Monday, September 25, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - September 25 Edition

Disaster Relief, Puerto Rico

"At least 13 people are dead. Most people don’t have water or power. There’s no cell service. Roads have been totally washed away or blocked by debris. This is life right now in Puerto Rico, where 3.5 million Americans are struggling to recover from the devastation of last week’s Hurricane Maria.

Local officials described the scene as “apocalyptic” on Sunday. And just two weeks earlier, Hurricane Irma blew through and caused as much as $1 billion in damages to the island.

A lot of mainland Americans don’t realize that Puerto Ricans are Americans. FEMA has been providing lifesaving resources to the island, but people there could use any help they can get to try to rebuild their destroyed lives. While President Donald Trump may be spending his weekend trashing football players on Twitter, if you want to lend a hand to a fellow American in need, there are easy ways to kick in a few bucks".

Click HERE to find out where and how you can contribute.

Crime, Housing, Public Policy

"Between January 1 and July 31 this year, the state of New Jersey has seen its pretrial jail population — the number of people sitting in detention, awaiting trial, without having been convicted of a crime — fall by 15.8 percent.

That’s an astonishing drop in under a year. It means that 2,167 fewer people were in pretrial detention on July 31, 2017, than were at the same time in 2016. That’s more than 2,000 people who have not been convicted of any wrongdoing, and who get to live at home with their families rather than in a jail cell, who stand a better chance of keeping their jobs and their kids, whose lives aren’t unnecessarily disrupted so they can be locked in a cage.

And as this happened, New Jersey’s crime rate actually fell. Violent crime in January through August 2017 was 16.7 percent lower than the same period of 2016. Murder fell by 28.6 percent, assault by 13.3 percent, robbery by 22 percent. By contrast, violent crime only fell 4.3 percent in 2016, and didn’t budge in 2015. It’s far too soon to say if bail reform contributed to the big year-to-year drop. But at the very least, bail reform hasn’t been accompanied with some dramatic increase in danger or crime. More people are free, and more people are safe.

The jail trends are the result of sweeping bail reforms adopted by the New Jersey state legislature, with the help of a voter-approved constitutional amendment, in 2014."

Global Poverty & Disease, Foreign Aid, Development Goals 

SEATTLE, Sept. 13, 2017 – "The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today launched an inaugural annual report showcasing the remarkable progress that has been made in reducing extreme poverty and disease in recent decades, but issuing a stern warning to the world that future progress is in jeopardy.

Goalkeepers: The Stories Behind the Data, co-authored and edited by Bill and Melinda Gates and produced in partnership with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, highlights past progress against some of the most devastating issues facing poor countries and uses breakthrough data projections to forecast good and bad future scenarios – with millions of lives hanging in the balance.

In all, the report tracks 18 data points from the UN Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, including child and maternal deaths, stunting, access to contraceptives, HIV, malaria, extreme poverty, financial inclusion and sanitation. The report looks beneath the numbers to pinpoint the leaders, approaches and innovations that made a difference.

Through the data and first-person accounts from six contributors, the report showcases the stunning progress the world has made in the past generation: cutting extreme poverty and child deaths in half and reducing HIV deaths and maternal deaths by nearly half, among many other accomplishments. But as the report shows, serious challenges remain – including deep disparities between countries – and future progress is not inevitable."

Women, Menstrual Politics

"Flowing with wry wit through its lively chapters (each, from “Code Red” to “Shark Week,” named after a euphemism for menstruation), Weiss-Wolf’s compelling book Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity is part memoir and part social analysis. It’s also a loving homage to 2015, which National Public Radio dubbed “The Year of the Period” and which brought period panties, the rise of tampon-themed games and other cutting-edge products to the mainstream market while simultaneously heralding major shifts in menstrual politics. It was in 2015 that Weiss-Wolf began spearheading the grassroots campaign to eliminate the tampon tax in the U.S. Though nations from Canada to Kenya have eliminated sales tax on menstrual products, most American states still subject such goods to levies of 4 to 10 percent. “Why are pads and tampons still taxed when Viagra and Rogaine are not?” actor Ashley Judd demanded in a firebrand speech at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., in January.

To explain why sanitary products are still taxed—and not routinely offered in prisons, shelters or schools, nor covered by food stamps, Medicaid or Flexible Spending Account allowances—Weiss-Wolf examines the shame and stigma surrounding the essential biological process that makes women (and also many transgender and gender non-conforming people) bleed for an average of five days per month. From rules prohibiting menstruating Jewish women from having sex to strictures barring their Muslim sisters from entering mosques, prohibitions surrounding menses have endured for centuries. At the dawn of the 20th century, Weiss-Wolf writes, “instability caused by menstruation was among the reasons touted to discredit universal suffrage.” And in the first leg of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump maligned Fox News correspondent Megyn Kelly for having “blood coming out of her wherever.”"

Climate Change, Campaign Contributions, Lobbying

"Why do so many American politicians feel so comfortable sticking their heads in the sand on climate science? One reason is that some major donors insist on this stance and then spend millions (and in some cases billions) lobbying for a dangerous denial of the overwhelming evidence.

As the Union of Concerned Scientists reported a few years back, companies promoting climate change denial often hide their fingerprints by spending through trade associations. This technique is also used to conceal corporate political spending. One of the ways so-called “dark money” becomes “dark” is by spending through trade associations.

But not all of the money spent on politics and lobbying is dark. According to, the energy and natural resources sector generally ranks fourth among all industries, behind health and finance/insurance/real estate, and well ahead of defense. So far in 2017, 650 lobbyists reported spending $64 million on behalf of 154 oil and gas clients.

In the past decade (2007 to 2017), the oil and gas industry has spent $1.4 billion on federal lobbying. Among the heavy hitters in this period   are Exxon ($167 million total); Koch Industries ($114 million); Chevron ($112 million); Shell (Royal Dutch Petroleum) ($96 million); Conoco Phillips ($89 million); the American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas trade association, ($76 million); BP ($68 million); and Peabody Energy ($51 million).

Climate change denial also gets a boost from campaign donations. Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of  PayPal and a climate change skeptic, donated more than $1 million to Trump’s campaign and inauguration. And, of course, the Koch Brothers’ long spending in politics has also shaped the debate. As Jane Mayer notes in Dark Money, “[b]y 2015, their [the Koch Brothers’] antigovernment lead was followed by much of Congress. Addressing global warming was out of the question.”"

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