NonprofitI am Lina Sergie Attar – I'm a writer from Aleppo, living in Chicago, and doing work to support Syrians in need. AMA.
Mar 11th 2018 by TheRealLina • 10 Questions • 39 Points
I was not born Amish. I was held in captivity by mother and stepfather until I was almost 19 years old. My stepfather forced my family to dress and live like the Amish. My sister and I escaped our abusive home by agreeing to join the Amish. Three years after joining the Amish I became the maid for the bishop's family and for the next 6 months, I was sexually abused by the bishop. I went against Amish church customs and reported him to the police but he escaped into Canada. In 2017 ( 12 years later) the bishop was finally sentenced to 10 years in prison for molesting almost all of his 11 children.
The bishop had brought his family back to the USA and in 2016 the three oldest daughters went to a neighbor lady for help. The neighbor called CPS and they called in law enforcement. The detective assigned to the case was reading my memoir at the time and when one of the children mentioned they had lived in Canada for awhile he figured out that the man he was investigating was the bishop from the book he was reading. I was put in contact with the children and their social worker. Eventually raising awareness did make a difference. The Social worker told me that my memoir helped her understand how to communicate with the children and gave her insight into Amish beliefs. The children told me that they were wavering on prosecuting their dad until they discovered my memoir. Sadly, our entire church had known what kind of man the bishop was but did not report him to the police. Going to the police is severely frowned upon among the Amish.
I wrote my memoir Tears of the Silenced (self published) to raise awareness about the need to report suspected child abuse and the difficulties I faced when reporting the Amish bishop. In the three years since I published Tears of the Silenced I have received emails from all over the world ( England, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Denmark and Holland). Most are from child abuse and sexual assault survivors and many grew up in very strict Christian churches. They are from both men and women and each story is heartbreaking. I try to answer each email and offer what comfort or help that I can. Most of them tell me I am the first person they have ever told their stories to.
I hope to encourage all abuse survivors to speak out and tell their stories. It is very painful to do so but it can raise awareness and possibly save others from being abused by the abuser(s). There is much awareness needed about sexual abuse in very conservative churches. Many victims are too scared to come forward because they fear being ostracised from the church. Also, child abuse is an issue that never gets enough attention. Somehow we need to encourage the general public to report suspected cases of child abuse. After I left the Amish many people from the town where I lived as a child apologized for not helping my sister and me. They told me that they knew we were being abused and wanted to call CPS many times but our religious garb threw them off and they did not know what to do.
I had a 2nd or 3rd-grade education when I left the Amish. Today, 13 years later, I am in the last year of nursing school and an author. (My memoir is self published but has sold approx 100,000 ebooks, has 2089 reviews and has been on the Amazon Kindle Store Top 100 list three times. ) I want to encourage all abuse victims to follow their dreams, do not let allow your abuser win. What they did to you was not your fault! I recently started a new subreddit r/BreakTheSilence for abuse survivors to tell their stories and support each other.
My Amazon Author Page has pictures of me when I was 16 years old and still at home with my mother and stepfather. These pictures were taken so that social services would not come out and check up on us. My mother told them it was against our religion to have government officials in our house. They did not question her and took the pictures instead. Note how my stepfather is holding onto our arms in the third picture.
EDIT 1- Hello everyone, thank you so much for all of the great questions. I am going to have to stop for today. Feel free to keep commenting though and I will answer them tomorrow. I will be here tomorrow (3-13-2018) from 7am-3pm EST to answer more questions!
What's a common misconception about the ocean that annoys you?
I work in healthcare as a FF/EMT and have worked in hospitals. I have noticed the industry uses a blanket type coverage to bill patients. Even I have been to the emergency room and later received a bill which included medication I did not accept at the time of the service. I also know if a patient goes into the ER for cardiac related problems and the “crash cart” is needed, even if they only use one medication from a drawer it could end up costing the pt tens of thousands of dollars. How has the effect of outrageous medical costs caused people/organizations/government to rethink the structure of billing? What would be the most common sense approach to make this a reality today?
Why are there photographs of you? Where I’m from, the Amish do not allow you to take their photo. I’m assuming this varies by sect but all of the ones near us do not allow this
We help tens of thousands of Syrians inside Syria and Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and the United States. We focus on children, teens, women, and families.
What are your legislative priorities for Missouri?
Focusing on education, primarily. Modifying the foundation formula to be more generous to schools to provide updated equipment, as well as better salaries for teachers. I'd also like to see Missouri move to a ranked-choice voting setup, to allow people to accurately represent themselves without feeling like their vote is powerless.
How do you feel about the alleged misconduct of Governor Grietens?
I'd like to see the judicial process move forward on it, and keep the politics out of it. The House is currently doing an investigation; that's fine. I feel like trying to set a trial date for November 5th was stupid. If he broke the law in this manner, he should be subject to the appropriate punishments as set forth by Missouri law.
I don't know the guy, I don't know anyone involved. This is something worth investigating, absolutely. I don't know (or have an opinion) on whether or not he actually committed the crime, as I don't have enough information available.
Its indestructible and bottomless resources… it’s quite the opposite and we are finding out the hard way
Two thoughts on this, mostly on the front of how people can and are rethinking billing structure:
1) This is where we come back to being a sharp consumer. Even after an ER visit, you patients can – and probably should! – try to negotiate, see what was actually provided, what other health plans pay for this care, etc. You can probably end up paying less than appears on the billing statement.
2) KHN is actually diving into the very question of medical billing. We’ve been partnering with NPR to crowdsource patients’ medical bills and then try to investigate what actually happened, why they cost so much, and what sort of weird charges and such get added on. It’s a fascinating project – our first story is the one about the $17,850 urine test, and the next will come out later this month. If you want to help us answer this very question, please send us your crazy bills! https://khn.org/send-us-your-medical-bills/
The photographs are from when I was living with my mother before I joined the Amish. We did not take photographs but the state was coming to check on us and my mother had given them a fake address, she was also afraid that if they found us we would be questioned and they would be in trouble. So they decided to take the photographs and give them to the caseworker. It worked, they never discovered that my mother had been giving them a fake address. She told them that it was against our religion to have government officials in our house. Whenever you inject religion into the equation it is easy to get away with things.
Do you think in our lifetime we will see a permanent settlement underwater? Not a base or research facility, but a place where the average person could live?
I'm a little confused by this. A lot of the discussion around inflated medical bills has demonized hospitals and healthcare providers, but a lot of cause of this seems to be based on historical negotiating practices by managed care plans, and gross charges aren't relevant to most of the population (true self-pay may be the exception, but in my experience there is a sliding scale or self-pay discount policy already in place for most facilities).
If the hypothetical ER visit statement was for charges, then almost everyone is by default paying less than that because your insurer has already negotiated that for you, and if you are true self-pay then there is almost universally a discount or sliding-scale policy already in place by the facility. Are you suggesting that patients should try to negotiate further?
So, I believe (I could be wrong) that Chapter 15 of Missouri's Statutes covers all of Missouri's election laws. If elected, making modifications to that through House Bills would be my first tactic. If that doesn't work, (or I'm not elected) a constitutional amendment could be put on the ballot with enough support which would require Missouri use Ranked Choice voting.
It is technically possible. Even more so than a colony on Mars… Hence why my grandfather experimented with this premise in the early 1960s with Conshelf habitats
This is an important point to consider. Hospitals have what's called the Chargemaster rate – which is the list price. This is a far higher price than what insurers pay or what Medicare pays. If someone is simply paying for a service out of pocket and a) doesn’t ask a question and b) doesn’t get financial assistance, that person could easily be billed the full Chargemaster rate. (Hospitals are required to offer financial assistance for lower-income patients, but many don’t discuss it until the patient asks.)
My editor, Elisabeth Rosenthal, wrote a series on this when she worked for The New York Times. It’s great. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/health/paying-till-it-hurts.html
Pretty much like your situation. I am shunned and have no contact with anyone except my sister who still Amish. She is married and has three children. We write a few times a year but we do not really know each other anymore. I have not seen her for 12 years. I hope to go visit this fall. I am allowed to stay for the day but am not allowed to eat at the same table with her or any other church member. She is not allowed to touch me or take anything that I hand I hand her. Probably the same among the Hutterites.
You guys are awesome! Keep up the good work. I'll try to donate what I can.
What are your views on Gun laws considering the recent mass shootings?
Could you take that shape of water guy in a fight? What would be your strategy against a man-fish?
For as long as I can remember, we've been talking about the outrageous costs of health care. As far as I can tell, there's near universal agreement that health care costs are ruining lives, holding back companies from growth, and crippling state government. Yet nothing ever seems to get done.
From your research, are there a few relatively simple changes we can make to the system that would give us meaningful improvements? Or is the only solution to scrap the whole thing and start over with some form of single payer or nationalized health insurance?
Ooh, a tough question. On the one hand, I would hate to be singled out by the NRA or any other group as being anti-gun. On the other hand, I could lose all support if I don't come out in favor of gun control.
Thanks! This is the kind of tough question I was wanting!
I think the time to talk about guns, and their affects on peoples lives is whenever someone wants to have the conversation. I think asking people to "wait" for the "appropriate time" is just a way to never have the conversation. If you're afraid to have a conversation, you shouldn't be working for the public.
That said, I own two pistols myself. I recognize the emotional plea for wanting to ban firearms; I don't think that's a good answer, and there are several studies that show the effect of bans on guns are not directly attributable to a drop in gun violence. Other policies and initiatives that went along with the 1994 AWB were more helpful.
Still, it's too easy for someone to decide they're going to kill a large number of people. Law enforcement agencies should have tools, (such as the Red Flag laws being discussed right now) to proactively intervene when there's a threat to others, or a possibility of self-harm. This should go through the courts, and there should absolutely be a pathway to regaining those weapons once the danger has passed - whatever the criteria for that may be.
Closing the gun show loophole is another good idea. I have an idea, I'll float it here. Tell me what you think:
In Missouri, if you're a private gun seller, selling at a gun show, you are only allowed to sell to Missouri Citizens. (That's my understanding; I could be wrong. Feel free to correct me and cite a statute!) If Gun Shows were responsible for issuing a permit-to-purchase, you'd have background checks for every firearm sold at a gun show. (Gun show dealers, to my understanding, who are Licensed Shops, still have to follow NICS rules for background checks, even at gun shows.) The gun shows would work with the local sheriff's department to run a MULES background check to ensure the person is safe to buy a firearm. If they pass, they get a permit; they show the permit (and ID) to the guy at the gun show, and they get to buy the gun.
That's an idea, anyway. I'd also be in favor of raising the age of purchase to 21, or examining, (I haven't fully dived into it) a revival of Missouri's permit to purchase program that was removed around 2007.
Thanks for your question!
Did you see me change into my aquaman suit?
Great question. Health care costs are a big, big public policy concern, and they have been for quite a while! But alas, in health care, nothing is ever simple. (The ACA was more than 900 pages!)
A lot of wonks have studied this: The big issue is that, compared to other countries, we simply pay a lot more for hospitals, for outpatient care, for prescription drugs, etc. Some people say single-payer, or an expanded public option is a good way to address this.
The ACA also pushed some experiments to try to pay hospitals for better outcomes, or to penalize them if people kept coming back sick. It also built an “innovation center,” whose whole job was to experiment with new ways to pay more efficiently for health care – moving away from the so-called “fee for service” model and instead “paying for performance.” We have seen some results start to trickle in, but nothing revolutionary yet. This week, though, officials from the Trump administration signaled they’re interested in trying to continue those experiments. So that could be something.
Drug costs are also of course a big concern – but so far, no one really knows WHY drugs cost as much as they do. (This is why states are pushing “drug price transparency” laws.) Other nations, like Canada, have cost controls, but those also come with their own tradeoffs.
Tl;dr: there are no “simple” changes to fixing the cost of health care. It’s a big issue, and one that lawmakers could tackle, but it requires lots of serious thought, effort, and time!
The Amish probably have the strictest form of shunning. Glad you can visit. I have not been back and dread it but I want to see my sister.
How was your diet down there? What kind of food were you eating for that time?
Do you believe there could be merit in eliminating medicine from being advertised, through media or through doctors, making it illegal for doctors to take money to recommend a certain pill?
I cannot see how it possible contributes to the state of health of people in a country, while pharmaceuticals spend gigantic amounts of money on this. Then they feel justified to recoup that money by hiking prices to unrealistic amounts, screwing the people in need over some more..
Direct-to-consumer advertising is such a controversial issue, especially when it comes to pharmaceuticals.
We’ve seen drug companies use this to market drugs when they aren’t universally recommended or needed. Meningitis B is one example I’ve written about – it’s an uncommon disease that can be deadly (but is also treatable!). The vaccine is not universally recommended, because it’s such a rare disease (and such an expensive vaccine!). So its manufacturers (Pfizer and GSK) have pumped up advertising. It’s made doctors and some industry watchers pretty uneasy, and some experts argue that this kind of approach bolsters sales of health care that maybe isn’t necessary.
Many pharmaceutical companies and doctors would argue that money / donations don’t influence prescribing decisions. But it’s controversial, and there have been steps toward addressing it. The ACA created an Open Payments database that requires drugmakers to report what they give to doctors and hospitals, and it publishes them online.
There’s also been some really good journalism on this. ProPublica, another nonprofit news outlet, did a fantastic project called Dollars for Docs: If you want to see whether your doctor has gotten money from a drug company, I recommend their database! https://projects.propublica.org/docdollars/
I’m also linking to two stories KHN did on direct-to-consumer advertising – my meningitis B story and another by my colleague, Julie Appleby: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/07/business/meningitis-b-vaccines.html https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/12/business/media/pseudobulbar-affect-drug-advertising-sales.html
I totally understand :(
What was the coolest thing and the hardest thing about living underwater? Would you do it again??
The money they steal from the tax purse in loss deductions is enough for taxpayers to pay for those who can’t afford healthcare, that’s how it works in every other developed country.
Yes! Right here: https://www.karamfoundation.org/chelseadoessf/
I believe in finding solutions that bridge divides and can gain support from everyone. I don't like the idea of bans. I do like the idea of responsible, safe gun ownership.
Coolest thing was the being given the luxury of time underwater by becoming an aquanaut. It is the biggest obstacle and limitation coming from the surface. We broke the time barrier! The reverse is true too- we had a ceiling from which we could not rise above. To do so would create major DCS issues including potential death...
The event on Friday at WeWork in SF is going to be cool, informative, moving, hilarious (we have Chelsea Handler!), and a lot of fun. There will be great food, drinks, and Cheese! It's really not to be missed. Get your ticket here: https://www.karamfoundation.org/chelseadoessf/
If the Dickey amendment could be affected by the Missouri State House of Representatives, you better believe I'd be all aboard allowing the CDC to research gun violence.
Anything worth doing has some risk. Explorers mitigate what they can, plan for any contingency and “go for it” knowing to expect the unexpected. Death is an inevitable part of life. Living life is what we must never avoid.
That’s a really great and interesting question. And we know that we spend more on overhead than do other countries with less complex health insurance systems. (I went on a reporting trip to Canada last fall, and that was a point that came up again and again – their billing and admin just costs a lot less than ours, because they need fewer people.)
BUT the issue economists point to again and again is the price per unit of medical care. It’s just higher here than it is in other countries. And if we’re interested in addressing health care costs in the United States, that’s the key area to emphasize.
A lot of health care journalists point to this famous paper, by a bunch of rock star health economists: It’s called “It’s The Prices, Stupid,” and I think it still very much applies today. https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.22.3.89
The best way to raise awareness is to talk about it and write about it on social media. Most change starts with people talking, forming groups and eventually making their voices so loud they cannot be ignored. Hopefully, that will happen one day. I am on the front lines trying to make that happen. For now, talking about it will start pulling back the veil of secrecy. Thank you for caring :)
Have you seen the floating patches of trash while out at sea?
I had an MRI a week ago, with insurance it was going to cost$2000 without and out of pocket it was $850. Why such a huge discrepancy for something like that?
Congratulations on your success! What do you think goes into the mentality of not-reporting-to-the-police? Outside of the failure to report such actions, were other members of your family/church/society/etc supportive of you speaking out?
We have always wanted to have an event in San Francisco as it is the tech and innovation hub of the world as well as great, compassionate people who want to make a difference. These qualities are very close to Karam's work and values. We are so excited to be there this week!
I answered this elsewhere, but you're right about it being about private person-to-person sales. However, if you're going to an event, setting up a stall, and laying out things you want to sell, you're pretty close to a business, and I think it'd be okay to have the gun show facilitate background checks before people buy those guns.
No law fixes every problem; expecting a law to fix all issues would be, in a word, silly.
Thanks for your input!
Yes- in every ocean. There is an average of 34,000 pieces of plastic per square mile of ocean… A testament to our complete disconnect with the impact we are having on our ocean
So I can’t tell you about your specific insurance / hospital. BUT this is a pattern the Wall Street Journal has looked into, and their report is very much worth reading. It seems that some hospitals and health care providers are discounting services if patients pay cash upfront, rather than waiting for insurance to pay. One reason that I find particularly interesting: It cuts down on the administrative work of processing an insurance payment or collecting money later on.
Hello:) Thank you for this very important question. There is so much more to my story but it was not possible to put it all in that AMA. A little background. My step-grandmother and my mentally challenged aunt were also living at home with my mother and stepfather. They were severely abused. I went to the police first to try and get them removed from my mother's custody but the police were so hesitant to do anything because of the religious aspect. I asked the policeman to pull up my aunt's dress and look at the bruises on her legs but he told me that he could not because it would violate religious freedom (my mother dressed her in Amish clothes). I then asked for a female officer to be brought in to do it but they never did it. I was exasperated and went to the police 3 times. I could not get them to do anything. My grandmother died not long after and my aunt died about three years ago, about the same time my memoir was published.
It is too easy to hide behind religion. When I reported the Amish bishop I was met with much of the same attitude "We have to be careful not to infringe on religious freedoms" until he escaped into Canada. At that point, I believe they realized something was very wrong. I really love that our country has religious freedom but I think we need to be careful that religious freedom does not trap victims and make it impossible for them to get help.
By the time I had left the Amish I was numb and felt I had failed my aunt, my step-grandmother, and the bishop's children. I could not save any of them. I got pushback from every angle, the Amish, the police, adult protective services and of course my mother and step-father. I was the only one trying to help any of them. The only one helping me was a non-Amish lady. It was devastating. Nine years later I wrote my memoir in a last ditch effort to raise awareness. I barely expected anything to come of it but something was set in motion and now three years later the bishop is in prison, people from my hometown have read my book, I have found my long lost brother and I am helping people from all over the world through email.
I think our culture's mentality of "mind your own business" plays a big part into why child abuse cases are not reported. They think it is not their business and may even fear other people will remind them of that fact if they start to meddle. Also many believe that CPS will not do anything even if they call. There definitely needs to be a big overhauling of the CPS system.
I know in my case, the people who apologized to me and told me that they had known are truly some of the kindest people you could ever meet. It is not that they were bad people, today they are really good friends of mine :) I think they truly just did not know how to help. I hope that answered your question :)
Could you please mention any projects in Syria ( controlled by government)!
Permit to purchase is a great idea! Run with this as a demonstration of your ability to find meaningful and productive compromises! Good work!
What kind of equipment did you live/travel in during project 31? How long did descent/ascent take at the beginning/end?
How much of the book is true? because memoir.
Currently, we support schools/learning centers in Homs, food/winter projects in Aleppo (the city), women projects in central Damascus. We have done many other projects over the years in areas across Syria and before 2011 as well.
I floated it past a few friends first; they liked it. I'm hopeful that seeking compromise and listening to both sides of an issue, and trying to find common ground will be more prominent in Missouri Politics.
Watch the Mission 31 videos and all will be revealed: https://www.youtube.com/user/Mission31channel
I have changed names, identifying characteristics, and some locations. Many of the worst abuse cases were left out. I concealed some identities to protect the innocent.
As one of your former professors, I'm curious - how are you going to support education in Missouri? Specifically the funding of the A+ program and the new "Core 42" mandate that allows students to graduate with a Bachelor's degree and never take a basic computing course.
did you miss the stars? and how was your sleeping schedule... did night remain night?
Hi! Thanks for the question!
First, I think computer education should start in grade school. And I want to see teachers make higher salaries. I was speaking with the president of East Central Community College in Union the other day. His name is Dr. Bauer.
(I really wanted to call him Jack. Okay. Bad joke. Moving on.)
He was talking about how higher education funding has been slipping. A few years ago, it made up 33% of their budget. It now makes up something like 22%. (Rough numbers; don't quote me on those.) He also said that A+ is not being fully funded. I'd like to reverse that.
I'll be honest - I need to read more about Core42. I know my fiancee has mentioned the program (not by name, but close) and has been enthused by it, but I need to know more about it before I can talk about its benefits. I will say, if you don't know how to use basic productivity software or work your way around a computer before you graduate middle school, I think we're failing our students.
I didn’t because the stars were everywhere on the sea floor.
Considering we dove 10-12 hours per day sleep was surprisingly not a problem. The Clayton Sleep Center was disappointed I’m sure ;-)
Well, trying to think. I cannot think of particular full recipes at the moment but can tell you things I enjoyed eating and making :)
I really liked the cheese spread we made to put on bread, I liked Jello with cottage cheese on the top, homemade ice cream, homemade pickles, fried chicken, haystack suppers, fried potatoes with tomato gravy and apple pies..there are more things but I cannot think of them at the moment :)
Yo. James. I'm in MO. What do you think of this porn bill trying to get passed in the MO legislature? Also, does Greitens have to go?
Do you believe in sea monsters?
Do you think this sort of thing happens with any frequency in other Amish communities? And is the normal reaction to not involve any outside authorities and just resort to shunning? Is there any other procedure abuse victims can resort to? Also thank you for exposing this stuff, as depressing as it is, I think it's better to get it out in the open.
Haven't read any porn bills, so I don't have a stance on it. I vaguely remember hearing something about one, but no details. Sorry.
I think the judicial process should figure out what did or did not happen, and punish or acquit as appropriate. I think the House committee should do it's job without press interference, and work quickly to move past this in as honest and straightforward a way as possible.
It is prelevant in most all Amish communities. The more liberal the community the more resources there are for victims but those resources are very limited and usually consist of some form of counseling for the victim and predator. In very rare cases, maybe less than a handful are the police ever called in by someone who is still a member of the church.
I know victims from the very most liberal to the very most strict and the same basic techniques run throughout. The mother usually reports that her husband or brother or someone is molesting her children or teenage daughters. She is told that the ministers will handle it. The predator is brought before the church and shunned for a few weeks. After he is brought back into the church no one is allowed to talk about his crime ever again because he has been forgiven. The predator may be reported 5 - 7 times. Eventually the victim or the mother of the victim will stop saying anything. It usually does not do any good and it often brings shame on the victim.
In my community, the bishops wife and her 7 sisters had been molested by her father. He had been reported to the ministers 5 times by their mother. Then, the bishops wife's mother and her eight sisters had been molested by her father. Almost all of the bishop's wife's 11 children were molested by her husband, the bishop. A heartbreaking tragedy. Approx 24 out of 32 people were molested, 75%.
I don't think that this has been asked but what are your views on abortion. Also what do you think about the legalization of weed? Thanks for taking your time to respond in advanced
While you were underwater, what where your experiences with Noise Pollution; how does your research intersects with Noise Pollution?
I don't think that this has been asked but what are your views on abortion.
Another toughie. You guys are great and on fire with these today. Thanks for your question.
Gonna give you the TL;DR answer first; I hope you read the whole thing, though.
tl;dr: Abortion should be legal, and it should be rare.
The long answer: I'm not a fan of the idea of abortion. Not from a religious or ideological perspective, but from a human emotion perspective. Nobody likes having an abortion; anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is using the experience as a shield to keep themselves from hurting. I've talked to people who have had abortions; it is not a pleasant experience, and it is a tough, hard, trying time in their lives.
And the decision is never made with any flippancy. (Which is the most common way I have seen it portrayed.) When an abortion happens, it sucks. It's one of the worst experiences a person can probably go through, and a lot of people go through it alone. Ostracized by family, and friends, neighbors and co-workers.
Better sex education, better access to contraceptives, and focusing more on getting men to be more responsible about their sexual health and practices is the key to reducing abortions. Not making them illegal. They were illegal once upon a time. They still happened, and they caused a lot more heartbreak then.
RE Weed: I signed the petition, I wouldn't vote to criminalize it; I'd be in favor of decriminalizing it and releasing those who are incarcerated solely on a possession charge.
Boat noise, machinery noise, living in a sort of echo chamber makes these things even more evident. Imagine what that does to sea life, especially those animals much more sensitive to noise than we are, such as cetaceans ...
Hello, thank you for doing this AMA! Could you tell me a little more about your stance on Healthcare? I had a look at your website but was a little confused on your stance.
I'm an American and Canadian citizen living in Canada, so healthcare is rather important to me. Cheers!
When people say the majority of the earth’s oceans are unexplored, what does this actually mean and do you think there are as to yet undiscovered creatures that will shock and amaze the world? I’m thinking dinosaur level here.
So, there are a lot of memes going around about healthcare. I've got friends all over the world, and they both extol the virtues of our healthcare system, and berate the problems. It's interesting to hear praise and condemnation in the same breath!
I look at it this way: Societies are generally judged on a few things, but one of the most important, to me, is how they treat their sick and feeble. In the wealthiest country in the world, with some of the brightest minds on the planet, and with the most entrepreneurial spirit, how is this not something we've solved already?
I want to see (and promote) more access for healthcare. The US seems to be moving towards a single payer system with insurance taking a "more cosmetic" method for dealing with things.
But there's no "magic key" to fix healthcare issues. We have bad eating habits in the country. We have people working too many hours, in dangerous situations. We have poor people avoiding doctors until a situation is dire, and we have people who just don't understand what their options and choices are.
I don't have a bright enough mind to fix it myself, but I'd like to see us put more focus on patients, and less on profits. Obamacare has some benefits, but insurance isn't healthcare - and requiring it for access is just another barrier and red tape that we don't need.
Less than 5% of our ocean world has been explored to date. Perspective: the ocean represents over 99% of our planet’s living space, some 3.4BILLION cu2 of volume… even if you take the entire scuba diving layer into account as well as all the bottom exploration in modern history including my grandfather’s pioneering exploits, thats >5%
Hi, James! I'm a St. Louis county resident interested in politics, especially in this blue-red-blue state.
What are your thoughts on merging St. Louis city and St. Louis county? (That's always a fun question to ask to start.)
Now, a hard one: Let's say the people of Missouri voted for A, but you very, very strongly believe B. The polls are close, and you hear a lot of good arguments for both sides, but the people ultimately decide A and you VERY strongly feel B. How do you vote?
I'll ask several questions, it'd be awesome if you could answer them all, if that's not the case, I'd be satisfied with getting one responded at least 😅
I. What's the rarest encounter that you've had with an animal?
II. What's something that should be common knowledge about the sea?
III. Which one's your favorite mythological underwater beast and why is that your choice?
P.s: You have an amazing life and it sounds like you enjoy what you do, that makes me happy for you 😄
What are your thoughts on merging St. Louis city and St. Louis county? (That's always a fun question to ask to start.)
Not living directly in St. Louis or the STL County area, I don't know the nuances of the problems. I know it would make managing the city easier, as some of the laws would be relaxed. (Like officials having to live in STL City itself) but I also know that benefit would be offset by tax-related issues.
Let's say the people of Missouri voted for A, but you very, very strongly believe B. The polls are close, and you hear a lot of good arguments for both sides, but the people ultimately decide A and you VERY strongly feel B. How do you vote?
I love the tough questions. First, let me tell you right now: When I vote on something, you'll have every reason why I vote for something. It'll be on Facebook, it'll be on my site, and it'll be on Twitter. I won't shy away from detailing exactly why I vote for something.
Secondly, if the data and arguments weren't enough to sway my opinion, (and I like to try my hardest to keep an open mind on any issue, and argue it from every side. I'm a human, though, so bias exists.) then I would probably still vote B. Your situation seems to imply that the vote was close, so I feel my obligation as a leader in the community would have necessitate that I lead with my values, and explain it as such to the voters. We are a republic; we vote leaders to make decisions on our behalf because we trust their approach. I would hope my constituents would feel that they could trust me, and listen to my explanation.
To put it simply, I'd vote B, and explain why.
That might get me voted out of office - but that's okay. We should elect people that represent our ideals, and if I don't represent them, then I'm not the man for the job.
Thanks for your question!
I. Nose to nose with 2 orcas in PNG(Papua New Guinea) playing with and eventually feeding on a 7 foot shark.
II. The ocean is life. No blue no green. Without it we do not exist. If the ocean isn't healthy neither can we , neither can our economy… simple. … The ONLY thing that makes our planet special is the water on it
III. The kraken of course! Because the thought still scares the living cr-p out of people even today… LOL
P.s: TKU! I do. It's one of the most difficult jobs out there but the experiences are priceless and I cherish each moment!
Hey there! If you had to recommend two books (one fiction, one nonfiction) that you either really enjoyed, or feel had a major impact on you or your life, what would they be?
AS an avid scuba diver myself, I used to love just sitting on a patch of sand at 80-100 feet and just watch quietly the reef for an hour. I imagine living underwater that long you had quite a bit of this enjoyment?
Two books?! That's a hard sell. Right now, non-fiction? Phew, I'm reading "Founding Rivals" by Chris DeRose, and it's a pretty great book.
Insofar as fiction goes, probably cheese out with Monster Blood by RL Stine. Or maybe The Demon Awakens by RA Salvatore. Both of those books were big for me, for different reasons. (Monster Blood gave me viciously cool nightmares for a while; Salvatore's book got me into reading Fantasy novels.)
Its home. I imagine you might feel the same. Sitting at the bottom watching the soap opera unfold in front of you is such a joy every time. Always different, always new characters, always surprising and wonderous.
How do you feel about marijuana legalization and dropping charges against those currently in prison for small possession charges?
Did your sleep patterns remain the same while living underwater? I've heard that people devoid of normal stimuli will eventually settle into a different pattern than most of us are used to.
Also - what's it sound like down there?!
I signed the petition to get it on the ballot this year; I think voters should have a say on it in this state. I've never done any form of recreational drug, and I personally don't like being around people who are high. But the evidence suggests that it is not a gateway drug, and it is no more dangerous to a person's body or activities than alcohol. So, just like I don't go to bars, I won't go to places where people smoke pot.
Releasing and dismissing charges of those in jail for marijuana possession makes sense to me. I know the local police chief doesn't agree with me, but he sees things through a different lens than I do, and I completely respect his view point. It is a nuanced, and well thought out position from his perspective. I just don't agree with his interpretation of the overall picture.
Sleep? What sleep? (See above)... Mission 31 was run just like any extreme environment mission ie NASA… Military training and preparation and precise schedule are essential for everything to work. We had sleep schedules so we could keep up the grueling pace.
Sound- it’s not the silent world at all! Between the echo of machinery, the snapping shrimp on the hull, the booming and clicking of fish and other sea life, it was a cacophony of underwater symphonies
I wish that was the mentality of politicians when I used to live in the show me state.
What was the biggest surprise inconvenience that you didn't expect, when spending SO much time underwater?
People- ie visits from surface dwellers. Funny how one gets used to and defensive of home. We started getting bothered by the drop ins even if they were for our benefit.
What are some little things you'd like to see done that would benefit America's farmers?
Please tell me you got your career inspiration from my favorite childhood movie
Edit: ah, I see you are Jacques Cousteau's grandson! Cool! Yeah, that probably had more to do with it than the movie...
I mean, a simple one would be this: Fix Missouri Roads. It's dangerous to haul cattle on roads full of potholes and that are falling apart.
Thanks for your question!
Life Aquatic was cool too ;-)
What are the biggest issues facing Missouri's 109th district as you see them? Can you name a specific way you aim to address one of these issues?
I grew up watching and adoring your grandfather. I know he invented the SCUBA system, were there any other inventions?
The biggest issues would be, in no particular order:
- Our voting system
- Local Economy
I'll do you one better, and give you three ways to address these:
1.) Improving highway 47, (which cuts straight through Union) It should be a 4 lane highway, not a 2 way highway. At the very least, it should have wide shoulders for accidents. 2.) Working with the county commissioners to better plan projects. One of our roads, (Denmark) was completely shut down for some of our residents because the bridge was closed before improvements to the other half of the road were completed; residents were stuck, for varying amounts of time, without a means of egress. 3.) Switching to ranked choice voting. Not everyone agrees, but I feel it provides a more accurate representation of what people want. 4.) Starting an incubator. Our local community college has expressed interest in it; they just need some support. That means local investors and infrastructure improvements. The state can help with part of that, and I feel like good negotiating with investors, (St. Louis is nearby, with a lot of investors) could help with that.
Thanks for your question!
Thank you! He and Emile Gagnan (his engineer friend from Air Liquide) co-invented the aqualung(SCUBA). My grandfather also had to invent the tools necessary to explore since none were available: underwater camera housings, the first underwater habitat, the first submersible for science research, helped develop modern side scan sonar, underwater lights, and more… It was by necessity that he did this.
Hi James! I live in Texas so I doubt that most of your policies will affect me personally, but I’m a young person interested in politics. I follow the news and keep my eyes and ears open. Especially via Twitter and Reddit, but I’m too young to really do much about the things I hear about (too young to vote, too awkward to call state reps.)what do you suggest I do to help make my voice heard?
did anything feel different or alien to you after coming back to the surface?
Tweet, E-Mail, engage in conversation on Reddit and in person with your friends. Seek out opinions that are different than your own, too. That's important.
I really like this chart. If you recognize where your own bias lies, then you can use this chart to help find opinions that are different than your own, and stay informed on them.
Mostly, keep an open mind. And practice talking to your local state congressional reps. Talk with your city reps, too. Mayors, City Admins, Ward leaders, this is where the real governing starts.
Thanks for your question, and stay engaged! Make your voice heard!
My sinuses seem to feel a little different. I also think I grew gills behind my ears (joke)
What are your qualifications for entering politics? What education and experience makes you an informed and effective fit for the job?
What's the first thing you eat when you get back on land? I always crave Mexican food when I dive or surf for some reason...
Insofar as qualifications go, I meet all of Missouri's minimum qualifications for the job.
As for why voters might want to vote for me? I'm a straight shooter when it comes to answering questions. I'm working on a BS degree in Software Dev; I've been a data analyst and software dev for the past 10 years without the degree. I've done data analysis for Hewlett Packard, and I have a lot of ideas that I feel people will resonate with.
If you're looking for a law degree, I think you'll find a number of politicians don't have one. If you're looking for a degree of any kind, I'd point out that I've had a successful career without one. If you're looking for me to be similar to the other people who've run for office before, I'd hope that I fail that particular test.
I don't want to be another "Politician" that's just like every other one, so I hope that, using that measuring stick, I won't measure up.
We all wanted a good fresh organic burger and fries… was very disappointed as I still couldn't taste much that day
What’s your actual slogan?
And what’s your drunk slogan?
I hope if elected, Trump doesn’t make your job Missourible.
Describe your aquanaut suit. How was it? How did allow you to brush your teeth, eat, drink, sleep, and expel feces? You know, everyday stuff.
Your pun is amusing. I give you one upvote.
My actual slogan: Ready to work for you.
Because I am. This job is important, and you have to be willing to work for people. Absentee politicians harm our society; we need engaged leaders.
Drunk slogan? Hrm. I dunno. I don't think I have one. I get a bit sarcastic when drunk, though. So maybe just that: #SarcasmFontsAreTheFuture
??? I dunno though. :p
An aquanaut suit is no different than commercial or scuba depending on needs of the task at hand… Once done with the particular dive, you take the suits and helmets or full face masks etc, take a shower, and put on team clothes ie tshirt shorts etc… it's like coming home after work, just in a habitat 20 meters under water. The Mission 31 videos on YouTube can best illustrate this
Hi James; I'm not from Missouri but it's very exciting to see someone with a sense of humor running for office. One of the questions I would have for you is this: What do you think your state does well? What do you think the state does poorly?
Hey there! If you had to recommend two books [one fiction; one nonfiction] that you love, or had some impact on your life, what would they be and why?
Also, what did you do to keep from getting bored down there?
Thanks for your question! What does my state do well? Farm. Agriculture is a huge part of our economy, to the tune of $88 billion. Our small farmers are fantastic people, and they are great stewards of the land.
What could we do better? A lot of things. I think communicating might be a good goal. I've got family that shuts down when they hear the name "Obama", and other family members that shut down when they hear the name "Trump". I think if we could open our hearts and listen more, and empathize better, our state would do better.
Jules Vernes- 20000 leagues under the sea
Erik Seedhouse- Ocean Outpost
Never had a chance to get bored… its the sea after all! 10-12 hours of diving and research, 1-3 hours of interviews and SITC a day, dry lab research, managing a aquanaut team as well as a film team …. No boredom here… no sleep either
What are your view on immigration? Do you support DACA? Do you support the wall? Do you support the Muslim ban?
First of all, I must say I am incredibly jealous. I am enamored with undersea life, aquanautics, and the unknown, and it would be my dream to do what you get to do.
My question is, after spending a long period of time underwater, are there any roadblocks now to increase that number to a longer period of time. If so, what are they? If not, when can we see a mission for a longer period of time?
You'll be hard-pressed to find me in favor of pretty much any ban unless there is a high-bar of evidence suggesting it would be beneficial in the extreme.
That said, no, I absolutely do not support a Muslim ban. I support a path to citizenship for DACA recipients; the sooner the better. If they've been here for 20 years, and they've been good citizens, that's enough for me.
Walls invite ladders and tunnels and lots of time spent washing off graffiti. There are better uses for $24 billion than a wall. Let's go to Mars, or back to the Moon, or some other cool, fun, crazy project that will bring people together.
Yes, human physiology, human psychological limits, accidents, economic, technology, supplies, support, etc are just a few of the obstacles. I believe it is possible depending on addressing those and other issues...
Heya James! I know I'm late here, but I went to school with you! It's Spencer, we played D&D at Jordan's and Patrick's houses in high school. I didn't expect to come home from work today and see your name on the main feed of Reddit!
Here's my question: how much are you going to pay me to hide all your dirty secrets? All of your DMing techniques?
Joking aside, it's great to see you involved in politics. I was a district delegate for Bernie myself.
Hey Spencer; great to hear from you! I was talking about your rather unique approach to High School and life after it to some people the other day! Are you still in MO?
Feel free to reach out on Facebook or in PM's so we can catch up! (And please keep my terrible DM secrets to yourself. :P)
Can you tell Frito Lay to stop putting pretzels into Munchies bags?
Sure, but it won't work. I'll tweet about it for you.
Long story short-ish: I met James when I was just in high school playing an online game. I had a horribly tough time throughout those years and even through college. Over each summer away from college I was homeless (I’m not sure he knew that), later after moving to California I had been in a car accident, I had been assaulted by my older brother, and I had then been homeless again in NYC for a short time before before I finally found a job and returned to school full-time, where I finally graduated with my associate’s degree.
Eight years later and I am in a much better place and life is not so much a huge struggle anymore. But what is important is that throughout those years, James always put forward the effort to stay in touch with me. And almost every birthday and holiday, he’d send me something, if even just a nice card with a message that cheered me up and made me feel valued and worthwhile, even during times when I felt the exact opposite of that. When I was trying to make it through my graphic design program at uni one year he even sent me my first pack of Prismacolour markers - supplies I couldn’t afford but really needed at the time. He knew my passion for art and he always tried to help me harbour it.
I was ashamed all those years for it, but I could never afford to send much in return besides cards. And even then I was flippant and flighty and unreliable in terms of being a good friend. But it didn’t really matter to James. He always sent one for Christmas or something from Amazon for my birthday, wherever in the world I happened to be.
Since this here seems as good a platform as any, I just wanted to take the opportunity to tell the world how great of a guy, and an influence on my life, James has been to me - and how outstanding of a person he is in general - to everybody really. I am where I am today, in some small part, because of James.
It’s really good to see you here. And I’m not sure why we fell out of touch, but that is OK. I hope you achieve your goal because you deserve it. You deserve everything you’ve given out to the world to come back to you tenfold.
Oh and I guess I have to ask you a question to post, sorry if awkward turtles since I’m no longer as clued in on U.S. politics:
Do you accept drunk birthday cards? :)
Well now, I didn't expect to see you pop up. I would gladly accept one; send me a PM! And omg thank you for the kind words. <3
As a Missouri resident, I'm concerned about the Zhentarim's growing influence over government officials. The Harpers get some floor time, but when a member of the Emerald Enclave speaks up, they aren't given the same amount of consideration.
How would you bring a balance to a state where the densely populated cities lean left and are located at the extreme East and West borders with so many conservative leaning counties in between?
I literally laughed out loud at this.
I'd call on Elminster to force the representatives of all factions to the table and have a good long conversation.
Question here... Where the Fuck is my Christmas card?! Because I never got my secret Santa Gift!
Did you sign up for one? :( I sent a ton out this year; I can look through the database later, if you like.
I'm really sorry. :/
California here. What is your stance on gerrymandering? Are you for it, against it, and what would you do to push your position forward?
Good question! There are some good reasons for some of the ways some districts are drawn; unfortunately, most districts are drawn for partisan advantage.
There was a study done, (don't have a link handy; it was shown to me by someone I work with; he had a printed copy) that showed redistricting done by a computer would have only shifted one federal seat, so that makes it seem like a trivial issue.
I'm for logical drawing of legislative boundaries with good justifications that don't rely on party. I think it should be non-partisan, and focused on ensuring that citizens are properly represented.
What do you hope to accomplish as a state representative? Are there any strong stances or claims you'd want to make on behalf of the state?
Oh, a few basic things. Some infrastructure upgrades badly needed in my district would be a start. I'd like to fix voting in Missouri, but that's a pretty lofty goal. Maybe the loftiest.
Anything you can do to help enable direct-to-consumer auto sales?
Having dealt with dealerships in the past, they add nothing of value to the buying experience. And as a consumer, I can't tell you how great it was not having to mess with a dealership when purchasing a Tesla. I felt the same way again when I bought another one.
You know, I'm not sure where Missouri's laws are on this one, so... maybe there is something that could be done in MO to facilitate it.
That's something to look into. Thanks.
What was the catalyst that made you want to run for office? Which issue are you more excited to get working on first, if elected? :)
I've been interested in local government for quite a while, and the fact that this is an open seat makes it competitive. However, I was not planning to run; a woman named Patricia Schuba was planning to run, and I was going to offer her my support. She had to back out, though, so I decided it was time to put my money where my mouth was, so to speak.
Ranked choice voting is probably the first bill I'd work on, but education reform is where the bulk of my attention is going to be.
As someone with farming experience, how do you feel about the massive CAFOs being built across the state literally adjacent to other people’s private properties? (Callaway Farrowing, Tipton East, Valley Oaks Steak). Would you support increased DNR regulations about these?
Being a farmer/raising livestock/growing crops/however you want to slice it and dice it should be about two things: Growing/producing good product, and being a steward of the land. CAFO's do neither of those things well in any sense of the word, and they go a step further by hurting local economies by moving money out of state, generally. (Not in every case, of course, but Callaway Farrowing, for example, was registered by a guy from Iowa as a local LLC to run these farms.)
So, we need to look at them carefully and make sure that they aren't abusing our laws to make it harder for local farmers to farm. That could include reducing tax-loopholes for these kind of agencies, or increased regulation.
Depends on a few things. If it's a light rain with no wind and the day is cool but not cold? Open is great. I love the smell of rain. If it's going to make the house hot and muggy, or if the wind is blowing hard, or if it's raining really hard, closed.
But TV off and curtains open so I can see the lightning. :)
Excited to make my first post on reddit. Anyways, what is your favorite kind of toothpaste? What kind do you have at home right now?
I'm enjoying Crest sensitive teeth tooth paste; it's pretty great. It's what I use! Thanks for caring about my teeth!
How did you come up with the idea for "Carpool Karaoke"?
That would have been a cool idea to have had. :( Alas, I cannot take credit for it!
I could totally do some, though. (Nobody would vote for me if they heard me sing, though.)
What's your drink of choice?
Generally speaking, I like caffeine free diet coke with some lemon or black-cherry flavoring added. :)
What is your position on gun control and the second amendment?
Thanks for your question. I answered something similar here. If that's not enough information, let me know. :) Thanks!
Hi! I'm a fellow Missourian here. Do you plan on doing anything about the roads if you're elected? For example the ones where I'm at have already had several fatal accidents this year, and nothing's being done about it.
Through our area there's a road, highway 47, which is a big pain point. I would definitely like to see it expanded, and to fix some of the issues we've got with our infrastructure projects. We need good roads to improve education access, (there's an open-enrollment bill for an area nearby, one of the congressional reps for that bill cites road safety as a concern. Instead of fixing the problem, he'd rather ignore it.) and improve our economy.
You mentioned doing something about the farmers being ‘undercut’, but what if I , as a consumer and private citizen (or more importantly someone who couldn’t afford to pay more for groceries) wanted to go for a cheaper product? Would you essentially try to limit choice on what people eat or are you talking about cutting agricultural subsidies?
I don't want to limit anything. I want to keep large organizations from pulling money out of our state. CAFO's are an example of this; they come in, take advantage of Missouri markets, and bleed our economy dry while only contributing a small portion of it. There has to be a balance, because like you said: You need to eat, and you need to be able to afford to eat.
That's why I want to focus on education and the local economy in my district, and bring in new jobs that will help pump money into our local economy. Cutting subsidies harms your ability to buy low-cost food, but it might also make it less cost-effective for a large farm to pull money out of our economy.
These are big problems where small tweaks can make big changes. Thanks for being engaged and asking a great question. :)
I was born and raised in Missouri, and I’m excited to see a candidate who is passionate about education! I went to school at Mizzou, and graduated with thousands of dollars of student loan debt despite many scholarships I acquired and the job I had on top of my schoolwork and extracurricular activities.
How do you plan on making a college education legitimately affordable for the average student? Even better, would you consider relief for students who have already graduated with significant debt, such as reducing or eliminating loan interest rates, allowing students to pay for student loans pretax (like you can for FSAs, commuter benefits, etc), or increasing tax benefits for those paying towards their loans? This is impacting my future, delaying my goals for marriage, savings, and buying a house, and any help would be beneficial towards reaching those goals faster.
Student loan debt is crippling. Finding ways to pay for it are important; I think the Federal government is going backwards when it comes to education financing. (But that's not a surprise given who currently runs the department of Education.)
A good start is the Core42 option; we're helping kids get college credits in high school right now to help supplement what they need when they get into a college environment. Fully funding the A+ program would help. Improving work-study programs in colleges would also help, and finding ways to reduce tuition costs would be beneficial. There are some ideas for how to do that, (including rolling certain types of colleges into the K-12 model, which I'm not fond of.) but I'm not sure which is the best model. I'm open to suggestions, and talking about it. But I don't have a concrete or well thought out solution for everything.