Friday, August 04, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 4 Edition

Entertainment, Comedy

"Comedy legend Carol Burnett, who came close to a primetime return with the ABC comedy pilot Household Name this past season, is headed to Netflix. The internet network has given a 12-episode series order to A Little Help with Carol Burnettan original unscripted comedy starring Burnett and a panel of straight-talking 4-8-year-olds as they demonstrate how different generations solve life’s biggest dilemmas.

In each half-hour episode, the kids will face real-life issues brought before them by both celebrities and everyday people and will dish back guidance in front of a live studio audience. The series is slated for a 2018 premiere. (You can watch a teaser by clicking on the title.)

“Someone once asked me how old I am inside,” said Burnett. “I thought about it, and came up with, ‘I’m about eight.’ So it’s going to be a lot of fun playing with kids my age.”"

 Sexuality, Education, Feminism

"The students Yao talks to through Rodoko are mainly from her hometown of Beijing, but ignorance about sexual matters is widespread throughout the country. Chao remembers a school friend from Jinan in Shandong province who, when she was 17, kissed her boyfriend at the time and was worried that she would get pregnant.

Given the state of sex education in China, it’s hardly surprising that such misconceptions exist. The national curriculum only requires that students are taught basic anatomy, and even then these lessons are often sidelined to make space for more exam-focused studies. What exists of sex education is normally delivered to early teenage students, before more complicated questions about sex might arise, and even then the classes can be loaded with moralizing. A textbook titled Senior Middle School Student Scientific Sex Education, which has been used around China since 2004, describes girls who have premarital sex as “degenerates.” This claim went viral on Chinese social media last year. According to Yao, “There’s no sex education at school.” When I ask if she was taught how to avoid pregnancy, the answer is a firm “no.”"

Peacekeeping, Security, Solutions

"ALL OVER THE world, women are defying the odds to make meaningful contributions as peacebuilders and peacekeepers. We asked four of these pioneers about the greatest challenges they face.

Kristin Lund was the first female force commander for the United Nations as head of the peacekeeping force in Cyprus. She is a serving general in the Norwegian army.
She says:

“The biggest challenge is that women and civil society actors are excluded from pre-negotiation talks and agreements, which are also highly secret. As a result, women and civil society are unable to introduce their needs and concerns during pre-negotiations when the agenda for the formal talks and the root cause are set. Most peace processes focus on ending political violence but fail to acknowledge the different forms of violence experienced by women and minorities, like Indigenous peoples, leaving these forms of violence in place and failing to address the security concerns of half of the population.

“First, leaders must take into consideration that women must be on the mediation/negotiation team from the start. Second, they must have the authority to bring issues to the table."

Public Health, Addiction

"Demand for addiction treatment is high in Baltimore, as it is in many cities and communities across the country. Towson believes the reason is the spread of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid far more powerful than heroin.

"Nowadays, everybody's scared. That fentanyl — that's death," she said. "I thank God I chose when I did — or He appointed me to be chosen — to change my mind when I did, because I know I wouldn't have made it. ... Thank God for another day."

Towson had her own near-death experience with fentanyl more than a year and a half ago, during a blizzard that dropped more than 2 feet of snow on Baltimore. She was getting high with a group of people, she told us. She and another woman were given the task of testing a new batch of dope. She wouldn't know until later that it was laced with fentanyl. It would be her first and last taste of the drug."

Inspiration, Dreams, Never Too Old

This will make you smile and inspire you: "Mary Ho, 81, plays a mean electric guitar.The feisty grandmother is now gearing up for the performance of a lifetime - playing for thousands at Singapore's annual National Day Parade in August."

She is wonderful, right? I know you are smiling. We're never too old to learn something new. Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 3 Edition

Elections, Security

“In the last few months, we have learned extraordinary details about a Russian assault on our election infrastructure. While there is no evidence that this assault altered the vote count, that fact should be cold comfort as we look to protect ourselves against future attacks.

One doesn’t have to be an expert on cybersecurity or election technology to understand how dangerous this is. Based on my experience, as a former Director of Central Intelligence, and in service to this country under both Democratic and Republican Presidents, I am confident the Russians will be back, and that they will take what they have learned last year to attempt to inflict even more damage in future elections. In particular, their history of interfering in other nations’ politics, their antipathy to the United States and Western democracies generally, and their proven ability to multiply the impact of their actions through cyberattacks should put us on the highest alert, and spur us to take all necessary actions to protect ourselves from further attack.

Of course, Moscow is not the only adversary that we have to worry about. North Korea has been implicated in the ransomware attack that locked up the computers of government agencies and businesses worldwide this May, while Al Qaeda and ISIS have a history of executing cyberattacks on foreign government websites. They too might be emboldened by Russia’s actions against us last year.

This report offers important guidance on how to protect ourselves. In particular, it looks at the two most critical parts of America’s election infrastructure: voting machines, which could be hacked to cast doubt on the integrity of vote tallies, or change them; and voter registration databases, which could be manipulated to block voters and cause disorder when citizens attempt to vote.”

Medical Research, Science

“One of its most exciting, taboo, and controversial applications is tweaking the genes of eggs, sperm, or early embryos to alter a human life. This could one day mean the ability to create smarter or more athletic humans (yes, “designer babies”), but also the chance to knock out disease-causing genetic mutations that parents pass on to their children. We’re talking about eliminating mutations linked to diseases like breast and ovarian cancers or cystic fibrosis.

On Wednesday, a team of scientists reported that they have made major progress toward proving the latter is possible.

In a paper published in the prestigious journal Nature, a team led by Shoukhrat Mitalipovof Oregon Health and Science University described how it used CRISPR/Cas9 to correct a genetic mutation that’s linked to a heart disorder called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in human embryos. And they did it without the errors that have plagued previous attempts to edit human embryos with CRISPR.

To be clear, the new work from OHSU was an experiment — the point was to test a concept, and the embryos used were never implanted into a woman’s uterus.

But the researchers were ultimately able to show that CRISPR/Cas9 can do what they hoped it would do. It cut the mutant gene sequence, prompted the embryos to repair the DNA with healthy copies of the gene, and eliminated the disease-causing mutation altogether from many of the embryos.”

Personal Finance

“At my last job as a recruiter, I would often interview people who lost their jobs from one week to the next.

It was during this time that I realized I had to always make sure I had money coming from different places, so I freelanced on the side of my day job and worked on a blog in the hopes of making some money from it someday.

While I didn't know it at the time, I'd figured out something most millionaires already know: you always need to have multiple sources of income.

As it turns out, having your money coming from multiple sources isn't just a survival technique, it's also a way to build wealth.”


“Visit any airport and you'll no doubt see people sleeping: on chairs, floors, and in small spaces you may never have thought of. And while trying to curl up under fluorescent lights to the tune of luggage being rolled along doesn't exactly sound conducive to a restful night's sleep, sleeping in an airport doesn't have to be all bad.

Sleep expert Dr. Rebecca Robbins of the NYU School of Medicine’s Center for Health Behavior Change tells Condé Nast Traveler that things like packing an eye mask and a set of earplugs and turning your phone to airplane mode to block incoming calls (yes, even though you’re not yet in the air) can help get you in the sleep zone and maximize your airport shut-eye experience. And if you can’t nod off, Robbins says, try meditating.

“Meditation can assist with the stress that ensues from travel," she says. "Download an application on your smartphone or computer to learn meditation and relaxation strategies. Or, simply close your eyes, and start to clench muscle groups as you breathe in, and exhale as you release. Move from your toes, to your calves/quads, and up to your shoulders.”

Here's what else you can do to ensure a safe and blissful shut-eye.”

Racial Equity

“Because color-blindness is so entrenched as a value in our society, it’s tempting when you are a policymaker or a philanthropic leader to say you are doing what you are doing – supporting this policy or that one –  to help “all kids.” After all, what kid doesn’t deserve a shot? But what I’ve learned is that if we do not look at the ways in which our systems like schools, justice, and democracy have discriminated against people of color and handicapped their shots at success, we aren’t going to make these systems work better for anyone. Black students graduate high school at a rate 13 percent lower than white students. Thirty-two percent of homeless youth are black, more than double the proportion of black youth in the population. This is not a coincidence.

Failing to address race head-on is counterproductive to making meaningful progress to correct these startling inequities. While it may be easier to avoid discussing race, it’s impossible to improve the systems that create these disparate outcomes if we don’t first recognize how they disproportionately impact people of color.”

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 2 Edition

Pregnancy, Work

““This law provides essential protections and guarantees safety measures. Pregnant women will now no longer be subject to discrimination when it comes to common sense accommodations,” DeLeo said.

Because of the bill, it will be illegal to fire a woman because she’s pregnant or refuse to hire female job applicants because they’re pregnant.

Reasonable accommodations will include anything from assigning pregnant workers to less strenuous positions, providing a worker with a stool to sit on, or more frequent bathroom breaks.”

Economy, Taxes, Regulations

"The deficit is now about 3 percent of gross domestic product, which is less than the rateof nominal GDP growth. That means the deficit is now sustainable, and further austerity won’t have much effect.

Additionally, basic economic theory says that low deficits boost growth by lowering long-term interest rates -- but with rates already near record lows, there isn't much scope for improvement in this regard. Finally, Cogan et al.’s goal of deficit reduction is strongly at odds with their recommendation of big tax cuts, as Brownback’s experiment in Kansas shows.

So policy makers shouldn’t listen to the supply-side orthodoxy. Deregulation could have some positive effects if done right, but tax cuts and austerity -- even if they could both be accomplished at the same time -- are policies with very little promise. To boost growth, the U.S. should look to other policies, like better infrastructure, stronger antitrust enforcement and more investment in research and technology."

Health Care, Opioid Epidemic

“As the opioid epidemic rages on, two million Americans are abusing prescription pain relievers, and an additional 591,000 are addicted to heroin. The result: families pushed to the edge of desperation, an overwhelmed criminal justice system, emergency rooms that struggle to respond, and a bright future dimmed for far too many young Americans.

But here is the good news: at a time of so much rancor in the national discourse, this is an issue that transcends dogma. The opioid epidemic hits red and blue states, urban and rural settings, and people of every race and ethnicity without regard to political leaning.

The Aspen Health Strategy Group, which we co-chair, is bringing a sense of urgency to this issue. We are a nonpartisan group of 26 senior leaders in healthcare, business, technology, academia, and the media who believe that solutions to some of our most critical societal issues emerge from civil discourse, bold thinking, and the willingness to reach across the boundaries of discipline and ideology. This year, we are taking on the opioid crisis.”

Climate Change, Diet

To understand why the climate impact of beef alone is so large, note that the image at the top of this story is a sea of soybeans in a silo in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. The beans belong to a feed lot that holds 38,000 cattle, the growth and fattening of which means dispensing 900 metric tons of feed every day. Which is to say that these beans will be eaten by cows, and the cows will convert the beans to meat, and the humans will eat the meat. In the process, the cows will emit much greenhouse gas, and they will consume far more calories in beans than they will yield in meat, meaning far more clearcutting of forests to farm cattle feed than would be necessary if the beans above were simply eaten by people.

This inefficient process happens on a massive scale. Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of red meat, holds around 212 million cattle. (In June, the U.S. temporarily suspended imports of beef from Brazil due to abscesses, collections of pus, in the meat.) According to the United Nations, 33 percent of arable land on Earth is used to grow feed for livestock. Even more, 26 percent of the ice-free terrestrial surface of Earth is used for grazing livestock. In all, almost a third of the land on Earth is used to produce meat and animal products.”

Personal Development, Positive Thinking

"As the sole architect of your destiny, you need to make sure you’re utilizing one of your greatest tools: your own voice. That inner voice will help you formulate a plan and drown out the external voices of critics and naysayers. Your voice holds the power to boost your confidence and help you both navigate and learn from setbacks when they occur.

Be very honest with yourself. Is your own voice joining the negative chorus of doubters? If the answer is yes, you’ll need to reprogram your thought process by telling yourself these three things today—and every day—for the rest of your life."

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 1 Edition

Race, Parenting

"Discussing race can be tricky, so as a Black mother I enter friendships with white parents apprehensively. Many white parents are unaware of the additional factors Black parents have to consider when raising a child. Will our daughters be mistaken as more threatening than their white classmates? Will our sons be killed before becoming teens? Are our children being unfairly punished by the education system? And often, white parents are even less aware of the toll systemic racism has on our mental health.

Fortunately, many of my white parent friends have found a way to be allies through their parenting methods. The sense of community I've gained through their actions has given me strength when I have none. Those measures have been so helpful that I believe everyone should be informed and given the opportunity to make a similar impact among their groups of friends. 

Here are four ways my white parent friends have proven to be allies in a non-invasive manner. Think of them as simple, initial tips to help guide your own allyship."

Creativity, Self-help

Video: We all can use more 'aha' moments. These techniques can help.

Gender, Athletics, Role Models

"Yet the preponderance of male coaches, even kind and gentle ones, has consequences for boys. “Boys are denied the ability to see women operate in leadership roles that males most respect,” Farrey said. “This has deep implications for our society as boys grow into adulthood, work with, and decide whether to empower, women,” he added. Exposure to female coaches can pay dividends for boys.

Of course, for girls, the absence of women coaches means a dearth of female role models in powerful leadership positions. And same-sex role models matter, particularly for women. The University of Toronto social psychologist Penelope Lockwood, who has studied the impact of race and gender in role modeling, found that girls benefit from same-gender role models more acutely than boys. Female role models act as “inspirational examples of success” and “guides to the potential accomplishments for which other women can strive,” Lockwood concluded."  

Inspiration, Middle East, Education

Read the transcript or listen to the segment:

SCOTT SIMON, HOST: Malala has turned 20 years old. She shared that event with young Yazidi women in Iraq who are trying to overcome violence and discrimination. That's Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan. Five years ago, she was shot in the head by the Taliban because she spoke up for the right of girls to go to school. She survived and continued to campaign for girls education, becoming the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner ever. NPR's Jane Arraf traveled with her on her birthday in Iraq.
YOUSAFZAI: When I was about 10 or 11, in our region, the extremist-minded people called the Taliban - they banned girls' education, and I could not go to school at that time. So in response to that, I started speaking out. But then, like, later on, I was targeted by the extremists.

ARRAF: Malala was shot in the head. It's amazing that she lived. She's gone around the world to meet girls struggling in conflict zones and desperate to go to school.

Infrastructure, Transportation Bill

“The Senate Committee on Appropriations passed a bill on July 27 to fund the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development for fiscal year 2018 (which according to the federal calendar begins October 1). The bill funds the Department of Transportation (DOT) at $79.6 billion for FY18 (a $1.5 billion increase from FY17). That total is $1.1 billion more than the House version of the bill and $3.6 billion more than the Trump Administration’s budget request.
The bill was particularly notable on the aviation front, including a $250 million increase in funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and an increase of the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) for the originating airport from $4.50 to $8.50. AIP is an aviation infrastructure-focused grant program paid for out of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which is supported by user fees, fuel taxes, and other similar revenue sources. PFCs are fees airports can collect from departing passengers and use to fund federally-approved capital projects. The current $4.50 PFC cap has not been changed since 2000 and inflation and increased construction costs have cut its real value by more than half. As a result, many airports have substantial infrastructure needs they cannot afford to address, evident in the “D” grade Aviation received in the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. The bill would  require large hub airports that raise their PFC beyond the current cap of $4.50 to give up all their AIP funding (large hubs previously agreed to give up 75% of the AIP money in exchange for raising their PFC to the current cap of $4.50). Increasing both AIP funding and the cap on the PFC are solutions named in the Report Card to improve the grade, so airports of all sizes can address their infrastructure needs”

Monday, July 31, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - July 31 Edition

Media, Race, Culture

“I also think that right now more than ever a lot of young people are feeling very small, very helpless, and a lot of parents are feeling very confused, angry, small and helpless … so we bring stories like the Bessie Coleman story, someone who in [the] 1920s as a black female in the United States was told, “No, you can’t fly, you’re black, you’re a woman, and we won’t even teach you how to fly.” At that time, with all the incredible gender and racial discrimination that was going on in this country … she went [to France] and was the only African American and Native American female in her class. She learned how to fly and she comes back home with an international pilot’s license, which Amelia Earhart didn’t even have yet — she wouldn’t have hers for two more years.

I think showing kids stories like that [is important] and really getting to them and going, “Look at that, you can do that, you can do anything if you really just think outside of what is expected of you.” You look at obstacles and you say, “That’s not just something that’s in your way. That’s actually potential for something greater. By overcoming that, you could lead to something unexpected in yourself.””  ~  Karyn Parsons, founder of Sweet Blackberry

Technology, AI

"But an increasing body of research and criticism suggests that algorithms and artificial intelligence aren’t necessarily a panacea for ending prejudice, and they can have disproportionate impacts on groups that are already socially disadvantaged, particularly people of color. Instead of offering a workaround for human biases, the tools we designed to help us predict the future may be dooming us to repeat the past by replicating and even amplifying societal inequalities that already exist.

These data-fueled predictive technologies aren’t going away anytime soon. So how can we address the potential for discrimination in incredibly complex tools that have already quietly embedded themselves in our lives and in some of the most powerful institutions in the country?
In 2014, a report from the Obama White House warned that automated decision-making “raises difficult questions about how to ensure that discriminatory effects resulting from automated decision processes, whether intended or not, can be detected, measured, and redressed.”

Over the last several years, a growing number of experts have been trying to answer those questions by starting conversations, developing best practices and principles of accountability, and exploring solutions for the complex and insidious problem of algorithmic bias."

Health Care

"Citing the protracted uncertainty over the law’s future, many insurers have proposed big rate increases again for next year even though many are no longer incurring big losses in its marketplaces. People covered by one insurer in Maryland could see premiums rise by more than 50 percent if proposed rate increases go into effect, and premiums for plans in Virginia and Connecticut could increase more than 30 percent. In North Carolina, where rates are already among the nation’s highest, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina wants an increase of nearly 23 percent but said it would have sought less than half that amount under more predictable circumstances.

The politics are exceedingly tricky in a divided and dysfunctional Washington, but economists, insurers, doctors and health policy experts across the political spectrum agree that immediately addressing three or four basic shortcomings in the existing system would go a long way toward making the law more effective and financially stable."

Women’s rights, social media, Afghanistan

"In Afghanistan's patriarchal society, a woman's name should not be revealed, even on her grave.
"Mr X's" mother, daughter or sister, the headstone might read, rather than the name of the deceased.

Openly using the names of women is regarded as inappropriate and even an insult in the conservative Muslim nation.

On a birth certificate there is no sign of the mother's name. On a wedding invitation the bride's name is not mentioned - only the names of her father and husband-to-be.

But a women-led campaign on social media is starting to challenge the old Afghan tradition."

Sustainability, Economy

"In the face of renewed calls for trickle-down economic policy—such as proposed tax cuts for the rich and transnational corporations—we urgently need a clearly articulated theory and practice of sustainable economics that works for local communities. Enter a blessing of a book, Anthony Flaccavento’s Building a Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up: Harnessing Real-World Experience for Transformative Change.

Bottom Up is a comprehensive primer on the transition to a new economy—the place-based movement to rewire the economy for equity and ecological sustainability. It is rich in stories and detail for the curious or discouraged and those seeking a strategy to move toward a sustainable and equitable future. Flaccavento excels as a storyteller, reporting on successful “bottom-up” ventures and experiments in building new systems around food, energy, health services, worker ownership, community finance, and place-based arts and culture."