Thursday, June 29, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for A Better Tomorrow - June 29 Edition

Criminal Justice Reform

The effect of a few days of detention for people who have been accused of misdemeanors and not released simply because they do not have the ability to pay can be devastating and far reaching ― possibly leading to the loss of employment and housing, which only exacerbates the kind of instability that can lead to a life of crime,” he said. “If we want to continue the progress we’ve made in lowering crime, reducing recidivism, and making our communities safer, then we must focus on what happens at the front-end of the justice system.”

The new law, which will take effect in July, bars courts from assigning money bail to misdemeanor defendants, except in cases involving family violence or in which an individual has been determined to be a flight risk, or likely to obstruct justice or harm themselves or someone else.

“What we know is that 75 percent of all criminal case filings are misdemeanors, so this bill will have a big impact on a lot of people,” Cherise Fanno Burdeen, CEO of the Pretrial Justice Institute, a leading advocate for bail reform, told HuffPost

Racial Equity


Dr. Clarence B. Jones is currently the First Diversity Visiting Professor at the University of San Francisco and a scholar writer in residence at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research & Education Institute, Stanford University, and Palo Alto, California. He served as counsel, political adviser, and speechwriter for Dr. King. He’ll be speaking about what lawmakers today can learn from King at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

It appears there is collective unwillingness and/or inability of “the best and the brightest” today to acknowledge that the consequential impact of the institution of slavery and its ideology of white supremacy upon subsequent generations of the children of slaves and slave owners constitute the core of the “problem of race” in America today.

What is about the current generation of leaders of foundations, think tanks, businesses, universities, and government institutions that makes them unable to clearly see the consequential historical impact of slavery and its doctrine of white supremacy upon virtually all matters relating to race? Discussions about “race” still reside between “a rock and a hard place”

Foreign Policy

…there are some things that United States just has to do because no foundation, no investor, and no government can or will. Sometimes it is supporting a democratic election; sometimes it is leading from the front on Ebola; sometimes it is doing mind-numbingly boring but important work improving the tax collection systems of a developing country or fixing the plumbing at a border to make trade easier. Much of this is neither photogenic nor easy to explain on a bumper sticker, but it is increasingly the bread and butter of what Washington should be doing — and not necessarily what it or the political constituencies that support development “want” to do.

There are currently 30 or so countries that are fragile and weak. These are where many of our biggest problems come from. These countries are going to generate such problems for decades. Their challenges are hard to tackle. We have only a small ability to make incremental progress, but the United States needs to be in these countries for their own security and ours. These nations will require ongoing U.S. leadership and involvement.

Health Care

The most likely outcome, then, is that the efforts to repeal Obamacare will die in the Senate. If that happens, the more pressing question will become, How can the Trump administration address the very real flaws of the U.S. health-care system, improving care without taking coverage away? The answer is to fix Obamacare rather than replace it.

Already, hospitals across the country are experimenting with ways to offer better care at a lower cost. Eight years ago, Grand Junction, Colorado, became the poster child of health-care reform when it was singled out by Atul Gawande of The New Yorker for investing in preventive care and changing the way doctors were paid in an effort to slash Medicare costs without sacrificing quality. La Crosse, Wisconsin, has achieved the lowest costs in the country for end-of-life care by having nurses ask patients to fill out advance directives about how aggressive they want their treatment to be. And Geisinger Health System, a network of hospitals in Pennsylvania, has reduced emergency-room admissions by focusing on delivering high-quality primary care, with a view toward customer service. (It even offers refunds to patients who report “uncompassionate care.”) Meanwhile, a bevy of start-ups inspired by the Affordable Care Act are doing everything from matching patients with caregivers to helping people shop for insurance plans.

If policymakers really want to curb costs and improve quality, they should focus on accelerating the growth of such game changers—by enhancing the incentives of existing high-value providers to expand their market share and by unleashing the forces of capitalism to create new such providers.


But what are the traits that every employer looks for to find employees who are awesome, rather than simply ones who can do the job? Read on to find out.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - June 28

Energy, Technology

“Net-zero energy buildings generate as much energy as they use — a model that’s gaining traction as green products and systems become more common. A report earlier this year from Navigant expects the North American net-zero energy market to increase 38.4% from 2014 to a value of $127 billion by 2035.

One reason for this growth, according to Navigant, is the prevalence of technology that helps buildings meet such stringent energy-consumption requirements. Those include chilled-beam systems, more and better insulation, energy-efficient facades and improved controls for monitoring daylight levels and space occupancy. All that, in turn, is helping to bring the related methods and systems into local and state building codes — another driver of continued adoption of net-zero construction”.

Personal Development


“In this emotional talk, Carrie Wilkerson encourages us to define success for ourselves and no one else.

It’s useless to try and chase another person’s vision, she says. Your point of achievement isn’t something that others can decide for you, and trying to live up to their view could throw you off your path.”


 TEDx video included in this article:

Talking to a great conversationalist is like magic--the minutes fly by, your brain lights up, and you feel closely bonded to another human mind. No wonder so many of us want to master the seemingly mysterious ability to get past small talk and really connect.

But unless you're naturally gifted with charm and wit, even holding up your end of a conversation can feel daunting. Learning not only to be interesting yourself, but also to guide a conversation and bring the best out of others has to be an tough skill that makes years to master, right?

Nope, responds public radio host Celeste Headlee. In the course of her career she's interviewed thousands of people from all walks of life and learned that sparking a great conversation is really a matter of a few simple habits that anyone can learn. She shared her secrets in a TEDx talk a few years back.

Prison, Education

To date, much of the research on prison education is centered on the correlation between prison education and recidivism—the tendency of an individual to reoffend. A 2013 meta-analysis by the RAND Corporation, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice, found that incarcerated people who participated in correctional education programs have 43 percent lower odds of recidivating than those who did not. Furthermore, those who participated in such programs were 13 percent more likely to land post-release employment than those who had not. That number would likely be higher if discrimination against the formerly incarcerated weren’t so profound.


These data are compelling, but they disregard the fundamental role of prison education. Education is a human right—a recognition of dignity that each person should be afforded. It isn’t merely something that attains its value through its presumed social utility—or, worse, something that society can take away from an individual who’s convicted of breaking the social contract. That’s true even for the men I work with, nearly all of whom are serving life sentences, as are nearly 160,000 other people across the country for crimes ranging from first-degree murder to stealing a jacket. This reality—that those I taught would never leave the prison’s premises—recalibrated my understanding of the purpose of prison-education programs. Do those serving life sentences deserve access to educational opportunities never having a future beyond bars? The answer is yes and necessitates that in-prison education serves additional goals beyond reducing recidivism.

Science, Cancer

A new drug shows promise in its ability to target one of the most common and sinister mutations of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), according to researchers. In a first-in-human study, researchers treated relapsed patients with gilteritinib, an FLT3 inhibitor, and found it was a well-tolerated drug that led to frequent and more-sustained-than-expected clinical responses, almost exclusively in patients with this mutation.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - June 27

Healthcare, Medicaid

“We lose money on every Medicaid patient who walks through our door, whether it’s inpatient or outpatient. That’s the cost of health care. If they were truly interested in the question of why is our system so expensive, this would be a bill about how we move away from fee-for-service medicine, in which physicians and hospitals get paid for everything they do, and moving more toward value and risk, in which patients, providers are all aligned, such that everyone wants you t
o stay well and out of the hospital.

We would have more incentives for readmission penalties. We would have incentives for shorter stay. We would have more incentives to bring care to a less expensive place, like the ambulatory setting. But those issues aren’t being addressed in this bill.”

Education, Libraries
Chun’s district is at the forefront of a national movement to turn K–12 librarians into indispensable digital mavens who can help classroom teachers craft tech-savvy lesson plans, teach kids to think critically about online research, and remake libraries into lively, high-tech hubs of collaborative learning—while still helping kids get books.

The stereotypical library can seem like a vestige, making it an easy target when budgets are tight, according to Mark Ray, Vancouver’s director of innovation and library services, “but we want libraries to be the lynchpin of education transformation.” Ray heads up Future Ready Librarians, part of Future Ready Schools—a network for sharing education technology solutions, which is sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington, D.C.–based education advocacy group.

In many parts of the country, school librarians are endangered species, with their numbers dwindling near extinction in districts such as Philadelphia and Chicago. In fact, about a decade ago, Chun’s district was on the verge of letting a slew of librarian jobs stay vacant in the wake of staff retirements. A coalition of teachers, parents, and community members intervened to save the jobs, including Ray, a school librarian at the time, who convinced district leaders to repurpose librarians to make them more relevant. 

Energy, Technology

The notion of an artificial leaf makes so much sense. Leaves, of course, harness energy from the sun to turn carbon dioxide into the carbohydrates that power a plant’s cellular activities. For decades, scientists have been working to devise a process similar to photosynthesis to generate a fuel that could be stored for later. This could solve a major challenge of solar and wind power—providing a way to stow the energy when the sun is not shining and the air is still.

Many, many investigators have contributed over the years to the development of a form of artificial photosynthesis in which sunlight-activated catalysts split water molecules to yield oxygen and hydrogen—the latter being a valuable chemical for a wide range of sustainable technologies. A step closer to actual photosynthesis would be to employ this hydrogen in a reduction reaction that converts CO2 into hydrocarbons. Like a real leaf, this system would use only CO2, water and sunlight to produce fuels. The achievement could be revolutionary, enabling creation of a closed system in which carbon dioxide emitted by combustion was transformed back into fuel instead of adding to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. 

This is one of the top 10 emerging technologies in 2017 highlighted in Scientific American's special report. Read more HERE.


“Park walks and relaxation exercises were related to increased concentration in the afternoon and thus might have potential in maintaining productivity throughout the working day,” she argues.

Whatever the case, it’s clear that workers benefit when they take a restorative break mid-day. So, put on those walking shoes and head to a park or meditate at lunch—even if you only have 15 minutes.

Travel, Adventure

Check out the slides show for 15 epic experiences—from surfing an active Nicaraguan volcano to sleeping underwater in Dubai—will take you all over the world. Whether you travel in search of adventure or go looking for luxury wherever you roam, you’ll break away from the mundane with these real-life travel fantasies run by outstanding outfitters. 

I particularly like #8: Tango like a local in Buenos Aries

Monday, June 26, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - June 26

Technology, DIY survival kit
2017 Allied Media Conference

Imagine: A storm has just hit, and everyone has been evacuated to a converted, temporary emergency-storm-shelter-hurricane-evacuation-safety-zone-medical-assistance-center-soup- kitchen. Two people, one a single parent looking for their child, and another, looking for their teacup Yorkie named Madex. There is no cell service or WiFi in the building. What will they do?

…on June 17th, at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit, MI, New America’s Resilient Communities team members Raul and Katherine answered this question in a workshop on how to make your own Portable Network Kit (PNK). Participants in the hands-on session played around configured a wireless router and a Raspberry Pi in order to create a local pop-up network in a pinch.

A PDF is attached at the end of the article for how to construct your own PNK.

Travel, well-being

But Scott isn’t just an active grandmother with a passport full of stamps. She’s also a participant in Northwestern University’s SuperAging study—a research project analyzing the brains of people who seem to be resistant to the detrimental memory changes all-too-often associated with aging.

As most of us age, our brains shrink, which leads to a decline in cognition (or thinking skills) the older we get. “Atrophy is thought to contribute in part to the moments of forgetfulness we experience with aging," says Emily Rogalski, Ph.D., the director of the study. SuperAgers like Scott, however, lose less brain volume—one study found that over the course of 18 months, 'normal' agers lost volume in the cortex (the brain area linked to critical thinking) twice as fast as SuperAgers. In other words, Scott’s brain is considered younger than she is, with parts of it looking similar to the brains of people in their 50s.

So, what has travel got to do with it? It depends on who you ask.

Scott will tell you that her travels keep her youthful. “I’m a curious person,” she says. “I want to be a lifelong learner, and to me, travel makes life so much more interesting.”

Politics, government, voting

The Fair Representation Act is one idea for fixing our winner-take-all system using ranked choice voting. It is a way to ensure all votes actually do count, rather than shut out the minority in a state (e.g. - Republicans in blue states or Democrats in red states) when electing our congressional representatives.

Watch the video for more information.

Environment, healing

A 2008 study found that the percent of Americans who participate in outside activities like camping, fishing, or hunting has been decreasing by about 1 percent a year since the late 1980s. A survey done in the U.K. found that 70 percent of adults remembered doing most of their “adventurous play” outside, while only 29 percent of kids said the same. And, at least in 2001, when the Environmental Protection Agency did its National Human Activity Pattern Survey, adults spent 87 percent of their time indoors in buildings, and another 6 percent of their time in vehicles.

“That goes to this issue of who has access to nature, and who can gain access,” says Michael Dorsey, the senior program officer for sustainability at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. “The decline is differential, based on socioeconomic differences, on race, and on class.” As more people move to urban areas, nature gets farther away. And it’s easier to get to the nature if you have the money to pay for the gas to drive there, for the park entrance fee, for camping gear. When coming up with prescriptions for nature, Dorsey says, “we also have to do that in a political economic context.”

That means making nature available for people who can’t trek to the mountains—making it part of people’s day to day lives. 

Literature, Culture

Congrats, JK Rowling! The Harry Potter book series influenced and thrilled children and adults alike and will continue to do so.

20 years ago today, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (AKA Sorcerer's Stone) was published in the UK.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary the first Potter adventure, watch the video in this post that shows how Rowling's magical writing changed the world.