senior officials at the time.

“Huge story … he was a Bernie guy … it was a contract kill, obviously,” then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon texted to a CBS “60 Minutes” producer about Rich on March 17, 2017, according to some of Bannon’s text messages that were reviewed by Yahoo News. (Bannon did not respond to requests for comment.)

The conspiracy claims reached their zenith in May 2017 — the same week as Mueller’s appointment as special counsel in the Russia probe — when Fox News’ website posted a sensational story claiming that an FBI forensic report had discovered evidence on Rich’s laptop that he had been in communication with WikiLeaks prior to his death. Sean Hannity, the network’s primetime star, treated the account as major news on his nightly broadcast, calling it “explosive” and proclaiming it “might expose the single biggest fraud, lies, perpetrated on the American people by the media and the Democrats in our history.”

Among Hannity’s guests that week who echoed his version of events was conservative lawyer Jay Sekulow. Although neither he nor Hannity mentioned it, Sekulow had just been hired as one of Trump’s lead lawyers in the Russia investigation. “It sure doesn’t look like a robbery,” said Sekulow on Hannity’s show on May 18, 2017, during a segment devoted to the Rich case. “There’s one thing this thing undercuts is this whole Russia argument, [which] is such subterfuge,” he added.

In fact, the Fox story was a “complete fabrication,” said Sines, who consulted with the FBI about the Fox News claims. There was “no connection between Seth and WikiLeaks. And there was no evidence on his work computer of him downloading and disseminating things from the DNC.” (A spokeswoman for the FBI’s Washington field office said the office had never opened an investigation into Rich’s murder, considering it a local crime for which the Washington Metropolitan Police Department had jurisdiction. Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s acting director at the time, said in an interview that he reached out to his agents after he heard about the conspiracy stories about Rich and was told, “There’s no there there.”)

After eight days of controversy, Fox News was forced to retract the story after one of its two key sources, former Washington, D.C., homicide detective Rod Wheeler, backed away from comments he had given the Fox News website reporter Malia Zimmerman and a local Fox affiliate reporter confirming the account. The article, the network said in a statement at the time, “was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.” Fox News later announced it was conducting an internal investigation into how the story came to be posted on its website. The results have never been disclosed, and a spokeswoman for Fox News declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation against the news network brought by the Rich family.

But “Conspiracyland” quotes a source familiar with the network’s investigation saying that Fox executives grew frustrated they were unable to determine the identity of the other, and more important, source for the story: an anonymous “federal investigator” whose agency was never revealed. The Fox editors came to have doubts that the person was in fact who he claimed to be or whether the person actually existed, said the source.

In his recent report, Mueller briefly addressed the questions about Rich, writing that Assange had “implied falsely” that the DNC staffer was the source of the party emails leaked to WikiLeaks. His comments about Rich, Mueller wrote, “were apparently designed to obscure” how WikiLeaks really got them: from Guccifer 2.0, an online persona created by Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, who sent the group an encrypted file of DNC material on July 14, 2016, four days after Rich’s death.

In the meantime, the barrage of conspiracy theories — implying that Rich was a leaker who betrayed his DNC colleagues — has spawned multiple lawsuits that are still ongoing. Joel and Mary Rich have filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox News and Ed Butowsky, a Dallas financier who played a key behind-the-scenes role in the Zimmerman story. Aaron Rich, Seth’s older brother, has sued both Butowsky and Couch, the America First Media founder.

(Fox News, Butowsky and Couch have all denied the claims; the cable news network has argued in court papers that its reporting, while retracted, is a “classic case” of journalism protected by the First Amendment. The Rich family’s claim was initially rejected by a federal judge in New York on the grounds, in part, that the parents could not sue for the defamation of their deceased son. The parents are now appealing that decision. Mary Rich, in an interview for the podcast, said the fact that Fox retracted the false story is irrelevant. “It’s blasted across America with Fox and Hannity,” she said. “All they’ve done is taken it down, but it’s still up there on the internet. This can’t be retracted the way they did it.”)

Through interviews with family members and friends, “Conspiracyland” tells the story of Seth Rich. A Creighton University graduate from Omaha, Neb., Rich landed a job at the DNC to work on voting rights issues. Friends described him as an outgoing, fun-loving young man — he once showed up at a friend’s hospital room wearing a polar bear costume — who was nonetheless passionate about his job of expanding voting rights.

“I’ve never encountered someone so genuine in his belief that every American should be able to participate in that political process,” said Donna Brazile, the former interim chair of the DNC.

Contrary to the conspiracy theorists, Rich was not a disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporter; he never expressed a preference for the Vermont senator in the primary battle with Clinton, according to Pablo Manriquez, a friend and colleague from the DNC, echoing comments made by other friends of his in Washington. Moreover, Rich’s job gave him no access to the emails that were on the DNC server, making it unlikely from the start that he could have been the leaker of the internal party communications to WikiLeaks.

After a night of drinking at Lou’s City Bar, Rich was walking home in the early hours of July 10, 2016, and on the phone with his girlfriend when he was accosted by two assailants about a block and a half from his home. A fight ensued — Rich was found with bruises on his face, knuckles and knees — and he was shot twice in the back before the assailants fled. His billfold, watch and other valuables weren’t taken. But police quickly concluded that the scenario was most likely that of an attempted robbery that was foiled by Rich’s resistance.

The police and Sines, the prosecutor, believe there was good reason to draw that conclusion. In the six weeks prior to Rich’s shooting, there had been seven armed robberies in the same neighborhood, causing residents to complain to local police.

“We’ve had so many holdups on the same corner, with the same method of holdup, where two guys grab the person,” said Mark Mueller, a neighbor of Rich’s (and no relation to the special counsel) who was among the first to rush to the scene the night of the shooting. “They hold a gun to the head, while one person takes the phone and makes the owner of the phone go into the apps and unarm anything that could be traced.”

Agitated local residents took their concerns to the police. “We’ve had meetings with the police days before this, screaming at the police in our civic association meetings, begging for help,” said Mueller.

But over the past three years, it is unclear how much progress, if any, the Washington police has made in solving the case. No suspects in Rich’s murder have ever been identified, and the case was recently moved to Washington police department’s “major case/cold case” squad under the direction of a new detective in an effort to bring a fresh set of eyes to a stale case file.

Sines chalks up the lack of progress to what she calls the anti-snitch culture of the streets in Washington, D.C.

“In Washington, D.C., being a witness to a murder can mean a death sentence,” the former prosecutor said. “I’ve lost witnesses that were murdered because they were witnesses. Because they told me what happened. And it’s — there’s a very strong and anti-snitch culture in Washington, D.C., much stronger than it is in some other areas in the country. Add assassination language, Russians, add all those buzzwords, who wants to be a witness in a case like that?”

Nevertheless, even though she is no longer involved, Sines says she is hopeful that the case will ultimately be cracked.

“So I know that someone is going to talk. I know that,” she said. “It’s a lot easier after a couple of years go by for people to talk about this, because they think they got away with it.”

Sines said she believes there are two culprits at large — a shooter and an “aider and abettor” — and she suspects they are connected to drug-dealing activity in nearby housing projects. “I’m convinced one or both of them will eventually be brought to justice.”

In a recent interview, Seth’s father, Joel, said he was told in a call with the new prosecutor — who replaced Sines and the new detective — that the investigation into his son’s murder remains active. The prosecutor and the detective talk about it every day, Joel said he was told.

But while they wait for signs the murderers will be arrested, the Riches live with a painful reality that they say is reaffirmed on a near daily basis by Google alerts: The lies about their son’s death continue to circulate in the dark recesses of the internet, a powerful reminder that in the new world of social media, even the most discredited of conspiracy theories have a shelf life that never ends.

Read more from Yahoo News:

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It’s Great That We Talk About 'Food Deserts' — But It Might Be Time To Stop

Access to fresh food isn’t a guarantee for everyone. Despite growing numbers of grocery stores in the U.S., 6% of the population lives in what the U.S. Department of Agriculture considers to be “food deserts,” or low-income areas where a third of residents don’t have access to fresh, healthy food. These communities rely primarily on packaged or fast food, which just isn’t as nutritious.

The term “food desert” was reportedly coined in Scotland in the early 1990s and popularized in the U.S. in 2010, when the USDA quantified and mapped food deserts as part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign. It’s become a buzzword for talking about food poverty, but the value of the term is facing increased criticism.

The common belief is that providing low-income neighborhoods with supermarkets will solve food deserts, but studies show this can have little effect — and for good reason. What actually causes food inequality goes beyond location, according to experts, and extends to bigger structural inequalities around income, education, nutritional knowledge and, importantly, race.

“The fact that predominantly black neighborhoods, on average, have fewer stores and poorer quality [food] compared to their white counterparts means something,” said Ashanté M. Reese, a professor of sociology and anthropology at Spelman College who studies race and food inequity.

Reese and other specialists agree that the “food desert” label oversimplifies a complicated web of systemic issues and suggests either that an area can’t be a source of healthy food or that plonking down a supermarket will fix the problem. Eliminating food inequality requires not just opening new stores, but making sure people have accessible means of transportation to actually get to them. It means culturally sensitive business development and prices people can afford. It might even mean eliminating the term “food deserts” altogether.

Lack of access to fresh, healthy food is a pervasive problem in many low-income, black neighborhoods.

Because food access is deeply connected to race, Reese believes “food apartheid” is a more appropriate term for low-access areas. “For me, it calls attention to the reality that food access is intimately tied to policies and practices, current and historical, that come from a place of anti-blackness,” she said.

That’s not to say that “food apartheid” is a perfect term, as it can invoke a visceral reaction in some people who are reminded of the atrocities of South African apartheid, Reese said. Others have suggested more literal terms. In a 2018 report, researchers at Johns Hopkins University asked for community feedback in the Baltimore area and came up with the term “healthy food priority areas.” Others use the term “low-access communities” when talking about food equity.

“In general, you want to avoid terminology that is disparaging to the community,” said Alice Ammerman, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who focuses on community-based nutrition intervention in primarily low-income and minority populations.

Whatever terms they use, nutrition experts said what’s most important is acknowledging all of the reasons why food deserts — defined by the USDA as low-income communities where a third of the population live more than a mile (for urban areas) or 10 miles (for rural areas) from a supermarket — exist in the first place — and putting pressure on policymakers to address the root causes.

The fact that predominantly black neighborhoods, on average, have fewer stores and poorer quality [food] compared to their white counterparts, means something Ashanté M. Reese, professor of sociology and anthropology at Spelman College

Kristen Gradney, a registered dietitian in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said she’s never thought of the term “food desert” as an inherent problem. “I assume people understand there are reasons why the stores aren’t there,” said Gradney, a black woman who primarily works with people living in low-access areas and also serves as the state policy representative for the Louisiana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“These communities are ‘everything deserts,’” she said. “They really don’t have health care. They don’t have transportation and infrastructure. They don’t have basic things that every other community typically has.” 

A dearth of resources feeds into a negative capitalist feedback loop. “Retailers have a location intelligence that they use,” Gradney said. “They look at demographic, income and infrastructure, then choose areas where people already have all the resources that they need to come into the store and purchase goods.” In low-income communities where all of this isn’t already in place, there’s much less incentive to open.

Even if a grocery store were to open, it may technically eradicate a food desert, but it doesn’t solve the problem of food access. “It’s not just about the fact that there’s not a physical store there,” Gradney said. “Even the word ‘access’ is a conundrum here.” Most people living in these communities don’t have cars or access to public transportation, and lugging groceries even half a mile on foot can be a challenge. Beyond that, “people may not feel safe walking to the grocery store, so they won’t go,” she said.

Then there’s the question of affordability. “Stores located in low-income communities may charge higher prices because of security costs or because their sales volume is lower,” Ammerman said. “This creates more food access problems.” 

The presence of a grocery store doesn't guarantee that the food will be affordable or high-quality, or that it will meet the

The presence of a grocery store doesn’t guarantee that the food will be affordable or high-quality, or that it will meet the needs and desires of people in the community.

And neither proximity nor price guarantees that the food will be high-quality or meet the needs and desires of people in the community.

“I’ve lived in places where my local grocery store was there, accessible, but the produce was always wilted and the meat didn’t look appealing,” said Psyche Williams-Forson, a professor at the University of Maryland College Park who does research on food and culture, specifically food shaming and policing in communities of color. If fresh food doesn’t look good, nobody will buy it.

People also don’t want to buy food that’s unfamiliar or doesn’t fit into their way of eating. “Whatever grocery store is going to be within access needs to take into consideration the dynamic and culture of the given community,” Williams-Forson said. “Just because you have a grocery store and a farmer’s market in your neighborhood doesn’t mean they provide fresh foods that are culturally relevant to you.” If a store in a black neighborhood only sells “white people food” and doesn’t offer the produce and other staples that are central to a community’s primary cuisine, that’s another barrier to access. 

Additionally, “if a community has not historically had access to fresh fresh produce and meats, they likely don’t have the skills to cook them into a meal that their family is going to actually like,” said Gradney, who hosts cooking classes that teach culturally relevant ways to prepare common fresh ingredients. She incorporates basic nutrition education that teaches students how food plays a role in chronic disease and general well-being. It’s one of the ways she and other nutrition experts are trying to find local solutions amid a national food access crisis. 

Experts say solutions to food inequity must go beyond the supermarket aisle.

Experts say solutions to food inequity must go beyond the supermarket aisle.

Gradney works closely with the Mayor’s Healthy City Initiative in Baton Rouge to improve food access and health outcomes in novel, community-focused ways. “We really brainstorm ways to go around the retailer, to not rely on them,” she said. As a way to deliver fresh foods, they work with Top Box Foods, a nonprofit that gets fresh produce (and, as of recently, meat and prepared meals) directly from wholesalers and assembles boxes that are delivered to a central location in a community and priced affordably.

In June 2018, Ammerman launched Good Bowls in Chapel Hill and surrounding areas with the mission to produce, distribute and sell healthy frozen meals on a kind of sliding scale — they are more expensive in affluent neighborhoods, which subsidizes lower prices in low-income neighborhoods. In developing the recipes, Ammerman works with various communities to make sure the meals fit their tastes and cultural preferences. These frozen meals have a much longer shelf life than fresh ingredients — although they’re equally nutritious — and can be stocked at convenience stores in areas where a grocery store might not be accessible. The frozen meal approach also lowers barriers to access for the many people in low-income communities who don’t have time to cook.

Williams-Forson stressed the importance of tailoring solutions to each community. “The bottom line is, access to a grocery store doesn’t guarantee anything,” she said. A lack of food access, by any name, results from larger systemic issues that a shiny new grocery store just can’t fix. 

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HuffPost’s “This New World” series is funded by Partners for a New Economy and the Kendeda Fund. All content is editorially independent, with no influence or input from the foundations. If you have an idea or tip for the editorial series, send an email to

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This Community Is Striving To Rebuild One Of The Poorest Places In America

PINE RIDGE, South Dakota — Alan Jealous, a 27-year-old construction worker, dreamt of building and owning a home. Homeownership is the cornerstone of the American Dream. But for this citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation living on the Pine Ridge reservation, a community that regularly tops the list of the poorest places in the country, having realized this dream is a monumental achievement.

Pine Ridge, a 3,500-square-mile landmass home to nearly 20,000 people, mostly Oglala, has one of the worst economies and some of the weakest infrastructure in the developed world.

The unemployment rate stands at around 75%, compared to a national rate of 3.6%. Four in ten do not earn enough to meet their basic needs. A quarter of adults, like Jealous’ parents, never graduated from high school. Dark humor about doctors who prescribe Tylenol as a cure-all and federal service providers with no useful services to provide abounds, satirizing the divide between Oglala life and the rest of America. One study describes Pine Ridge as a post-disaster landscape.

The community needs to build about 4,000 homes to replace substandard structures and meet the demands of a young and growing population. Extended families routinely squeeze into single or double-wide trailers. In Oglala, a reservation town on Highway 18 that traverses Pine Ridge from west to east, residents have lived in Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers since a tornado hit in 1999.

Last summer, golf-ball-sized hail blew holes in the sides of many of these mobile homes, which owners patched with plyboard. As much as one-fifth of the reservation’s population could be counted as homeless or nearly homeless by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards.

The climate crisis has made punishing circumstances far worse. When I visited in March, historic floods exacerbated by a series of climate factors — wetter seasons, frozen soils, record-breaking blizzards and heavy rains from a bomb cyclone — battered the reservation, inundating homes and marooning families on the far side of impassable dirt roads. Floodwaters broke and contaminated water systems. The New York Times reported 8,000 without potable water. Tribal officials attributed at least three deaths to the deluge and declared a state of emergency. 

A group of homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota on May 31, 2019.

In this plain of despair, Jealous is an outlier for hope. On a reservation with little to no work, he is a workaholic. In an economy with little to no capital, he owns a business. In a community where homes are decrepit and in short supply, he is a homeowner. And in the wake of disaster, he is helping his people rebuild.

Jealous’ future is promising because of the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation (CDC), a community-based nonprofit on the reservation. It’s in the process of developing a 34-acre plot of land, which will include 33 housing units and eventually a community center, food-growing plots, a school and retail spaces for local businesses.

Set up around a decade ago by a group of young people wanting to tackle the root causes of the crushing poverty in Pine Ridge, Thunder Valley CDC is well-known throughout Indian Country for its path-setting model for Native self-determination.

The organization — which gets most of its funding from government programs as well as philanthropic foundations like Newman’s Own, Doris Duke and Surdna — takes a broad approach to community development. Focusing on a wide range of service areas including housing, food, workforce training, education, youth leadership and Lakota language, it aims to become a template for the whole Oglala Nation.

“Our vision as an organization is liberation,” Tatewin Means, 39, an Oglala citizen and executive director of Thunder Valley CDC said. “Liberation for Lakota people through our language, culture and spirituality.”

Jealous is a co-owner of Thikaga Construction, a worker-owned cooperative financed by Thunder Valley CDC. Thikaga means “to build homes.” In July of last year, Jealous became the owner of a home he built himself. He credits the Thunder Valley CDC for helping him achieve this dream. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be an owner of a construction company. I wouldn’t be a homeowner,” he says. “They opened up my eyes and opened up a lot of doors for me that I thought were unreachable.” 

TOP: Tatewin Means, executive director of the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation. BOTTOM: Alan Jealous, co

TOP: Tatewin Means, executive director of the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation. BOTTOM: Alan Jealous, co-owner of Thikaga Construction, stands in front of housing units his company is building for Thunder Valley CDC on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Jealous grew up with five younger brothers, a little sister and his mother in a log cabin built by his great-great-grandfather in the 1930s. The cabin had a dirt floor, no bedrooms, no bathroom and no plumbing. When the family needed water to cook or bathe, they hauled it from nearby Porcupine Creek. When they needed to stay warm in the winter, they chopped wood. “We had to kind of live in hardship a little bit, but that’s what helped me become who I am today,” Jealous says. “That’s what made me want to build houses.”

On Pine Ridge, material hardship rarely comes without a spiritual toll. Five years ago, Jealous’ younger brother Alex, a student at Oglala Lakota College studying to become an automotive technician, killed himself in the basement of his family home. He was 20 at the time. More than 100 young people on the reservation have died by suicide or attempted suicide in the years since. Harsh realities make somber poetry of the meaning of Oglala: “Scatter Their Own.”

To pull through, Jealous has committed himself to his family, his culture and his career. With his wife, Kateri Means, he has a son, Nolan, who is 5, and a daughter, Lenora, who is 1. “I wake up every day and look at my son and my daughter,” he said. “We gotta carry on.”

In the sweat lodge, a Lakota rite, Jealous prays for his brother, whose presence he still feels. He avoids substances — save for Marlboro No. 27’s, which he always shares, and the four or five strong cups of coffee he drinks each day. He has a razor-thin mustache and sharp features. Most days, he wears the same uniform: a Carhartt shirt and Dickies with steel-toe boots and, sometimes, sunglasses — the kind made for the worksite, not the beach.

Jealous took extra online classes to learn how to manage Thikaga. He has thrown himself into his work, pulling long hours building homes on the reservation. “Knowing that what we’re doing now is going to end up making an impact on somebody’s life, a family’s life when they move into one of those homes,” he said. “That’s one thing that keeps my eye on the prize and keeps me motivated and keeps me going every day.”

Thikaga has been tasked with building 13 of the first 33 housing units for Thunder Valley CDC. Seven, built through a parallel self-help program that Jealous was part of, have been completed so far. Every home is intended to be affordable and sustainable, built with extreme-weather-resilient materials and rooftop solar. 

Family residences are laid out in semi-circular groups of seven with all doorways facing east, a blueprint that aligns with the way Oglala would arrange their tipis as a Tiospaye, or “extended family.” Stonework at each building’s base mirrors the rocks used to erect a tipi. The community hall has exposed beams evoking the poles on the inside of that traditional Oglala structure.  

All of this can get expensive. Each three- or four-bedroom home costs about $220,000 to build, but the CDC sells them for just $160,000 to ensure that they are affordable — requiring $60,000 to $70,000 of subsidy. Homeowners repay debts in monthly installments of about $800. Foundations, lenders and local banks have not always been eager investors. To build its first 14 houses, the corporation had to piece together capital from many sources, including the South Dakota Housing Authority, a government agency, non-profit developers like the Minnesota Housing Partnership, and philanthropies like the Tamalapais Trust.

Preparing community members to take on $160,000 in debt has been equally challenging. Requirements written into most conventional loans — even subsidized homeownership programs — make it difficult for most Native families to qualify. HUD’s Indian Home Loan program, for example, requires applicants to have a decent credit score and debt-to-income ratio as well as three months of savings. If you have a few missed credit card or car payments, tough luck. If, like many people on the reservation, you deal primarily in cash, you need not apply.

“Some of those conditions and programmatic requirements are not realistic” for Native Americans living on reservations, said Joan Timeche, executive director of the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona and a member of the Hopi Nation. “Most of the folks we work with are at that area of extreme need.”

Thunder Valley CDC tries to be more lenient with its requirements while also being a responsible lender to community members. Their housing team has also trained more than 800 Oglala in financial literacy, at least a third of whom are under 18. The hope is to create a culture of saving, and a big part of that is helping community members like Jealous break free from cycles of poverty.

Marie Kills Warrior, 26, applies a second coat of paint to doors in a Thunder Valley CDC affordable housing unit on the Pine

Marie Kills Warrior, 26, applies a second coat of paint to doors in a Thunder Valley CDC affordable housing unit on the Pine Ridge Reservation on May 31, 2019.

Yet, the 33 homes opening this year as part of Thunder Valley’s development will meet less than 1% of current housing demand on the reservation. For Tatewin Means, the hope is that cultural change amplifies the impact of those homes — that the families who secure mortgages and the young people who find work and start to save set an example for friends and relatives.

Jealous is, in a way, a test case for this grand social experiment. His example shows what it might mean for the Oglala to rebuild in the wake of a humanitarian disaster. 

One morning before I depart, I rise at 6 a.m. to join Jealous on the job. In one of the unfinished homes at Thunder Valley, I meet up with his crew: Kalo Garrett, 30, Aaron Black Bull, 21, and Donavon Good Shield, 42. The guys turn down the Metallica blaring from their radio and take a short break to talk.

I ask them how Alan is as a boss. “It feels good to see him fulfill his dream,” Garrett said of Jealous. “And he’s younger than me too, so damn!”

“Not working for a white man in the city, working for our own people — it’s a really good feeling,” said Good Shield.

“It’s a blessing to give back to the people,” said Black Bull. “Little kids are going to be growing up in these homes.”

The group turns the Metallica back up, and I linger awhile to watch them work. Black Bull takes a tape measure to mark out cuts in the lumber. Garrett returns to nail-gunning seam-backing into walls. Jealous and Good Shield step aside for a quick chat. The steady thump-thump-thump of nail into wood, the sound of a home slowly but surely rising on muddy turf where there had not been one before — thikaga — fills the air.

CORRECTION: the piece was amended to clarify the number of houses Thikaga was tasked with building.

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This Is Why Poor People Pay More At The Grocery Store

The less money you have, the more time you spend at the grocery store. This might sound counterintuitive, but when you have only $12 in your pocket, you have to consider each purchase carefully. This sort of deliberation takes time.

When I was at my poorest, I gave a lot of thought to toilet paper. You get the best deal when you buy jumbo packs but I could never afford to lay out that much cash all at once. I bought toilet paper like it was on an installment plan, in four packs, or sometimes, a single roll at a time.

If funds were really tight, I made do with paper towels or fast-food napkins until I could buy the real deal on payday. They were a little scratchy but my son didn’t mind. He was only in first grade and kids that age are just happy to have something to wipe their bottoms with.

When I was little, sometimes I went grocery shopping with my grandma. She’d flip through the newspaper and clip coupons before we climbed into her Buick Park Avenue and drove to three stores to get the best prices. I couldn’t do that as a single mom. I worked long days for a little more than minimum wage at my receptionist job and by the time I picked my son up from after-school care he was hungry for dinner. Making trips to multiple stores on the way home wouldn’t be fair. It was worth paying a little bit more to get all my groceries in one place. Plus, gas costs money. If the other stores were more than a mile or two away, that had to be factored in, too.

I rarely made a grocery list in advance. The poor don’t have the luxury of deciding salmon sounds perfect for dinner tonight. I had to wait until I got to the store to figure out what was on sale. There was always a cart in the back filled with dented cans and boxes of Hamburger Helper with tears in the cardboard. This was the area with the lowest prices so I started there.

It makes sense to stock up when you see a hot deal, but you can’t do that when you only have $12 to last till Friday. Missing out on sales cost me more in the long run, but when you’re living paycheck to paycheck, there isn’t a long run. There’s only a now.

Next, I walked each aisle carefully, hunting for yellow clearance stickers. The yellow stickers meant an item was marked down because it was close to the expiration date. I didn’t mind feeding my child canned goods after they had technically expired. Not if I could use the money I saved to buy something else.

I learned to be careful about buying marked-down meat, though. Sometimes I got home to discover the bottom was gray and green. I’d rather make my son expired tomato soup with food bank macaroni for dinner than serve him a funky-smelling rib-eye.

Many people buy more than just food at the grocery store and we were no different. We also bought toothpaste, dish soap, laundry detergent, shampoo, conditioner and deodorant. It was tough when I saw these products go on sale. It makes sense to stock up when you see a hot deal, but you can’t do that when you only have $12 to last till Friday. Missing out on sales cost me more in the long run, but when you’re living paycheck to paycheck, there isn’t a long run. There’s only a now.

The inability to stock up meant I was constantly running low on everything. When I ran out of deodorant and couldn’t afford another tube until payday, I’d improvise by smearing baking soda underneath my arms. It was messy and gritty and needed to be reapplied frequently or I’d end up smelling and sweating anyway. I’d trot off to work with a box of Arm & Hammer in my purse and smuggle it into the bathroom to reapply it behind a closed stall door a few times a day. Afterward, I shook out my blouse and brushed the excess into the sink before heading back to my desk with the requisite receptionist smile.

I’d come home from work exhausted and build a fire since the house we rented didn’t have anything but a wood stove for heat. It was inconvenient but this was the price of cheap rent.

Firewood is like toilet paper. It’s cheaper if you buy it in bulk. To get the best price, you need to buy a whole cord and get someone to deliver it in a pickup truck but I’d long since realized being poor means never getting the best price. Being poor means living in the moment and buying the smallest quantities of everything while the rich family stuffs packs of meat into their freezers.

I bought my firewood the same place I bought everything else ― at the grocery store. The little bundles were outrageously expensive but I didn’t have a choice. I made them last by limiting our fires to the evenings. In the mornings, we showered and dressed in the cold.

When I hear people talk about poverty, sooner or later the subject always turns to the way poor people eat. Someone gets indignant because they’ve seen poor people eating McDonald’s or buying candy at the grocery store. What they don’t understand is that sometimes McDonald’s is cheaper than groceries, especially when you live in a motel or a car or can’t use your oven because they turned off your electricity. Or maybe you’re just too exhausted to cook because you work three jobs.

And yes, sometimes I bought my son treats.

So many people love to sit in judgment of the poor, but unless you’ve had to buy four days worth of groceries with the change you found between your couch cushions and car seats like I have, you’ll never understand what it’s like to have to make these kinds of decisions.

I bought cookies so he could take them to his class on his birthday and bought chocolate bunnies so he’d have something fun in his Easter basket. I bought candy bars when he’d earned a reward because it was cheaper than bowling or going to the movies.

There are hundreds of reasons poor people buy candy or other treats for their children ― or themselves ― and those reasons, frankly, are none of your business. They don’t owe you an explanation just because you happen to be standing behind them at the grocery store.

So many people love to sit in judgment of the poor, but unless you’ve had to buy four days worth of groceries with the change you found between your couch cushions and car seats like I have, you’ll never understand what it’s like to have to make these kinds of decisions. And if you don’t understand, you’re not in a position to judge. You should just listen.

Poverty changes a person. You learn to fear the phone, the knock on the door, the colored envelopes in the mailbox or the tiniest indication that something might be wrong with your car. You wake up in the middle of the night feeling like your heart is trying to escape this life by beating its way out of your chest. But poverty can also teach you lessons about compassion, empathy, wisdom and generosity. The people who’ve experienced it have important things to say.  

Today I’m a freelance writer. I’ll never be rich, but I have the luxury of a full refrigerator and a drawer full of extra toothpaste and deodorant I bought on sale. I have electric heat and a jumbo pack of toilet paper sitting on a shelf next to my washer and dryer. Most importantly, I understand my good fortune doesn’t make me better or worse than anybody else.

Maybe that means I am rich after all.

Tamara Gane is a freelance writer in Seattle. In addition to HuffPost Personal, she has bylines in The Washington Post, The Independent, Ozy, Fodor’s Travel, Healthline and more. Follow her on Twitter at @tamaragane.

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