Perfectly Preserved Ice Age Cave Bear Found In Arctic Russia

Reindeer herders in a Russian Arctic archipelago have found an immaculately preserved carcass of an Ice Age cave bear, researchers said Monday.

The find, revealed by the melting permafrost, was discovered on the Lyakhovsky Islands with its teeth and even its nose intact. Previously scientists only had been able to discover the bones of cave bears that became extinct 15,000 years ago.

Scientists of the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, the premier center for research into woolly mammoths and other prehistoric species, hailed the find as groundbreaking.

In a statement issued by the university, researcher Lena Grigorieva emphasized that “this is the first and only find of its kind — a whole bear carcass with soft tissues.”

“It is completely preserved, with all internal organs in place, including even its nose,” Grigorieva said. “This find is of great importance for the whole world.”

A preliminary analysis indicated that the adult bear lived 22,000 to 39,500 years ago.

“It is necessary to carry out radiocarbon analysis to determine the precise age of the bear,” the university quoted researcher Maxim Cheprasov as saying.

The bear carcass was found by reindeer herders on Bolshoy Lyakhovsky Island. It is the largest of the Lyakhovsky Islands, which are part of the New Siberian Islands archipelago that lies between the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea.

Separately, at least one preserved carcass of a cave bear cub has been found on the Russian mainland in Yakutia. Scientists are hopeful of obtaining its DNA.

Recent years have seen major discoveries of mammoths, woolly rhinos, Ice Age foal, several puppies and cave lion cubs as the permafrost melts across vast areas in Russia’s region of Siberia.

How to support women in detention centers as ICE investigates forced sterilization complaint

In an explosive complaint filed on September 14, an ICE whistleblower alleged that unwanted hysterectomies, a surgical operation that removes the uterus, were performed on immigrant women in ICE custody at a Georgia facility without their consent. The complaint is currently awaiting a full investigation by the Department of Homeland Security. 

The whistleblower, Dawn Wooten, a nurse formerly employed at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Georgia, maintained that while some women experienced medical conditions requiring hysterectomies, “everybody’s uterus cannot be that bad.” 

The reported high rates of performed hysterectomies (including allegations from Wooten that “just about everybody” who sees a particular gynecologist gets a hysterectomy) were coupled with allegations that many detained women were not given “proper and informed consent” about the procedures they received. The New York Times was unable to verify that women at the facility had their uteruses removed without their consent. 

The complaint also alleged other instances of “jarring medical neglect” at ICDC. This included allegations about a lack of adequate COVID-19 protocols, as well as a “general lack of medical care.” 

Asked for comment by Mashable, an ICE senior official performing the duties of director Tony Pham said: 

“The recent allegations by the independent contracted employee raise some very serious concerns that deserve to be investigated quickly and thoroughly. ICE welcomes the efforts of both the Office of Inspector General as well as the Department of Homeland Security’s parallel review. As a former prosecutor, individuals found to have violated our policies and procedures should be held accountable. If there is any truth to these allegations, it is my commitment to make the corrections necessary to ensure we continue to prioritize the health, welfare, and safety of ICE detainees.” 

In response to the complaint, more than 170 Democratic Congress members signed a letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General, Joseph Cuffari, requesting an “immediate investigation” of the allegations. 

“Everyone, regardless of their immigration status, their language, or their incarceration deserves to control their own reproductive choices, and make informed choices about their bodies,” the letter read, noting that the allegations “cause grave concern for the violation of the bodily autonomy and reproductive rights of detained people.” 

For many, the allegations of unwanted hysterectomies brought forth by Wooten tracked with a longer, disturbing history in the U.S. of compulsory (or forced) sterilization, which refers to government programs and policies that remove reproductive abilities. Between 1907 and 1937, 32 states legalized sterilization procedures. In different forms, the practice has continued: The Center for Investigative Reporting found that nearly 150 women were sterilized in California prisons between 2006 and 2010, without the state’s approval. 

In the U.S., these practices have often been tied to eugenics, and targeted women of color, incarcerated people, and people with disabilities. 

Here are some resources, many of which were shared in this Instagram post from Aurelie Colon, to support those fighting back against unwanted hysterectomies and other abuses.

1. Educate yourself on the history of forced sterilization 

Forced sterilization has a much, much longer history in the U.S. than the allegations surfaced on Sep. 14. Even since the initial complaint, more women have come forward alleging unwanted surgeries and medical procedures that occurred while at the ICDC. 

Representatives from United We Dream, a leading immigration organization, told Mashable that people should look into resources to educate themselves on the history of forced sterilization and its role as a tool of white supremacy. 

A United We Dream representative recommends resources like this Twitter thread from the Latina Institute, a reproductive justice organization, as well as other deep dives from reputable outlets that they find elsewhere, like this piece from PBS

2. Support the GoFundMe for Dawn Wooten 

Jordan Ifueko, an author, launched a GoFundMe in order to raise money for the installment of a security feature at Wooten’s home, as well as six or more months of private security. Ifueko’s GoFundMe states if Wooten “needs the funds for something else, such as a legal team or even everyday support after giving up her job to reveal this corruption, she is free to use the funds as she wishes.” 

A GoFundMe representative, as well as Wooten’s representatives as a whistleblower, the Government Accountability Project and Project South, have confirmed that Wooten is the sole beneficiary of the GoFundMe, and funds will go directly to her. 

3. Look for protests in your area 

Immigration or other social justice organizations might be organizing protests in your area against ICE and its treatment of detained people in response to the latest allegations. United We Dream representatives recommend looking for protests, and using them as an opportunity to also educate yourself on the larger context of how ICE has operated. 

You can use Mashable’s past coverage of locating protests to help you out. The advice was written in the context of Black Lives Matter protests for George Floyd, but stands if you change relevant search terms (ICE, ICE detention, forced sterilization) and look into local advocacy groups that have organized protests concerning ICE or immigration issues before. 

4. Support organizations defending detained women in Georgia 

Four nonprofits filed the complaint on behalf of the detained immigrants and Wooten: Project South, an organization that promotes grassroots action for racial and economic justice in the South, South Georgia Immigrant Support Network, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), and Georgia Detention Watch

You can support the organizations in a variety of ways. A representative for Project South asks that  people first share the story of Wooten and those detained at Irwin on social media. 

You can also donate to Project South here. Their representative maintains the funds “will support the collaborative, grassroots fight for long-term justice for immigrant and Black women who are brave enough to call out these atrocities.” 

A representative for the South Georgia Immigrant Support Network (SGISN) told Mashable over email that the organization is currently supporting those detained at ICDC and their loved ones, primarily with “commissary support (for phone calls, stamps, hygiene supplies, extra food, and/or to have travel funds if deported or released) and lace-up shoes.”

SGISN does not have an online donation option, but checks made out to the SGISN can be mailed to SGISN, P.O. Box 1966, Tifton, GA 31793. 

A Georgia Detention Watch representative points to this petition as a way for people to support the organization’s work. (The other organizations listed here, as well as Detention Watch Network, are co-sponsors.) 

Their representative suggested donations be made through its fiscal sponsor, Project South, and to their coalition partner, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR). An attorney with GLAHR has already initiated one fundraising campaign for a woman, Pauline Binam, who was allegedly harmed by medical procedures at ICDC. The GDW representative told Mashable over email that the groups are working on “several fundraisers for affected women, but most of the cases are not yet fully public,” though the group is “hoping to have more [fundraisers up] by the end of this week.”

Mashable is waiting for a response from GLAHR. We will update the story as needed.  

5. Understand the big picture

Even as the recent allegations have alerted many people to abuse faced by immigrant detainees in ICE custody, a representative for United We Dream maintains that patterns of abuse within ICE detention centers were already known. 

Because of existing instances of abuse, as well as the new allegations, groups like United We Dream and Project South are calling for the abolishment of ICE, which was founded in 2003. 

United We Dream representatives suggest signing this petition from their organization, which calls for ICE to let detainees go. 

UPDATE: Sep. 21, 2020, 5:51 p.m. EST The original story did not convey all of the donation options that Georgia Detention Watch recommends. Additional comment from a Georgia Detention Watch representative supplemented the initial description. 

Citymapper might be better than Google Maps. It just came to 17 more cities.

Citymapper has long been one of the best mobile navigation apps. Some, including myself, would say it’s even better than Google Maps. Now it’s available to more people in the United States.

The Google Maps alternative for iOS and Android announced Monday it launched navigation support for 17 more cities in the U.S. These include Pittsburgh, Dallas, Miami, the Twin Cities, and several more. You can find the full list of supported cities here

This is noteworthy because prior to Monday’s update, only eight cities or regions in the entire country had access to the app, which I think offers a better navigation experience than Google Maps. (Of course, Google Maps is available in far more locations, as in pretty much everywhere.) Specifically, Citymapper was locked to so-called coastal elites, with Philadelphia and Chicago the only non-coastal cities where it was available. 

If you’re in one of those new cities, give Citymapper a shot. It’s not terribly different from Google Maps, but it’s better at fitting multiple transit options onto the screen at once and has a big fat “Get Me Home” button on the home screen. It’s one of the most useful buttons in the history of buttons. 

You might not love it as much as Google Maps, which is understandable, but you should at least give Citymapper the time of day.

LAPD used facial recognition software tied to wrongful arrests

When you want the public to trust your use of controversial facial recognition technology linked to two prominent wrongful arrests of Black men, it’s perhaps best not to claim you aren’t using it in the first place. 

The Los Angeles Police Department was on the defensive Monday after a Los Angeles Times report found that, despite previous statements to the contrary, the LAPD does in fact use facial recognition tech — often, in fact. What’s more, the software in question, a product of South Carolina company DataWorks Plus, is itself no stranger to controversy. 

According to the Times, over 300 LAPD officers have access to facial recognition software, and the department used it almost 30,000 times between November of 2009 and September of this year.

In 2019, LAPD spokesperson Josh Rubenstein painted a very different picture of his department’s relationship with facial recognition tech. 

“We actually do not use facial recognition in the Department,” he told the Times. While the LAPD doesn’t have an in-house facial recognition program, reports the Times, it does “have access to facial-recognition software through a regional database maintained by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.”

Notably, studies have shown that facial recognition misidentifies the young, elderly, women, and people of color at rates higher than that of white men. 

That information likely comes as no surprise to Robert Julian-Borchak Williams, who earlier this year was arrested and held for 30 hours after Detroit police accused him of shoplifting based (in part) on a facial recognition search. Michigan, reports the New York Times, had a $5.5 million contract with DataWorks Plus.

It also would likely not surprise Michael Oliver, a Detroit man who was charged in 2019 with a felony after facial-recognition tech, reports the Detroit Free Press, “identified Michael Oliver as an investigative lead.”

Oliver was plainly and obviously innocent. 

In June, DataWorks Plus General Manager Todd Pastorini told Vice that his company’s software “does not bring back a single candidate,” but rather “hundreds.” He added that “[we] don’t tell our customers how to use the system.”

On its website, DataWorks Plus claims it “[provides] solutions to more than 1,000 agencies” in North America alone.  

Presumably, one of those agencies is the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department — an agency which, in turn, permitted the LAPD to use its facial recognition software while simultaneously claiming that the department itself didn’t use facial recognition. 

SEE ALSO: People are fighting algorithms for a more just and equitable future. You can, too.

“We aren’t trying to hide anything,” LAPD Assistant Chief Horace Frank told the LA Times

Oh, thank goodness. Imagine if the LAPD was trying to hide something?

Here are all the Emmys 2020 winners

The 2020 Emmy Awards proceeded as planned on Sunday — all virtual, but still celebrating the best in a fine year of television (an otherwise un-fine year in every other respect). Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel in Los Angeles, the Emmys honored a variety of TV shows including many first-time nominees and fan favorites like Schitt’s Creek and The Mandalorian.

Check out the full list of winners below.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Jeremy Irons, Watchmen
Hugh Jackman, Bad Education
Paul Mescal, Normal People
Jeremy Pope, Hollywood
Mark Ruffalo, I Know This Much Is True WINNER

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie 

Cate Blanchett, Mrs. America
Shira Haas, Unorthodox
Regina King, Watchmen — WINNER
Octavia Spencer, Self Made
Kerry Washington, Little Fires Everywhere

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Dylan McDermott, Hollywood
Jim Parsons, Hollywood
Titus Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Watchmen
Jovan Adepo, Watchmen
Louis Gossett Jr., Watchmen

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Holland Taylor, Hollywood
Uzo Aduba, Mrs. America
Margo Martindale, Mrs. America
Tracey Ullman, Mrs. America
Toni Collette, Unbelievable
Jean Smart, Watchmen

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
William Jackson Harper, The Good Place
Alan Arkin, The Kominstky Method
Sterling K. Brown, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Mahershala Ali, Ramy
Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live
Daniel Levy, Schitt’s Creek— WINNER

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Betty Gilpin, GLOW
D’Arcy Carden, The Good Place
Yvonne Orji, Insecure
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Marin Hinkle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
Cecily Strong, Saturday Night Live
Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek — WINNER

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Don Cheadle, Black Monday
Ted Danson, The Good Place
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method
Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek — WINNER
Ramy Youssef, Ramy

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Christina Applegate, Dead to Me
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Linda Cardellini, Dead to Me
Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek — WINNER
Issa Rae, Insecure
Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul
Bradley Whitford, The Handmaid’s Tale
Billy Crudup, The Morning Show
Mark Duplass, The Morning Show
Nicholas Braun, Succession
Kieran Culkin, Succession
Matthew Macfadyen, Succession
Jeffrey Wright, Westworld

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies
Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown
Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale
Fiona Shaw, Killing Eve
Julia Garner, Ozark
Sarah Snook, Succession
Thandie Newton, Westworld

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Jason Bateman, Ozark
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Steve Carell, The Morning Show
Brian Cox, Succession
Billy Porter, Pose
Jeremy Strong, Succession

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show
Olivia Colman, The Crown
Jodie Comer, Killing Eve
Laura Linney, Ozark
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Zendaya, Euphoria

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
Jimmy Kimmel Live
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver — WINNER
The Late Show with Steven Colbert

Outstanding Competition Program

The Masked Singer
Nailed It!
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Top Chef
The Voice

Outstanding Limited Series

Little Fires Everywhere
Mrs. America
Unbelievable
Unorthodox
Watchmen

Outstanding Comedy Series

Curb Your Enthusiasm
Dead to Me
The Good Place
Insecure
The Kominsky Method
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Schitt’s Creek — WINNER
What We Do in the Shadows

Outstanding Drama Series

Better Call Saul
The Crown
The Handmaid’s Tale
Killing Eve
The Mandalorian
Ozark
Stranger Things
Succession

This list will be updated as more winners are announced.

Emmys take a note from baseball, opening with cardboard cutouts of nominees

An awkward opening monologue! Stunt jokes that don’t land! An audience of beautiful people! Who said the Emmys were going to feel weird this year?

Jimmy Kimmel opened the “virtual” 2020 Emmys with a less-than-tight five, noting earnestly that “the world may be terrible but TV has never been better.”

He also foreshadowed a huge night ahead for Schitt’s Creek: noting that he was going to be saying those words a lot, to avoid stirring ABC’s censors from their midcentury cryo pods, the show’s logo would appear onscreen to show that crucial C. “And that’s why network television is dead.” 

Confusingly, Kimmel’s monologue was greeted with effusive laughter from an audience of unmasked, shoulder-to-shoulder stars, from Jon Hamm and Allison Janney to… Jimmy Kimmel? Yes, it was a bit, reusing footage from last year’s ceremony, and the camera panned to a silent Staples Center, empty of all but a few cardboard cutouts and a cranky real-life Jason Bateman, who is nominated for Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Ozark.

“You can stay, but you have to laugh at my jokes,” Kimmel told him.

“I’ll call a car,” Bateman said after a beat, pulling his phone from his tux and placing a cutout of a 30-year-old photo of himself in his seat. “If I win, give it to Cheadle.”

Good to see that even in a pandemic, awards shows stay clunky and self-conscious.

Ramy Youssef’s Emmy loss tweet deserves its own award

The 2020 Emmy Awards are all virtual for safety reasons, but that didn’t stop the Television Academy from sending interns to nominees’ homes to deliver them a winning statuette at a moment’s notice.

That’s a cute idea in theory, but what about the nominees who don’t win? Luckily, we didn’t have to wonder about their fate for long. Ramy creator Ramy Youssef tweeted a video early in the evening of what happens when you lose an Emmy in 2020, and it is nothing if not on-brand for this insane year.

Youssef’s tweet took off immediately, striking people with its hilarity, absurdity, and undertone of bleakness that pervades basically every facet of modern life on Earth.

In the end, even the Television Academy got in on the action.

Taxidermized Squirrel Beer Among Offerings At Disgusting Food Museum

MALMO, Sweden (AP) — Desperate for a drink? There is spit-fermented wine, liquor fermented in prison toilets, and a strong Scottish brew served from the mouth of a taxidermied squirrel.

The Disgusting Food Museum in Malmo, Sweden, which has served up displays of bull testicles and maggot-infested cheese, is now introducing a drinks menu in the form of a temporary exhibition opening Saturday.

Museum director Andreas Ahrens said he wants to encourage people to examine their relationship with alcohol by showing the extreme measures people have taken to concoct mind-altering brews.

“People are very desperate to get drunk around the world,” Ahrens said. “So whenever we find ourselves in a situation where there is no alcohol, we get quite inventive and we’ve been doing this for millennia.”

Most of the drinks on display are beverages that are commonly consumed somewhere in the world but which would revolt outsiders unfamiliar with the taste.

These include bitter herbal liquors like Gammel Dansk, drunk in Denmark, as well as Fernet-Branca, an Italian amaro.

“So much of what we drink is an acquired taste,” Ahrens said.

The museum in the Swedish city of Malmo opened two years ago. The idea was to revolt and to entertain ― but also to provoke reflection on how our notions about what is delicious, or disgusting, are culturally determined.

The dozens of food items on regular display include a bull’s penis, frog smoothies from Peru, a wine made of baby mice that is consumed in China and Korea, and Sweden’s “surstromming,” an infamously putrid fermented herring.

Many of the fermented beverages now being exhibited are equally stomach-churning.

One is an ancient Korean beverage concocted for medicinal purposes from fermented child’s feces and rice.

Ahrens points to a jug with a milky liquid, brewed with the help of a donation produced by his youngest daughter. He explained that the “poo wine” was part of South Korean traditional medicine to help broken bones and bruises, but it is not anything familiar to Koreans today.

Other beverages on display include chicha de muko, which is spit-fermented corn meal beer from Peru, a Ugandan gin made from fermented bananas, and a wine made from an overripe orange fermented in the tank of a prison toilet.

One display tells what happened in the Soviet Union when the government closed alcohol stores to reduce drunkenness: people began drinking perfumes and varnish, leading to the deaths of many.

Another liquid refreshment featured in the exhibition is an Icelandic beer made with whale testicle that’s been smoked in sheep’s dung.

“Some of these things are so normal in some societies. Should it really be that normal?” Ahrens said. “Why don’t we listen to our brains and go, ‘Hey, if this tastes this way, maybe we shouldn’t drink it?’”

At the entrance to the downtown museum, marks on a blackboard indicate each time someone has vomited while visiting. Ahrens corrects a number to read “2 days since last vomit.”

Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.

A squirrel malfunctions while eating nuts in the most 2020 mood

[embedded content]

You’re a squirrel. You’re out in the forest doing your nut-gathering thing when suddenly one of those big, fur-less squirrels that walk on two legs kneels down and extends a paw filled with your favorite nut. So you rush over and start helping yourself until, without warning, you just freeze.

That’s what happened with this little rodent from Russia. A person offered it a handful of nuts, and a few nuts in the squirrel just… freezes. It doesn’t appear to be scared, or injured. It just sits there. For almost two whole minutes. Pondering. 

We’ve all been here at some point in 2020, right? Just going about our day, doing whatever needs doing, when suddenly the enormity of the hell-year we’re all living through sets in. And you just freeze, and think.

We feel you, little squirrel. This year has been a lot.

Honestly, I’m just tired.

2020 won’t stop, and I’m exhausted. 

Maybe I should have known this year would be cursed when the New Year’s Eve party I attended missed the countdown to midnight by three minutes — the year has been a downward spiral ever since. On the personal front, my cat died on my 24th birthday, I went through a break up during the loneliest period of modern history, and my apartment flooded three times. 

The world, meanwhile, experienced a string of disasters: a global pandemic is forcing us to completely restructure our way of life, raging wildfires tear up the West Coast and confine those outside of the evacuation zones to our homes because the air is so toxic, and democracy could crumble at any given moment as the president wages war on an app infamous for dancing teenagers ahead of an election. 2020 has been marred by the losses of celebrities like Kobe Bryant, Naya Rivera, and Chadwick Boseman, whose deaths felt especially sudden because they were so young.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death was icing on the cake of a profoundly shitty year. 

Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer for equality in the United States. She lived an incredibly full life, and leaves behind a powerful legacy of dignity and respect amid a divisive political climate. Justice Ginsburg was a fierce defender of reproductive rights, and her dedication was unmatched. She even participated in several Supreme Court hearings from her hospital bed; in May, she defended cost-free contraceptive coverage while recovering from a gallstone. Despite her age, battle with cancer, and judicial duties, she still managed to maintain a workout routine. Regardless of politics, Justice Ginsburg was an inspiration. 

While the news of her death is heartbreaking, especially for the women who looked up to her, I had been bracing for it for the last few years. Justice Ginsburg had fought colon, lung, liver, and pancreatic cancer. She was aging. It was inevitable. I thought I would be better prepared for the loss, but I still felt deflated.

There are others who are experiencing grief more tangibly in wake of Justice Ginsburg’s death, but as someone who’s skeptical of worshipping public figures, I’m mostly just tired. 

The grief I’m experiencing isn’t quite grief. It isn’t quite despair, either. It’s more a quiet, overwhelming exhaustion that creeps into every aspect of existing and clings to my day to day. It’s grief compounded over the entirety of 2020, growing larger and stickier with every tragedy this year tosses at us. I’ve learned to stop saying, “It can’t get worse than this!” because it does, in fact, get worse than this. 

Describing this sensation as depression doesn’t feel right. I was diagnosed with major depression and generalized anxiety disorder in college, and have spent a majority of my adult life being treated for it. Major depression is characterized by a severe and persistent low mood, a loss of interest or pleasure in life, and an ongoing sense of despair. Exhaustion is a common symptom as well, but none of my depressive episodes have put me in a state like this before. This state of being seems to be a universal experience. 

I’ve been describing this feeling as the “hell zone,” a sudden dip in mood and energy that’s unique to existing through this pandemic. In April, comedian Dan Sheehan described the hell zone as an “anxious, semi-agitated state where you’re just sorta ‘off’ for the whole day and time flows like you’re wading through chili.” It tends to follow an otherwise normal feeling period of a few days when you can almost forget about everything that happened this year. 

Despite promises of a vaccine and a return to normalcy, the last few months of 2020 are looking bleak, and the hell zones I’ve been falling into are more frequent than they were when social distancing began. My coworkers and I have been referring to the days of decreased productivity, gentle dissociation, and overwhelming exhaustion as hell zone days, because this is so widely felt.

It’s easy to wax poetic about honoring Justice Ginsburg’s legacy by continuing her fight for equality. The sense of despair over possibly losing our civil liberties should galvanize all of us into activism if we haven’t been doing so already. 

Following the news of her death, I checked my voter registration to make sure I’ll receive my mail-in ballot in time for the election. I made sure my family had theirs all squared away, too. I donated to another bail fund for protesters fighting against police brutality and systemic racism, even though Justice Ginsburg had some outdated stances on race. I briefly considered getting a copper IUD, which is effective for 10 years, and stockpiling Plan B in case reproductive rights are stripped away by a conservative-led Supreme Court. 

Justice Ginsburg’s last wishes were weighted by a similar urgency. In her last days, she told her granddaughter, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” 

But the morning after her death, I fell back into the hell zone. Time felt warped, moving both too fast and too slowly. I chugged a latte loaded with espresso shots and even though my heart was racing with the sheer amount of caffeine I consumed, I still felt tired. There was objectively nothing wrong, so why did I wake up so easily annoyed? It’s just the hell zone. 

Existing in a constant state of crisis is exhausting. I am, of course, immensely privileged. I have a salaried job during some of the worst unemployment rates in American history. My home in California is not threatened by wildfires. While so much of the world struggles with loneliness during social distancing, I have a tight knit quarantine bubble that keeps me somewhat sane. I’m not an essential worker who has to interact with the public amid increasing COVID cases. My medications are covered by insurance, for now. 

That being said, I find it greatly comforting to let myself despair every now and then. This capitalist hell we live in encourages productivity and looks down on spending the whole day curled up in a depression nest. 

It’s almost easier to ignore that sticky exhaustion that comes with the hell zone, and distract yourself with working and hobbies and organizing for progressive causes. But you’ll have to take a break from it eventually, and you’ll have to contend with the fact that everything just sucks right now. That’s not to say that you can’t find joy in this bleak quarantine — I’ve picked up new hobbies, adopted two sweet cats, and finally started medications to treat my mental health. That compounding grief, though, will continue to grow with each tragic event this year manages to spawn. 

During our weekly sessions, my therapist reminds me that it’s perfectly fine to feel exhausted and defeated. Sometimes, it’s all you can feel, and you have to let it wash over you before you can begin feeling anything else. Some call it self care, and others might call it laziness. For me, accepting the fact that I’m in the hell zone gives me a chance to recharge. 

Is it enjoyable? Not particularly. I’d rather not deal with it at all, but suppressing this ongoing exhaustion will only make it worse. You do not need to be on top of it all of the time. 

When I let myself really settle into the hell zone, I’ll sequester myself in my bedroom for the night without doing the errands I planned for the day. I’ll smoke enough weed to get cozy, burrow in my comforter, and play Animal Crossing until I fall asleep. I’ll ignore messages until the next morning, and when I emerge from my self-imposed hermitage, I’ll be ready for another handful of days without the hell zone. I think of these nights as controlled depressive episodes – if I indulge in these every now and then, I won’t fall into an actual depressive episode. 

A lot of people don’t have the luxury of hell zone nights like mine. I’m not responsible for small humans like many parents dealing with a lack of childcare are, and I don’t work overnight. Sinking into the hell zone doesn’t necessarily require blocking off a whole night. You can let yourself be in the hell zone in a variety of ways, whether it’s having a good shower cry or indulging in a late night ice cream. The most radical thing about hell zone moments is that they’re a rejection of productivity. 

If Justice Ginsburg’s death sparked a fresh wave of energy and you’re ready to take action, by all means do it. If you’re dealing with this ongoing, dull exhaustion like me (and you probably are, given the state of the world right now) sit with it. Take a moment, or a few hours, to really soak it in. Maybe this year will get better. It’ll probably get worse. Let yourself wallow in the hell zone for a bit. Once you emerge, you’ll be ready to tackle whatever shit 2020 has in store for the rest of the year.