Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - June 22, 2017

Breast cancer, fundraising

The game raised more than $300,000, including ticket and concessions sales, for the Young Survivors Coalition, an organization dedicated to helping young women with breast cancer. The total broke the game’s previous fundraising record of $215,000, set in 2016.

The bipartisan lawmakers’ team was made up of three senators and 11 House members, according to the official roster. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Reps. Martha Roby, R-Ala., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., served as captains. Moore Capito took home the award for most valuable player on the lawmakers’ team.

The press team had 23 players, including four from PBS NewsHour, and was captained by Amy
Walter of the Cook Political Report and Mikayla Bouchard of the New York Times. Tamara Keith of NPR was named MVP of the press team.

Urban living, families

Should cities try to keep families around? Some urbanophiles argue that they’re not worth it. Families cost cities more in services, spend less in the economy, and produce less tax revenue than affluent young single professionals. Cities that want to grow fast do it by building studios and one-bedrooms and drawing on endlessly renewable mobs of Youngs.

But few city leaders take that attitude. They see families as an important source of economic stability (hot industries come and go) and social vibrancy. You can read a lament about DC here, one about Denver here, one about Seattle here.

All these articles go on and on about amenities families enjoy, but the root of the problem is that families need bigger homes, while developers have every incentive to squeeze in as many small homes as possible, to maximize their profit per square foot. Unless cities step in, that’s what developers will keep doing.

Yet somehow, Vancouver has thousands of families with children living in its downtown. I asked urbanist Brent Toderian, who was Vancouver’s Chief Planner from 2006 to 2012, how the city did it. He says that there are three elements of family-friendly city design: bigger housing, amenities for families, and a safe, welcoming public realm. 

Health, Antibiotics

What Roberts has just done, in an action that he and people who support him have performed hundreds of times, is to return to a practice that was abandoned more than 40 years ago. He has sampled the environment, hoping to find in the dirtiest, most germ-filled places an answer to one of the most pressing problems of our day.

Drug resistance—the ability of bacteria to defend themselves against the compounds we use to kill them—has impaired the effectiveness of almost every antibiotic produced since the first ones were developed, in the 1940s. At least 700,000 people are estimated to die worldwide every year from infections that no longer respond to antibiotics. That toll could balloon to more than 10 million a year by 2050 if we can’t slow the spread of resistance or find new drugs; routine surgeries and minor injuries will become life-threatening.

Yet making the necessary changes to stave off this catastrophe seems to be beyond us. We continue to take antibiotics with abandon (nearly a third of antibiotic prescriptions in the U.S. aren’t actually needed) and feed huge quantities of them to farm animals. And pharmaceutical companies—daunted by how quickly resistance can undermine drugs that may take a decade and a billion dollars to develop—are not rushing to fill the gap.

Elections, redistricting

Americans are fed up with gerrymandering. The most recent Harris poll shows that 74 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of Democrats, and 71 percent of independents believe that politicians shouldn’t have a hand in drawing lines that benefit them.

Despite public opposition across the political spectrum, politicians have taken a stronger and stronger hand in line-drawing, resulting in gerrymandered maps that are more and more extreme. The problems continue to mount: A combination of “Big Data,” single-party control of state governments, and polarized politics have allowed paid political operatives to craft increasingly surgical gerrymanders far more potent than their precursors, locking in lopsided maps that are deeply unrepresentative of the electorate. 

The good news is that the Supreme Court has the chance to take a major bite out of extreme gerrymandering this fall when it hears Gill v. Whitford, an appeal of a landmark decision striking down a Wisconsin state assembly map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

Culture, well-being

Despite – or perhaps because of – its prevalence in culture, carpe diem has been sabotaged by the language of the advertising slogan and the hashtag: ‘Just do it’ or ‘Yolo’ (you only live once). Krznaric argues that this has helped strip the concept of its true meaning. “The hijack of carpe diem is the existential crime of the century – and one that we have barely noticed,” he writes.

“Consumer culture has captured seizing the day,” he tells BBC Culture. “That idea that instead of just doing it, we just buy it instead: shopping is the second most popular leisure activity in the Western world, beaten only by television. Instead of seizing the day, we’re really seizing the credit card.”

Carpe diem has also been hijacked by our culture of hyper-scheduled living, argues Krznaric. “‘Just do it’ becomes ‘just plan it’ – people are filling up their electronic calendars weeks in advance with no free weekends. In terms of cultural history, most people are unaware that their spontaneity has been stolen from them over the past half a millennium.”

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - June 21, 2017

Gender Equality, Human Rights, Science
For the past decade, Dauqan has burst through glass ceiling after glass ceiling with fearlessness and grace.
Even as a young girl, she was rebel. "I was a little naughty," she says with a snicker.
She liked breaking rules. And proving people wrong. So when her parents told her she might not have the smarts to go into science and engineering — like her dad — Eqbal thought: Watch me.
"I told my father, 'I've heard a lot about scientists in chemistry. What is the difference between me and them? So I want to try," she says.
And she did more than try. She crushed it. 

Dauqan has already done so much for science — and society. When little girls in the Middle East see photos of Eqbal as a chemist — wearing a head scarf, measuring pH — they don't need to use their imagination to think: "I could be just like her. I could be a scientist."

Education/Military Veterans

“I joke with my Army buddies, I tell them [theory] is like the plane that gets you there,” the 36-year-old former paratrooper, who deployed to Iraq for the 2007 surge, said. “But once you jump out of the plane, everything else is different on the ground. That’s how you have to look at economics.”

Hardly any Vassar student could have arrived at this analogy until four years ago, when de la Torre and 10 other United States military veterans embarked on an experiment Vassar was leading among small, selective liberal-arts colleges: to seek out and enroll vets. In partnership with the Posse Foundation, a nonprofit with a successful track record of connecting students from underrepresented backgrounds with elite schools, Vassar enrolled its first cohort of veterans in the fall of 2013. The results of this effort became clearer in May as five of those student-veterans, including de la Torre, graduated after spending the traditional four years on campus.

In the years that followed, some peer institutions followed Vassar’s lead—Wesleyan University initiated a Posse Veterans cohort in 2014 and its first Posse veteran graduated a year early last month, while other schools, like Williams College, have partnered with Service to School to recruit veterans to their campuses. The initiative rests on the premise that liberal-arts colleges, whose educational doctrines insist on well-roundedness and inclusion, have both the resources and civic obligation to educate the almost 1.7 million post-9/11 veterans seeking college degrees.

Conservation, Science, Technology

In August 2016, the result of the Great Elephant Census, the most extensive count of a wild species ever attempted, suggested that about 350,000 African savannah elephants remain alive. This is down by 140,000 since 2007. 

That most of the decline has been brought about by poaching is scarcely in doubt. Seizures of smuggled ivory, and the size of the carved-ivory market compared with the small amount of legal ivory available, confirm it. But habitat loss is important, too—and not just the conversion of bush into farmland. Roads, railways and fences, built as Africa develops, stop elephants moving around. And an elephant needs a lot of room. 

One source of conflict with elephants has been competition for pasture as the herders’ populations have grown. Indeed, the reserve itself is now sometimes invaded by cowherds and their stock. But, on top of this, some pastoralists have begun to settle down. Buildings and fences are appearing on land which, though outside the reserve, is part of the local elephants’ ranges as they travel from one place to another.

Understanding elephants’ behaviour also permits it to be manipulated in ways that help reduce direct conflict between elephants and people. One such project harnesses elephants’ fear of bee swarms.
Armed with that knowledge, Dr. King and her colleague Fritz Vollrath came up with the idea of protecting farms with bee fences. 

Women, Politics, Government

With a state legislature made up 40 percent of women, Nevada is second only to Vermont in terms of female representation. And that translated into a landmark session for women’s rights and health this year, even under a male Republican governor.

Nevada lawmakers just wrapped up a state legislative session that delivered a startling number of progressive victories for women: tax-free tampons, a new $500,000 family planning program, workplace accommodations for pregnant women, and mandatory insurance coverage of contraception and mammograms.

“We started with some pushback from Republicans, but by the end of the session we had broad bipartisan support on a lot of these measures,” said state Sen. Julia Ratti (D), a freshman from Sparks. 

Healthcare, Medicaid

This small set of outcomes includes hospital complications that can be minimized, such as limiting the risk of patients’ acquiring pneumonia in the hospital after a stroke, treating a cold at a primary care doctor’s office or an urgent care center instead of an emergency room, and limiting avoidable hospital admissions or re-admissions by treating ongoing conditions, such as out of control diabetes, at the primary care doctor’s office.
It should be noted that these states are led by governors of both parties. These are programs that can have broad bipartisan support, in part because they not only lead to cost savings, they also lead to better medical outcomes.
There are significant savings opportunities across other states to improve outcomes and reduce waste. Rather than uniformly cutting costs and/or health care coverage, the federal government could incentivize progress by instituting programs like the ones these states have already shown can be successful. While the status of the AHCA is unclear, the need to address payment reform—especially for Medicaid—remains. How much money can be saved by improving outcomes? The Institute of Medicine estimates that between 20–30 percent of total health care spending is either wasteful or a consequence of poor outcomes. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - June 20, 2017

Relationships, Gender Stereotypes

“Women may not be moving as fast into male-dominated worlds as feminists would like, but they have moved much faster than men have into female-dominated ones. To understand better this asymmetry, we need to look more closely at the relative value we place on masculinity and femininity.

“Once we see masculinity as an elite fraternity that confers special privileges, it becomes clearer why its membership is so strictly policed. Not every man qualifies. The hazing begins early. We teach girls that they can be whatever they want to be, and wipe their tears away when they struggle. But we teach boys that they need to toughen up, shake it off and take things “like a man”. Parents are often charmed when their young girls eschew dolls and dresses to play sport and build things, as if their daughters are already learning how to “lean in” at the playground. But many find it unsettling when their young boys want to trade a football for a tutu.

Human Trafficking

Ms. Ford is one of many advocates working to help victims of human trafficking.

“Just as her parents did for their models, Katie Ford says she wanted to advocate for domestic workers. Her goal was to form partnerships with governments, employers and human rights organizations.

One of the first places she started was Kuwait, an oil-rich state of nearly four million people where foreigners outnumber native Kuwaitis by 2-1. It is the only country in the Persian Gulf region to even acknowledge there’s a problem with domestic workers.

Kuwait became the first country in the Gulf region to pass a law that attempts to protect the rights of domestic workers, requiring at least one day off a week, for example, and setting the maximum number of hours worked per week. It’s not much. That maximum is 72 hours. And the law doesn’t specify that the worker be allowed out of the home on that day off.”

And many, in fact, are forced to remain in their employer’s home on their day off. The Kuwait government has established a shelter, with a capacity for 500, where foreign domestic workers can escape abusive employers.”

Family Leave

Click on the title to read the policy paper from New America.

“The United States remains one of the few countries on earth—along with Papua New Guinea, Suriname, and Tonga—with no national paid family leave policy, despite the fact that a majority of women and mothers work outside the home, that a majority of children are being raised in families where all parents work, and that an aging population is increasing caregiving demands on working age men and women.

With families under intensifying time pressure and stressgrowing economic inequality, andwidespread public support for paid family leave, more policymakers on the federal and state level and individual companies and organizations are grappling with how to craft paid family and medical leave policies that will support individuals and families, and work for businesses and the economy.

But how long should those leaves last? How much time is enough? And for whom?

The United States offers 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act. It covers just 60 percent of the workforce, because the law applies only to full-time workers who’ve worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous year at firms with more than 50 employees. Rather than being based on scientific evidence, 12 weeks represents political compromise.” 

Democracy/Campaign Finance

“Since the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, a series of Supreme Court rulings has eviscerated wide swaths of federal campaign finance law. That has led to Super PACs, “dark money” groups and widespread voter disenchantment. Yet in the last decade, Congress has failed to adopt any major reforms that could increase the participation and voice of average citizens.

So, how do we break the logjam? We think the key is to find a starting point where there is common ground. Counterintuitively, that starting place could be the current discussions on tax reform happening at the federal and state levels.

Why tax reform? Progressives and conservatives are oceans apart politically, but many on both sides agree that restoring federal tax credits for small-dollar donations could help address Americans’ greatest concerns about the current campaign finance system”.

Entrepreneur/Social Media/Building Your Brand

 “The clips tend to capture Vaynerchuk frenetically hammering home his favored themes -- focus on your strengths, work your ass off, spot the next big shift and get there first, stop obsessing over stuff that doesn’t matter, be the bigger person, give more than you get and above all, execute. All this output, plus his relentless social media engagement and videos where he answers viewers’ questions, has fostered an ever-growing group of fans who treat him as an all-knowing sensei, enamored with his ability to cut right to the heart of their problems. And that, in turn, has turned him into an entrepreneurial celebrity. In addition to the videos, he pumps out books, podcasts and many conference keynotes, and is now costarring in Apple’s first-ever original TV series -- a tech-based reality competition called Planet of the Apps -- alongside Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow and 

…to dismiss Vaynerchuk is to overlook something important about how to build a brand today. He is the living, breathing version of what digital marketing can do -- because once he started mainlining himself into the internet, it helped him be a successful entrepreneur, which made him a celebrity, which helped him become an even more successful entrepreneur, which made him an even bigger celebrity, with each part feeding the other. His net worth has grown to $160 million, and his fast-growing agency now employs more than 700 people and pulled in $100 million last year.

Gary Vaynerchuk is, in other words, what every brand wants out of social media. He connects and excites and inspires loyalty. So, the thinking goes, if brands want all this -- to connect and excite and inspire loyalty -- they should be more like Gary Vaynerchuk.”

Monday, June 19, 2017

Ideas, actions, and inspiration for a better tomorrow - June 19, 2017

Taxes, Subsidies

"Properly used subsidies, can add tremendous value for society. Each federal dollar spent learning to map the human genome has returned $140 so far. The GI Bill, a subsidy to soldiers and sailors, was a major factor in America's post-War wealth creation. So were the Interstate highways, which benefit all businesses. 

Subsidies to specific businesses, however, benefit their owners. They siphon tax dollars away from public purposes for private gain."

Economy, Community

"The Culture Hub reflects the belief that every community has assets it can convert to economic opportunities to increase local wealth.

In eastern Kentucky, says Fink, those assets include individual enterprise, a strong work ethic, a bent for cooperation, and talents for both crafts and technology, such as mechanized coal mining.
Nationally recognized quilters, square dancers, and documentary filmmakers attest to these assets.

The Culture Hub is about applying those talents toward local ownership, Fink says. He contrasts that with a familiar culture in eastern Kentucky, where absentee landlords and coal companies “extract all the value out of the land and the people and ship it elsewhere,” leaving people with very little."

Education, Homelessness, Poverty 

"Positive Tomorrows is a small, privately-funded school in the heart of Oklahoma City, designed to meet the needs of homeless children. The future of these students hinges on the one constant in their lives: the school, which addresses both education and basic needs.

The educational challenges associated with homelessness are broad and extend to every corner of a child's life. Without consistent access to adequate food, shelter and safety, students are often too hungry, tired and stressed to keep up in the classroom."


"In the opinion of Daniela Rus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), however, the white cane has had its day. Dr Rus would like to replace it with a system that scans its user’s environment and communicates back to him what it sees.

Dr Rus’s device, of which she demonstrated a prototype on June 1st at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Singapore, consists of a camera worn on a lanyard around the neck, and a belt. A computer inside the camera creates a three-dimensional image of the area ahead of the wearer, processes it to extract relevant information, and uses the results to pass on appropriate signals via the belt."

Entertainment, Family

50 of the films children should watch before they turn 11.

Film industry experts picked the movies which most benefit a child's development and creativity.

The list, put together by education charity Into Film, also allows for the nostalgia factor when choosing which films families want to watch together.

Visit the Into Film website to download activity sheets for each movie category.