Friday, July 07, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - July 7 Edition


Soft Landing’s focus is as much on the Missoula community as on incoming refugees. The organization, which consists of two part-time staff members, coordinates volunteers to support incoming refugees, including families that help orient refugees to their new home and connect them to their neighbors. The organization also promotes dialogue among community members on the sometimes uncomfortable topic of resettlement. Their mission is to ensure the Missoula community is both welcoming and informed.

Before co-founding Soft Landing, Poole says, “I didn’t even know what a refugee was. I didn’t know what resettlement was—I had no context.”

Civics, Education

GOVERNMENT and civics classes have a reputation for being dry. This means that too many students forget what they have been taught. Two-thirds of Americans could not name all three branches of government, according to a survey published in 2015. Only one-third could name a single Supreme Court justice, or identify Joe Biden as the then-vice president.

Civics has been in decline in schools for decades, says Peter Levine of the Centre for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. It has been pushed aside by a focus on preparing workers for the marketplace with “core” subjects, especially science, technology, engineering and maths. But the idea that it was the responsibility of schools to teach students about politics and democracy flourished well into the second half of the 20th century. It was based on the belief, as promulgated by Horace Mann, who fought for universal education in the 19th century, that education is "our own political safety". Across the country, pupils took classes like “Problems of Democracy,” a popular post-war civics course in which they were expected to read the newspaper and debate issues in the classroom. But by the 1980s, it had been phased out. Parents and politicians became concerned about schools “politicising” the classroom. Schools, eager to avoid controversy, sanitised their curriculums. Since then courses on government have remained common, but most offer little more than rote study of the structures of government.

Poverty, Development

From their archives: May/June 2014 Issue

New research suggests that cash grants to the poor are as good as or better than many traditional forms of aid when it comes to reducing poverty. The process of transferring cash, moreover, is only getting cheaper, thanks to the spread of technologies such as cell phones and satellite signals. And simply asking whether a given program is doing more good than it costs puts pressure on the aid sector to be more transparent and accountable. It’s well past time, then, for donors to stop thinking of unconditional cash payments as an oddball policy and start seeing them for what they are: one of the most sensible tools of poverty alleviation.

Stress, Work-Life Balance

After seven months at a startup, I was burning out. I wasn’t sleeping. I was constantly working. When I tried to go to bed, my mind would speed up rather than slow down. I gained weight. I realized that I needed to take care of myself before I wasn’t any use to the team.

Startups often make mistakes and then find a way to pivot. I realized that I needed to pivot personally. So I took a step back and thought, What can I do that will have the greatest positive impact on my life in the shortest amount of time possible? 


Fatigue is one of the most prevalent and troubling side effects cancer survivors face, both during treatment and after treatment ends. Cancer-related fatigue is a distressing, persistent, subjective sense of physical, emotional, or cognitive tiredness that is caused by cancer or its treatment. Unlike the normal tiredness that most people experience from time to time, cancer-related fatigue is not proportional to recent activity, it does not go away with rest, and it interferes with everyday functioning. This type of fatigue can significantly diminish a cancer survivor’s quality of life. 

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - July 6 Edition

Habits, Self-Improvement

“Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, explains the three key stages of habit-formation:
The cue: This is the trigger that initiates the behavior, which becomes the habit. It could be a time of day when you drive past the donut shop or a social-media notification that leads you to procrastination. It is the spark that leads to the routine.

The routine: The routine is the actual behavior. Duhigg gives a personal example -- at 3:30 pm each day, he'd look at the clock and get a craving for a cookie. He'd then go to the cafeteria, buy a cookie, and eat it while chatting with co-workers. That was his habitual routine.

The reward: The reward is the release of brain chemicals following your specific routine. This is what reinforces your "bad" behavior. Your brain is experiencing "happy chemicals" even though you're doing something you want to stop doing.”

Now that we have deconstructed the habit, here are two steps to break them (Click on the title above to learn how):

Free Speech, Religion

“The winning idea in Jakarta was an original YouTube series moderated by a Christian Indonesian comedian that seeks to debunk false news and online myths. Over in Manila, the winning team came up with a brilliant Facebook app that audits your posts and checks whether or not any words or phrases can be seen as bullying or inflammatory. In Bangladesh, the winning team was a group of young artists and writers who created their own digital comic book series. They love American pop culture and comics but realize they need authentic Bangladeshi heroes who are the protagonists of their own narratives. The second place team, which also received funding, is creating an online community and app to discuss mental health issues, an often taboo subject in that country.

Over in the Bay Area, the winning team came up with a platform called ACTIVATE YOUR SQUAD, which allows you to call on your social media community to drown out trolls, haters and bullies.

Another recent initiative is Minbar, a digital platform we created in house that allows up-and-coming entrepreneurs from marginalized communities to pitch their ideas and receive feedback and funding from an online community. Our first run was in Tunisia where we offered a $25,000 prize to the best idea. We used social media marketing to reach young entrepreneurs who are talented but often never given a chance or an outlet. These individuals are not the top 5 percent, don’t go to English-only schools and are often, sadly, neglected but have immense talent. We also put on a entrepreneurial boot camp, choosing 40 applicants, for a hands-on, 3-day workshop on best strategies and practices.

It was a huge hit.”

Elections, Voting

What binds us together more than our history of striving for freedom, our bond of exercising our free will for a better life, or our rights guaranteed by our constitution?

What tool do we have to protect and maintain our freedom to live as we choose? Our vote!

Medicaid, Healthcare


“Half of all births. The vast majority of nursing home care. Even some school health centers. All of these services have one thing in common: Medicaid provides for them. WNYC wanted to figure out how people in New York and New Jersey might be impacted by Medicaid cuts being proposed in Washington. So we dug into the data to produce this shareable, tweetable, embeddable graphic. We think it will surprise you.” (Click on the title to see the graphics and the data.)

Profile, Role Model

“I read Mike Massimino’s book, ‘Spaceman,’ and he talks about looking back on Earth, and you see it without any boundaries. That’s really cool,” she told me. “When you are in the States, and you maybe didn’t grow up with that perspective, and maybe your family has gone back several generations here, you maybe lost sight of what it was that made America America in the first place. Maybe I have a fresher perspective on it because my family did come over here.” Since we spoke last week, however, Moghbeli’s Facebook comment appears to have been removed.

Moghbeli wore her nasa uniform for the first time on June 7th, for the announcement of nasa’s new class. As the July 4th weekend approached, she was reflective about her adopted country. “I have family across the world,” she told me. “That just helps me remember how grateful we should be to live in this country. Yeah, it’s got flaws, just like any other country. And there are things we can improve on, that we should absolutely work on improving. But, at the end of the day, we have amazing opportunities here. And the fact that I can be a female, Iranian, in the Marine Corps, and now becoming an astronaut—it’s incredible.”

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - July 5 Edition

Health care

“Like most people, my own family has a caregiving story. When my grandfather became ill and needed more support, my family didn’t have a plan for his care, and he ended up spending his last days in an isolating nursing home. The thought of it still haunts me. But my grandmother, who is still living and thriving at the age of 92, is able to live at home and be active in her community, in large part because she has the support of a devoted home care worker. She makes it possible for my grandmother to live on her own terms.

Their vastly different experiences inform my work to elevate caregiving. I began organizing with domestic workers in New York City in the 1990s, and saw how critical their work was to the families who employed them, caring for the most precious elements of their lives — their children, loved ones with disabilities, parents and grandparents, or their homes. Care work makes all other work possible. Yet in far too many cases, these women were undervalued and vulnerable to abuse. It’s a workforce that works hard and struggles to make ends meet. Their economic insecurity is not only a profound moral dilemma, it makes it hard for the families they support to be secure. People like my grandmother, and someday my parents and myself — we will all need a strong care workforce to live well as we age.” 

~ Ai-jen Poo is executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the co-director of the Caring Across generations campaign.

Family Leave, Work-life Balance
Policy Paper:

“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, and widespread 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?” 

Dance,  Arts in Small Communities

I recently read about this dance school/program in my hometown newspaper. I wish there had been a business like this in Tell City, Indiana, when I was a young girl. Small communities across the country should embrace arts programs. It is one way to revitalize them. Dance Haven looks like a success story. Congratulations, Heather Cross.

“Classes at Dance Haven started last August with three teachers and just the one classroom at their Main Street Studio. But word spread quickly, as Cross said “our phone was just blowing up,” and the second classroom was in service by October.

Cross said that when they opened shop they hoped to have about 75 participants, but “blew that out of the water” with about 115.

This fall, when classes get back into full swing, there will be six instructors on hand, guiding the footwork in everything from jazz to ballroom, and adding gymnastics and acro dance.
Cross went on to explain that the longstanding Main Event gymnastics program will shift into The Dance Haven studios, making it a “one stop shop” for such training.”

Refugees, Education

“There are no well-ordered, state-run refugee camps in Lebanon; everything is haphazard. The tent encampments are built on private land, placing the refugees at the mercy of landlords, and scattered at random across the eastern Bekaa Valley, making it difficult for humanitarian organizations to coordinate support. Many of the 1.5 million Syrian refugees in the country live in conditions like this. It is as if an entire nation deposited itself in an area where one would expect to find nothing but agricultural land or the odd farmer tending his sheep.

A cluster of buildings, the largest of which is perhaps the size of a small barn, sits on the edge of the tent camp surrounded by a chain-link fence. This is the Kayany Foundation’s Telyani School, where children 6 to 13 attend classes in subjects such as English, Arabic, and math. The outer walls are adorned with cardboard cutouts of pink, red, and blue flowers. “Welcome Spring” reads a rainbow-colored sign. Children line up excitedly each morning outside the classrooms, a cheery contrast with the drab life outside the school.”


“Today, only a few cities besides Aspen have achieved 100 percent renewable electricity or energy: Georgetown, Texas, Burlington, Vt., Greensburg, Kan., and Rockport, Mo. Kodiak Island, Alaska, is 99 percent renewable energy but uses small amounts of diesel as a back-up fuel source.

Van Horn says the Sierra Club pushes cities to create their own renewable energy. But even when they buy it from far-away places, like Aspen does, it has a wider impact.

"That city is helping to shift not just the electrons consumed within that community but really helping ... the grid move toward cleaner ... sources of energy like wind and solar," she says. The Sierra Club hopes all this will add up to lower carbon emissions for cities, and the country.

In Aspen, that's still a challenge.”