“…she suffered so I didn’t have to.”

Aunt Karen (left) Me (right)

⚠️ trigger warning this article mentions suicide ⚠️

On March 14, 2021, I sent an email to Brandon from Humans of New York. If you don’t know what Humans of New York is, I highly suggest taking some time after reading this to check out Brandon’s Instagram @humansofny. It’s simply amazing. In summary, it is a space where humans share real, raw stories from their lives. HONY has helped me feel all the feelings: inspiration, happiness, sadness, love, hope, devastation, sympathy, empathy, and so much more. Overall it has helped me feel more connected to the beautiful humans on this earth. ❤️

Usually, Brandon meets people throughout the streets of NYC or different locations that he travels to. However, during COVID Brandon was receiving emails to share people’s stories. After a while of procrastination, I decided to send one of my stories. It is deeply personal, but writing this story felt therapeutic and oddly comforting. I made some minor edits, but here it is…

I had a feeling something was wrong. I called my mom to check in on my Aunt Karen as I was 1,000 miles away. About an hour later, I received a call from my aunt’s phone. I let out a sigh of relief and answered. On the other end of the phone was my mom screaming that Aunt Karen was dead. My mom got there just in time for my aunt to pass away in my mom’s arms. Her death was ruled a suicide due to the number of prescription pills that were in her system. A month or so later, my mom and I went to the police station to get the police report. In the report, there were scribbled notes that the officers found in my aunt’s apartment. The only thing she wrote addressed to me was, “Deana Marie has a knack for fashion.” My family and I were in denial for a while. However, my mom was devastated, and she was never the same again.

After Aunt Karen died, I went into a downward spiral. Weed and alcohol seemed to be my only coping mechanisms. Similarly, to my aunt’s coping style. This continued for years. One day, I had a realization that if I did not get help, I would end up just like my aunt. I often prayed for a miracle, but I felt trapped and helpless. I was financially, spiritually, and mentally bankrupt. I wanted to die, but I didn’t want to kill myself, especially seeing my mom’s state after what had happened to my aunt. Thankfully one day, God answered my prayers, and my road to recovery began. I found a new way to live, without looking to weed and alcohol to cope and solve my problems.

It has been five years since I sought help. I am now the Founder and CEO of my own clothing company (OGCJ), a brand my aunt would have loved! I am also a college student studying Television Production and Digital Media. I try to create as much as possible and do things I enjoy; going on adventures, spending time with loved ones, cooking vegan food, reading, laughing, watching movies, and trying new things. I have so much gratitude in my life today and every day that God gifts me. If it was not for my Aunt Karen’s tragic demise, I doubt I would be where I am today. I honestly feel as though she suffered, so I didn’t have to.

Nine years after my aunt died, my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. As I held her hand as she passed away, I was heartbroken yet, somewhat relieved because she would not be in physical pain anymore, and I knew how happy she would be to see her baby sister again. They would finally be in peace, together.  I miss them both very much, but I feel their love, and I know how proud they are of me. I am doing what they both could not do, one day at a time.

Written by: Deana Marie Loria

Edited by: Katelyn Miscioscia

My story did not make it to the HONY page, but I did receive a response, which was pretty cool. It stated, “Thank you so much for submitting this story. We have received thousands of emails and Brandon is only able to share a tiny sliver of them. Rest assured that we are reading them all, and I just want to say that we are so sorry for your loss.  It’s a very strong story, but a lot of times it’s a huge puzzle to put narratives into short form, so most of the stories are not featured even though they are really powerful and moving.  But thank you so much for submitting this.  Hope you are staying safe during this time.” Roshni S. – Manager, Humans of New York

❤️

Today, June 16, would have been my aunt Karen’s 63rd birthday. She passed away on September 30, 2008. I often wonder what life would be like if she were still around. Until we meet again…

If you or someone you know is suicidal, please, contact your physician, go to your local ER, or call the suicide prevention hotline.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), or message the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Both programs provide free, confidential support 24/7.

Aunt Karen (left) Mom (right)
Mom (left) Aunt Karen (right)
Mom – I think she’s pregnant with my brother 1985 (left) Aunt Karen (right)
Mom (left) Aunt Karen (right)
Aunt Karen (left) Mom (right)
Aunt Karen & I ❤
My Mom and I as we celebrated our birthday’s together. ❤ 5/22 5/23
Me, My Mom and My Sister that I am blessed to have and do life with! ❤

Book Review: Love Does

DISCOVER A SECRETLY INCREDIBLE LIFE IN AN ORDINARY WORLD

BY BOB GOFF

My beautiful cousin Hilary sent me the book Love Does. To be honest, I do not know when she sent it. I put it on my bookshelf and then kind of forgot about it. It wasn’t until I was talking to Hilary and her brother, Matthew, that Love Does was mentioned. At first, I denied even having the book (oops). After a quick check, I found it, then apologized. It wasn’t long after that I started reading it. It always amazes me how I pick up books just at the right moment that I am supposed to. I don’t think I was ready to read the book when it was first sent to me, but now this was the right time. I’m glad and grateful I did because it changed my life.

One of the first things that caught my attention was Goff’s silliness and lightheartedness. Don’t get me wrong the book was impactful and meaningful, yet it had this humorous and light feel. It showed me that as a Christian, I don’t have to be so serious. I’m still learning and growing in my walk with Jesus, but I found it comforting that I can still be my silly self.

Love Does showed me that love is an action. It’s not just a word, but a movement. There are so many ways to love. Goff talked about his friend Doug that he admired and how he lived his life with an adventurous and loving attitude. This friend shared Jesus with Goff. Goff states, “Like Doug, Jesus wasn’t a religious guy… He helped people. He figured out what they really needed and tried to point them toward that. He healed people who were hurting. He spent time with the kinds of people most of us spend our lives avoiding… He was all about engagement… That’s one of the things I saw in Doug… I liked that Doug could be friends with Jesus and still shoot pellet guns. I didn’t think that was allowed, but apparently, it was.”

Reading that was so freeing for me! Some Christians are so focused on rules and religious aspects that they miss the whole point. Sometimes I’m guilty of that as well. I’ll think, “oh you have to do this that way, or you can’t do it like that, people might judge you for it, etc.” At the end of the day, God knows my heart.

While reading Love Does I also learned the power of asking for things and saying yes more. Goff shared a cute story about a guy named Ryan who was essentially a stranger. Ryan randomly asked Goff if he could use his backyard to propose to his girlfriend that he was madly in love with. Goff was surprised but said yes. Ryan then asked for more things and in return, Goff said yes to more things. As a result, it turned out to be an extravagant night for everyone involved! If I am being honest, I don’t always ask for the things that I need. Sometimes there’s fear or self-judgment involved, but if I focus on the love of God like Ryan loved his girlfriend, then I dare to ask for things above and beyond! It’s a practice for me, but I’m getting better. In Love Does there are many examples of bold faith and how things can change, just by saying yes, shifting your perspective, and exuding love that Jesus so freely gives us.

Goff spoke about his friend Don who was dying from cancer. As I was reading this chapter I was on a plane to Florida. During this flight, I was extremely paranoid and full of fear. My head was circling with negative thoughts of plane crashes and severe scenarios. However, something shifted in me after reading this chapter. “God is good, all the time. God is good.” Even if the plane crashed, God was good, even if (fill in the blank) __ happens God is good! Not just sometimes, always. I’m here today, sober and healthy. God is good, when I go, God will still be good. I believe in heaven and seeing my loved ones again. Knowing that, what could I fear?

Lastly, I am guilty of judging myself as a “bad Christian” because I don’t have a bunch of scripture verses memorized. In my justification, I do have a terrible memory problem. I am aware that God’s words are my defense, strength, and daily bread. With that being said, Jesus doesn’t want perfect people to just memorize scripture. He wants people to LIVE scripture! The best way we can do that, that I can do that, is by loving my neighbor. Instead of having a Bible study with his guy friends, Goff calls it “Bible doing.” “At our Bible doing, we read what God has to say and then focus all our attention on what we are going to do about it. Just agreeing isn’t enough. I can’t think of a single time where Jesus asked His friends to just agree with him.” That absolutely blew my mind. That is my goal now. That is how I want to live my life and like Goff said early on in the book, I didn’t think that was allowed, but apparently, it was.

Love Does permitted me to be more of myself. It inspired me to continue discovering the endless ways of how God loves me, how I love Him and what that means for how I treat and care for others. Most importantly, how love does, it’s an action. I am forever grateful for learning this.

I just started Goff’s 2nd book/3rd book, “Everybody, Always” so I shall be reviewing that next! ❤

Some of my favorite quotes:

“I think God sometimes uses the completely inexplicable events in our lives to point us toward Him. We get to decide each time whether we will lean in toward what is unfolding and say yes or back away.” 

“God is big enough and loves me enough to say He forgives me, I should actually believe Him. I mean, I shouldn’t keep feeling bad about all of the times I’ve messed up because that’s ignoring what God said… When I don’t trust God’s forgiveness, it’s kind of saying I really don’t believe he’s that good.”

“God doesn’t talk to me in an audible voice because God isn’t a human being; He’s God. That makes sense to me, because human beings are limited and God isn’t limited at all. He can communicate to us in any way He wants to anytime He wants to. Through flowers, other people, an uncomfortable sense, a feeling of joy, goose bumps, a new found talent, or an appreciation we acquire over time. It doesn’t need to be a big mystical thing…”

“We’re God’s plan, and we always have been.”

“I think Jesus had in mind that we would not just be “believers” but “participants.” 

“If you are a sincere friend, folks around you will quickly understand that there’s no hidden agenda and nothing on the other side of the equals sign — just you.”

“…When I don’t know what to do to move my dreams down the road… I usually just try to figure out what the next step is and then do that… for most of us, that next step is as easy as picking up the phone, sending an email, writing a letter, buying a plane ticket, or just showing up. After that, things start happening.”

“… He doesn’t pass us messages, instead He passes us each other.”

“The world can make you think that love can be picked up at a garage sale or enveloped in a Hallmark card. But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence. It’s a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright…. What I learned from Randy reinforced the simple truth that continues to weave itself into the tapestry of every great story: Love Does.”

★★★★★

Switching Sidewalks

Today I noticed something as I was walking my dog, Lily. On our walk, she kept looking at the grass and sidewalk across the street. Then when she saw the opportunity to do so, she would sneakily try to cross the street. At first, I nudged her away and kept her on the sidewalk we were on. However, she was walking very slow as she was preoccupied staring at the other side. She is a persistent little girl. I gave in, and we crossed the street. Shortly after, I realized she was now doing the same thing to the sidewalk where we just came from. I had to nudge her a few times to keep her on her path. She would be okay for a few minutes, then repeat the same pattern.

Then it hit me. I am Lily, and God is my guiding nudge. The grass is not greener on the other side, but sometimes I think that it is. Instead of sticking to my sidewalk, my path, I stop to look over and see what other people are doing. At times their path looks luminous: brighter, greener. I think about what it must be like for them over there, and then before I know it, I am full of distractions. If I am constantly paying attention to the other side, then I am neglecting my sidewalk. I am not able to appreciate all that I do have, my flowers, gifts, and beauty. Ultimately, it makes my life more challenging and at times even miserable.

As Lily’s mom, I was growing a wee bit impatient as it was a constant struggle to keep her engaged where she was. Then I thought about how God is never impatient with me. He is generous, kind, loving, understanding, and full of grace. He knows what I am doing and why I may be wandering to what may look like brighter fields. I visualize him laughing when I start to edge my way to the street “oh here she goes again.” Then nudge! Keep me in my place. I am not perfect, and I can be stubborn (my Italian genes do not help me there). So at times, I do end up crossing the street, and I learn (again) that the grass is not greener indeed. Most often though, God will graciously nudge me back to my sidewalk.

To relate this to where I am now… I have currently been off of all social media for a month and a half. It has been fantastic! When I am on social media, it is remarkably difficult for me not to compare. As they say, compare and despair, and it’s true. As a creative person, entrepreneur, and natural observer, I see what other people are doing and the content that they are creating. Sometimes I get jealous. Other times greedy and egotistic, that I didn’t think of that or that I could do it better. Then I don’t end up doing anything. The comparison freezes me, paralyzes my creative flow. I become insecure, doubtful, and full of fear. Just what the enemy wants.

I have to remind myself that God has provided everyone with different gifts to use at different times for different reasons. If I am focused on what others are doing and how they are doing it, then I am drifting farther from my sidewalk, my gifts, my grass that I am blessed to have. Everyone is on their sidewalk and has their responsibilities.

Lastly, I have learned that we don’t have to do this walk alone. I believe that God is always on the side of our walk (get it sidewalk ;). Each step and nudge of the way, whether we are aware of it or not.

Fraudbook

Social media algorithms are front and center during the latest Senate Judiciary Hearing. The algorithms for Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. “Nearly all social media platforms — including the three companies represented at Tuesday’s hearing — use algorithms to curate what their users see and when they see it… These algorithms impact what billions of people read, watch and think every single day, and it’s critical that Congress and the American public understand how they work and how we can curb the amplification of misinformation and political polarization,” Senator Chris Coons.

So what? 

Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have so much power, too much power. The algorithms should be taken into consideration and looked at from under the microscope. Of course, Twitter tries to justify its algorithm usage. “Lauren Culbertson, Twitter’s head of US public policy, will emphasize to the Senate committee that algorithms are not all bad. “We use technology every day in our efforts to automatically improve outcomes and experiences for people on Twitter.” Culbertson also goes on to say that algorithms are often used to protect people from harmful content. Sure, I could see that, but there’s not much money to be made in that. I think they mostly use the algorithm for biased reasons, propaganda, and to make money from advertisements!

“YouTube has approximately two billion users worldwide, and 70% of what those users watch comes from YouTube’s recommendation algorithm,” Coons said.” Two billion YouTube users, that is insane!

Lastly, this article closes by mentioning how talking about the algorithms in this context is just the “tip of the iceberg.” If that is the case, then more regulations will most likely come into play. With all of the power that these companies hold, I don’t think that would be a bad thing.

REFERENCE:

https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/27/media/social-media-algorithms-reliable-sources/index.html

COMPLETED: 4/27/21

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The Verdict

On April 20, 2021, the verdict that many people have been waiting for came in! “The nation stopped and then held its collective breath when word came down Tuesday afternoon that a verdict had been reached in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd.” Chauvin was found guilty. The three major networks all stopped their programming to air the verdict. That’s something that has never happened before in regards to a verdict.

So what? 

The collective airing of the verdict showcased an abundance of media coverage. All aspects were filmed and recorded. Including Chauvin being taken away in handcuffs, people’s reactions outside of the courtroom and throughout the country. Also, many news anchors and commenter’s thoughts and opinions. “The major and cable news networks did an outstanding job on a day that we knew was coming, but still came sooner than expected. The networks adjusted on the fly. The coverage wasn’t perfect, but it was good.”

REFERENCE:

https://www.reuters.com/world/us/minnesota-police-promise-not-detain-pepper-spray-journalists-covering-protests-2021-04-18/

COMPLETED: 4/25/21

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1st Amendment?

Police Officer Kimberly Potter shot and killed a young unarmed man, Duane Wright, on April 11, in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Since then, there have been protests in that area. People are looking for justice. The journalists are showing up to these protests to report on the civil unrest. According to this article though in the wake of these protests, “Police impeded the work of journalists even after a U.S. District Court judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order that forbade them from arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force against journalists.” Journalists were pepper-sprayed and the officers even “forced some to lie face-down.”

So what? 

Journalists are supposed to be the “watchdogs” of our society. They help find the truth and report on it. Freedom of the Press is a part of the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. If the journalists are being pepper-sprayed and thrown into jail how are they supposed to do their jobs? If not them, then who? Also, are these officers or agencies going to be held responsible? It doesn’t seem likely. We must protect the journalists so they can help protect us. “All journalists must be allowed to report the news in the public interest without fear of harassment or harm, wherever they are, the international news agency said in a statement.”

REFERENCE:

https://www.reuters.com/world/us/minnesota-police-promise-not-detain-pepper-spray-journalists-covering-protests-2021-04-18/

COMPLETED: 4/20/21

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In Google we Antitrust

It is not that surprising to find out that Google has been practicing greedy and shady behaviors. This article shines a light on the recent proof of Google’s misconduct. Starting with its accidental reveal of their Project Bernanke, “In which Google used its knowledge of past ad bids to alter bids put forward by its clients, giving Google an advantaged position to win auctions for ad impressions over other market rivals.” That sounds about right. That’s not all either, there was also the reveal of Jedi Blue (by the way who comes up with these names?) which is “a secret collusion deal between Facebook and Google to give Facebook a preferential position in ad auctions, purportedly in exchange for Facebook’s agreement not to compete with Google in the online advertising space.”

So what? 

Google already has what seems to be a monopoly occupying the web search of the internet. At least here in America. This reminds me of totalitarian behavior and can affect things beyond what we could imagine. Like the article mentions how it has already affected the market. “Google’s actions in the market, particularly in the digital advertising space, have distorted the marketplace and crushed entire competitors and industries under their dominant weight. America’s news business, from the New York Post to The Washington Post, CNN to Fox News, has suffered the brunt of Big Tech companies, which, according to one study, make billions from circulating the content of news publishers while paying nothing for the privilege.” That is a lot of power, too much power. They are raking in millions and millions of dollars why other businesses are crushed. Something needs to change and fast, but I don’t know what that looks like. Hopefully, someone does and we can start the necessary and significant change.

REFERENCE:

https://nypost.com/2021/04/11/news-media-suffering-the-brunt-of-tech-titans-greed/

https://nypost.com/2021/04/11/googles-project-bernanke-gave-titan-unfair-ad-buying-edge-lawsuit/

https://nypost.com/2020/12/29/this-was-googles-code-name-for-its-unlawful-agreement-with-facebook/



COMPLETED: 4/12/21

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Book Review: “The Blessed Life”

Unlocking the rewards of generous living BY robert morris

I read this book at the beginning of quarantine last year. The concepts and values that I learned have stayed with me. So much so, I decided to finally write about it.

To be honest, I still consider myself a “baby Christian.” But I am not sure how much longer I can get away with this act. I started my relationship with Christ in July of 2016. That will be 5 years this summer! Once and a while I’ll say “oh I don’t know that much about __, I’m still a “baby Christian” or something to that nature. However, I am on a mission to continue to learn and grow my faith! This book was extremely helpful in doing just that.

As a new Christian, when it comes to tithing I was always confused. How much do I give? What do others give? Why do I give? Since starting church I’ve also been a struggling entrepreneur that would frequently find myself in between part-time jobs. I would volunteer too. To me, that counted as “tithing.” However, as great as volunteering is, it’s not tithing.

After reading The Blessed Life I understood why I tithe, how to tithe, and all of the blessings that come with tithing. To my surprise, it’s not just about giving money, it’s so much more than that.

“It always requires faith to give the first. That’s why so few Christians experience the blessings of tithing. It means giving to God before you see if you’re going to have enough. By tithing, it is as if we are saying to God, ‘I recognize You first. I am putting You first in my life, and I trust You to take care of the rest of the things in my life.’”

I not only started tithing, but I also set up my business to give the first as well! It has been a blessing in both areas of my life. Again, it’s not a huge amount of money (right now), but it is something. It’s also not about the money, it’s about the posture of my heart. It is about being a steward. How do I expect God to bless me with more if I don’t give a portion of what I have now?

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to grow a stronger, deeper relationship with the Lord and to be blessed!

Some of my favorite quotes:

“The tithe, the firstborn, and the firstfruits all belong to the Lord.” (Exodus 13:2, Exodus 23:19, Malachi 3:6)

“All tithers give the testimony that they are blessed, and all nontithers give the testimony that they can’t afford to tithe.”

“Tithing is not law to me—it is life!”

“There is a second principle of multiplication: Only what is given away can multiply.”

“The truth is that God not only uses our stuff to test us, but He uses other people’s stuff as well. In other words, how we respond to someone else being blessed says a lot about the condition of our hearts.”

“God is not against us having nice things. On the contrary, He loves to see His people blessed. But motives are everything!” Proverbs 16

“A valuable practice is to pray about every significant financial purchase and wait overnight before you commit.”

“The truth is no amount of money will ever impress God. There is only one thing you can possibly give to God that would constitute an extravagant gift—yourself.”

Lastly,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Morris shared many tithing testimonies and how he’s been able to bless others. Morris makes everything relatable, tangible, and overall inspiring.

On an extremely personal note and I guess my own little testimony: I started reading this book on May 3, 2020. On June 17, 2020, I wrote on page 47, “Lord, from here on out I will tithe 10% of all income; myself and my business. I love you. I promise I will try my best to always stay true to my word.” I finished reading The Blessed Life on September 26, 2020. Not even a full month later I randomly applied and was accepted to be on a reality zoom cash show via a local radio station. I came in second place and won an advertising campaign for my business! Which is set to launch in May, almost one full year later. I didn’t put the pieces together until now, but wow, it’s incredible. I am not sure what’s going to come from it, but I’m expectant because I believe in an expectant God!

To continue being honest, I haven’t always had a healthy relationship with money. It was frequently a problem in my childhood home growing up and now as an adult, I have learned that it takes time, patience, and knowledge to be responsible when it comes to money. Reading this book has helped tremendously! Lastly, I don’t always tithe perfectly. However, I continue to try and put God first in all aspects of my life, the best I can, one day at a time.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21

★★★★★

Power of the China Ban

In February of 2021, China decided to ban the BBC. If you don’t know what that is, the BBC is the British Broadcasting Corporation. China states that decision was made after “It accused the BBC of failing to meet the requirement for news to be truthful and fair, and accused it of damaging China’s national interests.” This also includes reporting on the coronavirus and the alleged rape and torture of women in Uighurs “re-education” camps. The BBC strongly disagrees. In a statement from the BBC “The BBC is the world’s most trusted international news broadcaster and reports on stories around the world fairly, impartially and without fear or favour. They also added, “we are disappointed that the Chinese authorities have decided to take this course of action.”

So what? 

This shows the bigger problem between China and its lack of freedom it provides to its citizens, especially when it comes to the media. If people of China can’t retrieve information about worldly news from outside sources, how will they be informed on what’s going on? China also bans many social media platforms, apps, search engines, video sharing platforms, media pages, streaming platforms, email providers, and work tools. Linked below, you can see a list for more details. China is home to an estimated 1.4 billion people. That’s a lot of people to keep information from and maybe too much power.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that this is an “unacceptable curtailing” of media freedom. Also, that “China has some of the most severe restrictions on media and internet freedoms across the globe, and this latest step will only damage China’s reputation in the eyes of the world.”

REFERENCES:

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/16/china-blocks-bbc-world-news-after-uk-revokes-license-of-cgtn.html

COMPLETED: 4/1/21

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Blockage Creates Unity

Countries all over the world are currently being affected by the same problem, the Suez Canal blockage. According to USA Today, there is currently 360 ships waiting to go through the canal. News coverage has been conducted globally. On Tuesday, March 22 was the day the container ship found itself in quite a pickle. “The rescue boats are working to float and release the Ever Given, a 59-meter-wide (193.5-feet) vessel that ran aground after 40-knot winds and a sandstorm caused low visibility and poor navigation, the Suez Canal Authority said in a statement Wednesday.” The container ship is said to be as “long as the Empire State Building is tall.”

So what? 

It has been interesting to see how one incident can bring the different countries together. Especially since this seems to be an accident, and not something done on purpose to create chaos. It’s also interesting in which the different countries have been reporting on this incident. If the ship doesn’t get freed by tomorrow, it’ll make one full week since it got stuck. We don’t know exactly what the lasting effect this will have on different countries, but we shall see. In the meantime the world will come together while trying to get this situation right sized.

REFERENCE:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2021/03/29/cargo-ship-ever-given-partially-refloated-suez-canal-blocked/7043031002/

https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/24/middleeast/suez-canal-container-ship-intl-hnk/index.html

COMPLETED: 3/29/21

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