Monday, August 14, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 14 Edition

Flint, Water Crisis

"When Bruno Mars announced at a Michigan concert on Saturday that he’d donated proceeds from the sold-out show to support the victims of the Flint water crisis, the cheers and applause from the crowd were deafening.

“You guys showed me this much love and support tonight, I want to do something special,” the singer said, interrupting a performance of his hit song “Just the Way You Are.” “Tonight I’m going to donate $1 million to our brothers and sisters in Flint, Michigan.”

According to Rolling Stone, Mars donated the funds to the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, an organization that continues to assist victims and community members as Flint’s water crisis, which began in 2014, drags on. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said in March that it could be years before the water in the city is safe to drink again."

Rural America, Healthcare

"The problems of insuring rural Americans were exacerbated by the Great Recession, the sequester that affected Medicare in 2013, the declining and aging population of rural areas, and the decision of some Republican-led states not to expand Medicaid.  The challenges of offering affordable health insurance to rural residents were not caused by the ACA, but they made its implementation more difficult. It’s also important to note that the rural challenge is not limited to ACA exchanges: Medicare Advantage, often cited as an example of a robust insurance market, has 148 “bare” counties without any insurer, nearly eight times the number of counties that may not have a marketplace plan in 2018.

There are a variety of potential solutions to the ACA’s rural issue which would maintain the free market approach of the law without sacrificing its consumer protections.  One obvious one would be expanding Medicaid in the 19 holdout states, many of which are predominantly rural. Doing so would cause an influx of funds for rural health care providers. This increased funding could incentivize more health providers to enter rural markets, or at least keep rural hospitals and doctors from leaving rural counties, as has been the trend of late. As discussed above, increased provider participation allows for better competition among insurers. Moreover, while expanded Medicaid would reduce the potential market size of rural counties, it would also provide coverage for lower income individuals who are typically more expensive, making marketplace pools healthier and lowering costs for insurers. A recent HHS study estimated that expanding Medicaid lowered marketplace premiums by about 7 percent."

Inspiration, Science, Technology

"The inspiration for this arrangement came from a school project. Thomassen and his classmates were required to research a real-world problem of their choosing, and he chose e-waste. After conducting interviews and reading countless articles, Thomassen realized just how big of a problem e-waste is and was compelled to find a creative way to repurpose technology.

When he shared his idea to refurbish used laptops to give to underserved teens, his teacher suggested he reach out to CASA about working with teens in foster care.

Refurbishing the laptops proved to be no problem for Thomassen. He had been helping his friends update software on their computers for years, reading online forums, googling questions and watching YouTube videos whenever he hit a roadblock. Thomassen said part of his motivation to teach himself these skills stemmed from curiosity, but most of it was fueled by frustration.

"I just got annoyed that stuff didn't work, so I figured out how to fix it," he said."

Engineering, Infrastructure

"We are moving rapidly down the road toward the age of self-driving cars. But as the cars change, the roads will have to change with them, and it will likely mean some adjustments, such as different signage and narrower lanes.

Five years ago, when Governor Jerry Brown appointed Malcolm Dougherty to head Caltrans, autonomous cars seemed a lot farther off than they do now. With ridesharing and even car rental companies getting into the game — and more than a dozen regulatory bills before Congress — things are accelerating. As the car technology races toward him, Dougherty is keeping his eyes on the road KQED Science Editor Craig Miller spoke with the top man at Caltrans about the future of California’s highways."

Read the interview.

Well-being, Stress, Kids

"Man’s best friend can also help a kid out in trying times. A study published in Social Development found that kids coped with stressful situations better when they had their pet dogs with them.

Researchers from the University of Florida recruited about 100 dog-owning families with kids between the ages of 7 and 12 years old to come to their lab. The kids were put through public speaking and math tasks (situations known to stress out any kid — or adult for that matter) with either their parent or dog present or no social support at all. The researchers asked the kids about their stress levels before and after the task and took pre- and post-task saliva samples to measure the their cortisol levels.

“Children who had their pet dog with them reported feeling less stressed compared to having a parent for social support or having no social support,” lead study author Darlene Kertes, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at UF, said in a press release about the findings."

Read more about the findings here.

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