Friday, October 20, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - October 20 Edition


“The world is incredibly close to wiping out polio. This year the number of polio cases has shrunk to fewer than a dozen. And those cases are in just two countries- Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"We are definitely encouraged by the decline in number of cases," says Dr. Rana Safdar, the national coordinator for polio eradication in Pakistan. His country has seen the number of reported polio cases drop from more than 300 in 2014 to just 5 so far in 2017.

"We hope to completely eliminate transmission during the current low transmission season, which starts from September and ends in May," he says. "We are very confident we can do this. But the last mile is always very difficult."

Pakistan has been holding national polio immunization days in which a quarter of a million vaccinators attempt to make sure 38 million children get all three doses of the oral polio vaccine.

"We must reach these children from the coast of Karachi to the mountains in the highest part of Pakistan," Dr. Rana says.”

Inspiration, Film

“IN 1960 Jane Goodall moved to Tanzania to study chimpanzees. She was only 26 years old; her credentials consisted of a love of animals and a secretarial qualification. The first of “Leakey’s angels” (also known as “the trimates”)—Ms Goodall was one of three women encouraged by Louis Leakey, a renowned paleoanthropologist, to observe apes in their natural habitats to see what insights it might yield about early man. Scepticism abounded, but Ms Goodall was determined. She astonished everyone when, towards the end of her six-month trial, she wrote to Leakey having observed a chimp adapting a twig to capture termites. Leakey sent back a telegram: “Now we must redefine tool. Redefine man. Or accept chimpanzees as human.”

Overturning the assumption that only humans used tools was the start of Ms Goodall’s illustrious career in research, activism and education. She is now an iconic figure. At 83, she rarely spends more than a few months in one place, instead travelling the world to raise awareness for her causes. She started the Jane Goodall Institute, an organisation which has created sanctuaries for apes, in 1977 and has worked on community development for 40 years. Roots & Shoots was established in 1991 to encourage awareness of environmental and conservation issues among schoolchildren. It now operates in 140 countries.

Ms Goodall felt that her story had been sufficiently told: she is the subject of more than 40 films. But “Jane”, released on October 20th in America and on November 24th in Britain, finds plenty to say. At its heart is footage from the National Geographic archives, unearthed in 2015, of Ms Goodall’s early years in Tanzania. Totalling 140 hours, the material was untouched for 50 years and thought lost. Brett Morgen, dubbed the “mad scientist” of documentary film for his immersive, experiential style of film-making, was brought on to direct. Though Ms Goodall seems a far cry from his previous subjects—Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, the Rolling Stones, maverick producer Robert Evans—Mr Morgen insists that “she is my type of subject” as, like those rock stars, “she’s lived life by her own rules and redefined her field.” He adds: “In that sense she’s the biggest rock star I’ve ever filmed.””

Universal Healthcare, Medicare

“Medicare X would allow all Americans to buy a public health insurance plan. That plan would pay doctors the same prices that Medicare currently does, and it would allow patients to be seen at the offices and hospitals that Medicare has in network.

But it would have a different benefit package from the public program that covers Americans over age 65. The Medicare X plan would cover things that Medicare does not, such as pediatrics and maternity care.

Bennett and Kaine envision the Medicare X plan growing slowly. In 2020, it would become available only in counties with one or zero health plans selling on the Obamacare marketplace. In 2023, it would open to the entire country and, in 2024, allow small businesses to enroll too. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), one of the sponsors, says he could foresee a future where large employers are also allowed to buy into the plan. (That is not included in the current version of the plan.)”

Cities, Waste 

“The guidelines offer a preliminary and highly customizable blueprint for how New York could grapple with its daunting piles of detritus—and call on designers and architects to be at the forefront of research and policy to drive the city closer to the goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030. That target is one tenet of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s larger “One New York” plan, which outlines an ambitious agenda for broad sustainability and resilience measures.

Since landfill-clogging waste releases methane gas, it’s an obstacle to the administration’s pledge to drastically curb emissions—a commitment that officials cast as a defiant response to the federal move away from the Paris agreement. “Better designed, more effective, and more intentional waste management
 is a necessary part of the City’s effort to meet its climate goals,” said Mark Chambers, director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, in a statement about the guidelines. And that’s where designers and architects come in: rethinking the way people interact with waste from the chute to the street.

Architects have already intervened in complex urban problems such as mobility and resiliency: They’ve adapted the street for bikes and pedestrians, and to siphon stormwater, says Clare Miflin, a partner at the architecture firm Kiss + Cathcart and the report’s lead author. Moreover, Miflin says, architects are already concerned about waste—both the physical castoffs generated during construction and the more abstract problems of inefficient windows, lights, and other energy sucks. But somewhere along the line, trash had slipped through the cracks. “Nobody’s applying design to waste,” Miflin says.

In fact, waste is a planning issue that has a lot to do with how a city uses its space. “It’s often considered operational, or a hygiene issue, not a land-use issue,” says Juliette Spertus of the infrastructure-planning firm Closed Loops, who collaborated on the report. “But it’s something that’s stored and has a presence.”

Banking, Credit Unions

“Congress should consider allowing credit unions to serve communities that exist only online, the industry’s top regulator said—remarks that could stir ire in the banking industry, which competes with credit unions and is fighting their ability to expand their fields of membership.
National Credit Union Administration Chairman J. Mark McWatters said such a change would better reflect today’s society.

Under federal law, a credit union can serve a community with a “common bond,” a concept that regulators and Congress have expanded over the years. The number of credit-union memberships in the U.S. has moved past 100 million in recent years, but the law still generally limits credit unions’ field of membership to pools of people living or working near one another.

“We need to think about how we can create common bonds, or how we can reflect in the Federal Credit Union Act, what people today use as common bonds,” Mr. McWatters said in an interview this week at the regulator’s headquarters. “Chances are [such a change] would be very broad, and chances are it would be something that the bankers might not be totally in love with,” he said. “But again I am trying to parallel reality today as opposed to what it was a generation—or two or three or four generations—ago.””

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