Friday, August 11, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 11 Edition

Mentors, School

"BEST Academy student Gs3 Harris told ABC News he had no idea what to expect when he walked off the bus on August 1.

The graduating senior said his first reaction when seeing the dozens of men cheering was, "Oh snap! All these people came here to see us?"

Harris, 17, said one man even pulled him aside and said, "You look like you're going somewhere. You'll be famous soon."

"That was kind of special because not too many people think that of me," said the student, who plans to study mechanical engineering at Georgia State University when he graduates. "It was a boost in morale."

Ray Singer, the program director for 100 Black Men of Atlanta and the liaison for the school, said the morning also benefited the mentors.

"At the end of the day, all of our volunteers walked away with just as much as experience as the student," he told ABC News. "It gives them an opportunity to have some real dialogue with students about careers ... and they walk away feeling uplifted.""

Work, Life Balance

"Starting in July 2018, Oregon will require big companies in retail, hospitality, and food service to give employees schedules at least a week ahead of time, and offer stress pay to workers who don’t get a 10-hour break between shifts. By 2020, employers covered by the law will have to hand out schedules two weeks in advance.

Oregon is the first state to pass such a law, which grows out of a vibrant municipal movement to humanize low-wage fast food and mall jobs that can no longer be thought of as stopgap positions, if they ever were. The median age of a retail employee, for example, is 39. According to a New York state study, most retail workers are breadwinners. It's hard to spend time with your family if you never know when you get off work.

San Francisco, Seattle, and New York City all have similar policies in place. The Oregon bill may be a sign that the movement is about to jump from cities to states. In December, the Illinois attorney general announced that a group of large retailers including Aeropostale and Disney would stop using on-call scheduling after an investigation. A handful of other blue-state AGs are also looking into it. In 2015, Elizabeth Warren introduced a fair scheduling bill in the Senate."

Women, War, Peace & Security

"Mary Raum, a national security affairs professor at the war college, said she's trying to amplify their agenda so they don't lose traction, and she'd like to see reform in higher education so there's a solid curriculum for women, peace and security issues.

"It's imperative for global peace and security," said Raum, who planned the conference.

Rosa Brooks, a professor at Georgetown Law, said empowering women is not about "helping women."

"It's about helping all of us," she said. "It's about winning wars instead of losing, having peace instead of conflict. It's about succeeding instead of failing."

Research shows that the likelihood that peace agreements will last longer increases when women
are involved in negotiating them, and gender inequality is one of the top predictors of conflict within and between states, said Brooks, an expert on national security and the changing nature of warfare."

Women, Technology

"Hidden Figures, the historical drama about three black women who worked at NASA in the 1960s, has many plaudits to its name.

The critically acclaimed film starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle MonĂ¡e was nominated for Best Picture at the 2017 Oscars. It was a box office hit, earning more than $230 million worldwide on a budget of $25 million. Its recounting of how Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson broke racial and gender barriers during the height of the civil rights movement to help send mankind into space has been lauded for its deft portrayal of an important true story.

And now it has broken a barrier of its own by inspiring the US State Department to launch a first-of-its-kind, publicly funded educational exchange program for women.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, a new program called #HiddenNoMore will invite 50 women from 50 different countries to participate in a cultural and educational exchange aimed at cultivating the efforts and achievements of women in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields."

Business, Leadership

"The more we influence ourselves to be ourselves, the more people like us. And we like ourselves more, too.

Leadership is about influence. The most important person to influence is yourself. Because that’s true, the question is, How can we best influence ourselves?

Here are five ways the smartest people do this."

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Ideas, Action, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 10 Edition

Infrastructure, Public Policy

"“When it comes to upgrading the nation’s infrastructure, Gad Allon, Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions, says that strategic emphasis should be placed on the nation’s major airports and high-speed trains. But he also believes that it is important for long-range prosperity and competitiveness to make sure that every person in the U.S. has access to high-speed internet, ideally fiber optic. “Only a fraction of the U.S. has LTE [wireless coverage]; most people have 4G. When people come from [South] Korea to the U.S., they cannot bear the speed here, so they stop connecting to the internet while they are here. This is, for me, first order.”

Allon argues that the impact of such an internet upgrade would be transformative because many people in geographically remote regions in the U.S. have “the feeling of being left behind” in the social and political narrative about progress and modernity. The technology gap further deepens other social and political rifts between economically deprived regions and those regions that have advanced infrastructure of all sorts. Bridging that gap would allow a much larger portion of the populace to enjoy “more and more educational resources that are online,” including those provided by Coursera, Udacity and Kahn Academy. Innovation would be positively impacted as well: Access to the internet “makes it easier for people to start and manage their own businesses,” he notes.”"

Maternity Care, Heroes, Inspiration

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It was a pretty typical day at the Edna Adan Hospital. Three babies had just been born, a half-dozen high-risk women were in labor, several others were being treated for life-threatening illnesses, and at the center of it all, the hospital’s founder and namesake, Edna Adan.

EDNA ADAN, Founder, Edna Adan University Hospital: These are the kind of women I built the hospital for anyway, anemic, a woman who has had previous complications, a woman who has a scar, a woman who has lost babies before.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: What is especially remarkable is where this is all taking place, in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, an enclave that declared its independence three decades ago from the war-torn Somalia, but is not recognized by the rest of the world.

The region suffers from some of the world’s highest rates of infant and maternal mortality. Adan was born here 79 years ago, the daughter of a prominent physician. At 17, she won a scholarship to study in England, becoming a midwife. She returned to Somalia, marrying a politician who would become prime minister. She’s seen with him here and next to President Lyndon Johnson at a White House reception.

She fled Somalia’s civil war in the 1980s. When Edna Adan returned to her native Hargeisa, the city lay in ruin from years of war. She was given a plot of land that had been used as a burial ground and on it laid the foundation for rebuilding the city’s health care system.

Visit Edna Adan Hospital to support her work.

World, Women, Rape

"Many countries are moving to repeal long-established laws that allow rapists to escape punishment if they marry their victims.

A handful of places have recently repealed these laws, including Tunisia, Morocco and, just last week, Jordan.

But these laws are still on the books in countries as far apart as the Philippines, Lebanon and Tajikistan. Purna Sen, policy director for UN Women, tells NPR's Ari Shapiro these laws were enacted in order to normalize illicit sexual contact by categorizing this conduct as part of the institution of marriage.

These laws enable societies to make sexual relations more respectable, as it is often considered problematic in some cultures, Sen said. The penal codes in these countries do not approach rape as violence or abuse, but focus more on the idea that sexual contact occurred outside of marriage."

Workplace, Wellness, Productivity

"There are two ways to hang toilet paper: 1) over (with the loose end draped over the top) and 2) under (with the loose end hanging inside next to the wall). Most offices hang it "over" but I've been in many restrooms where it's been hung "under."

The over/under issue is surprisingly controversial and was allegedly the topic that generated the most letters to Dear Abby on a single subject. I'm here today to remove that controversy forever.

According to science, the correct way to hang toilet paper is "over." Why? Because "under" vastly increases the possibility that food-poisoning bacteria will spread from the restroom to the rest of the workplace."

Urban Spaces, Conservation

"Urban development hasn’t always accommodated birds. Window collisions due to reflective glass and bright lights have hurt migrating bird populations wherever there are skyscrapers, with the American Bird Conservancy estimating that each year, up to a billion birds die via collisions in the U.S. alone.

An overnight storm this past March left 395 warblers and orioles dead outside the 23-story One Moody Plaza in Galveston, Texas. The skyscraper is among the tallest in the area, and while it’s not wrapped in bird-unfriendly, floor-to-ceiling glass, a combination of lightning, building lights, and corner windows still disoriented the migrating birds into colliding with the structure.

However, when ecology and engineering unite, city roofs can become bird-roosting and bird-watching havens. Take New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. New York City Audubon once ranked this I. M. Pei-designed fusion of glass and steel among the top three bird-killing buildings in the area. But since its 2009 renovation by FXFOWLE Architects, retrofitted low-reflectivity glass has reduced collisions by 90 percent. The new windows feature dot patterns visible to birds from the air, and a 6.75-acre green roof tops off the overhaul, ensuring that it not only kills fewer passing birds, but also feeds and shelters growing numbers."

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 9 Edition

Feminism, Syria, War

"Even in the relative normality of life before the war, it was clear that women were suffering from discrimination. In November 2011 a UNFPA report (pdf) found that one in three women in Syria experienced domestic violence. Several Syrian laws clearly disadvantage women; the penalty for “honour” killing is softer than for other murders, and there is no legislation that specifically prohibits gender discrimination. The Syrian family code limits a woman’s financial rights within marriage if she works outside the home without her husband’s consent. The Syrian regime has at times been cynical about its engagement with women’s rights, presenting itself as a safe option compared to the rank misogyny of extremist groups. This has often been hollow, for instance, using women as spokespeople while keeping them out of roles of real influence, and failing to take any action on discriminatory laws. And Yazbek points out that in areas of Syria held by Isis and other religious factions, the situation for women has drastically worsened. “We were already fighting against patriarchy and dictatorship before the war. Now we have to fight not only that, but also religious extremism.”

Women Now runs seven centres – two in Lebanon and five within Syria. Starting as a small support group for a few families in rebel-held territory in Syria, it has expanded to become a major women’s network. In addition to providing psychosocial support, skills training (in English and IT among others), and economic empowerment, it has a clear political goal: getting women’s voices heard – from the family setting to international peace talks. “We try to educate women about their rights, and spread awareness,” says Ola El-Jindi, a programme manager at the NGO. “This is the chance the war gave us – to empower women. If we didn’t use it well, it would be another disaster of war. We must use this opportunity to do better things.”"

Elections, Voting

"Denver, Colorado, has spent the last eight years modernizing its elections, offering a model for how a city and county successfully maintains voter rolls.

The city began taking steps in 2009 to make it easier for voters to cast ballots, officials to count them, and administrators to maintain accurate, clean voter rolls. In the process, they’ve increased voter turnout and saved taxpayers money.

In the 2016 general election, turnout was at 72 percent — up six points from the city’s 2008’s turnout, and ten points higher than the national average in 2016, according to the city's data. The effort has driven election costs down, from $6.51 per voter to $4.15 per voter.

“In Denver, we’ve said, ‘What do we want our voter experience to be?’ and worked backwards from there," Amber McReynolds, director of the Denver Elections Division, told NBC News." 

Travel, Solo

“Listen in for tips on how to temper the awkwardness that sinks in around, say, 8 p.m., when locals and tourists alike are sitting down to loud, boozy dinners, while you’re staring into the abyss of the empty seat in front of you (hint: make best friends with the barman), and why maybe, just maybe, Airbnbs are the right call if you’ve planned a solo trip by choice.

One theme that we always return to, though, is the idea that travel—no matter the circumstance—should always test your comfort zone. Solo travel is the ultimate extension of that mantra, and though it may not always rock your world for the better, it can help you to grow just a little bit.”

Economy, Foreign Aid

“Zambia recently ran a bold experiment: Instead of giving poor people traditional aid — seeds, or a cow or job training — officials handed out cash, with no strings attached.

What was the outcome? Click on the title above and listen for the answer.

Exercise, Health

"To see just how little you can get away with when it comes to interval training for health purposes, the researchers brought in 25 less-than-in-shape young men (future studies will focus on women). They tested their levels of aerobic fitness and their ability to use insulin in the right way to control blood sugar, and biopsied their muscles to see how well they functioned on a cellular level.
Then they split them into a control group, a moderate-intensity-exercise group, and a sprint interval training (SIT) group.

The control group did nothing differently at all.

The moderate-intensity group did a typical I'm-at-the-gym routine of a two-minute warm-up, 45 minutes on the stationary bike, and a three-minute cool down, three times a week.

The SIT group did the shortest interval training ever recorded thus far by science. Participants warmed up for two minutes on a stationary bike, then sprinted full-out for 20 seconds, then rode for two minutes very slowly. They repeated this twice (for a total of three sets). The whole workout took 10 minutes, with only one minute being high-intensity.

All of the groups kept at it for 12 weeks, or about twice as long as most previous studies.

The results?"

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 8 Edition

Black Voices, Inspiration

"“I wanted to make sure kids got the best start possible to the school year and for their parents to not have to worry about having to buy supplies,” Mari told HuffPost. 

Last year, Mari started the #PackYourBackChallenge on Twitter and was able to fill 100 backpacks with school supplies. She saw 10 times that amount this year.

Organizers were able to distribute more than 1,000 backpacks to every single student that came to the event. Mari also raised around $10,000 online."

Infant Mortality, Health, Economy
(Report from the Global Breastfeeding Collective):

"BREASTFEEDING IS ONE OF THE SMARTEST INVESTMENTS A COUNTRY CAN MAKE TO BUILD ITS FUTURE PROSPERITY. It offers children unparalleled health and brain-building benefits. It has the power to save the lives of women and children throughout the world, and the power to help national economies grow through lower health care costs and smarter workforces. Yet many societies are failing to adequately support women to breastfeed, and as a result, the majority of the world’s children—along with a majority of the world’s countries—are not able to reap the full benefits of breastfeeding.

The case to invest in breastfeeding has never been stronger, nor the need for action clearer. In 2012, the 194 countries of the World Health Assembly (WHA) committed to a target of increasing the global prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life from the then baseline of 37 percent to at least 50 percent by 2025. But ensuring that at least half of the world’s children are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives should be a starting point, not an endgame. Rapid progress is possible with investments in policies and programs that better support women to breastfeed, and that ensure that more of the world’s children have an opportunity to thrive."

Community, Co-ops

"“Too often, what we are seeing is that local businesses and people are bringing neighborhoods back, and then the value that is created by them collectively is being siphoned off by a small number of investors who don’t live in the neighborhood,” said Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the ILSR, pointing to the “loss of control” many Americans feel over their neighborhoods’ waning affordability and increasing sense of sameness. “Owning commercial real estate is the ultimate way to guard against being at the mercy of those forces.”

Before NEIC formed, the group behind it—some of whom knew each other through the local food co-op—wanted to get a foothold in the real estate market before this happened to their neighborhood. Board member Leslie Watson, one of the cooperative’s architects, said they would bat ideas around when they ran into each other at neighborhood classes and meetings: What if they headed off rising costs by buying up houses together? Or maybe commercial real estate? And what if they did it as an official cooperative?

By late 2011, they settled on an investment model that didn’t exist anywhere else in the country (another group had started a similar cooperative independently in Alberta, Canada). The 39 members had invested at least $1,000 each, drawing on their expertise in cooperatives, law, finance, and other disciplines to develop it."

Learning, Technology

"Richmond is gentrifying amid the Bay Area's tech-driven economic boom. But the city remains one of the area's poorest, with a poverty rate of nearly 18 percent.

Children here can see San Francisco from their city and hear all about nearby Silicon Valley and its bevy of industry-disrupting companies, "but they don't imagine they can be a part of that industry," says Jennifer Lyle, the executive director of Building Blocks for Kids Collaborative.

This Minecraft camp, Lyle says, is trying to change that 'we're not welcome in tech' feeling some low-income families in Richmond have. "To get people to come here and say, 'No, our child deserves to have access to this,' " she says.

It starts by introducing young people and their parents "to the kinds of things wealthier folks get access to because they have the means," she explains, getting "grounding in computers they're not getting in school."

Minecraft gets high marks from diverse quarters for its education potential. The game can help teach the basics of computer literacy and the key foundations of coding, animation, circuitry and more."

America, History, Invention

“Pulled from the Smithsonian collections, these items range millennia, from pre-historic dinosaurs to the very first supercomputer.”

Monday, August 07, 2017

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

Drug resistance, health crisis

"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.
Last year, Air Force veteran Nathan Hutsky re-enrolled in ITT Tech to finish his electrical engineering degree.

That’s where Roberts, a 43-year-old microbiologist from central England, comes in. Back at his lab, he pulls out a handful of tubes that he collected during his walk and labels them: shoe, bathroom-door handle, tree, bench, handrail. He reaches for a stack of petri dishes, each holding a layer of clear-yellow growth medium. One by one, he opens the dishes, swipes the tip of a swab over the agar, closes and marks them, and sets them aside to be incubated."

Black Voices, Women

"A Virginia West Point cadet has made history by being the first black woman appointed to serve in the military school’s highest leadership position.

Simone Askew, a 20-year-old International History major from Fairfax, is currently in charge of leading 1,502 cadets as the Regimental Commander of Cadet Basic Training II at the New York military prep school. But soon, as West Point’s first captain, she will be leading more than 4,000 cadets.

The new title ― which is the highest position possible for a cadet ― will see her helping with class agendas and acting as an intermediary between her fellow cadets and administration officials, among other duties.

“It’s a great step for not only women, but African-American women, because it shows that no matter what your sex, or your race, you can really do anything,” her sister, Nina Askew, told NBC Washington. “There’s nothing that can hold you back.”"

Veterans, GI Bill

"He had already completed a year, using his GI Bill benefits to pay for tuition. But when the for-profit college abruptly shut down last September, Hutsky realized he had wasted the funds on credits that wouldn't count toward a degree.

But Hutsky could get his benefits back.

The Senate passed a bill Wednesday (August 2) that would restore GI Bill benefits to those affected by a school closure, like veterans at ITT Tech and Corinthian."

Voting Rights

"The League of Women Voters supports an amendment to the Florida Constitution that would restore voting rights to individuals with a felony conviction upon completion of all terms of their sentences, including parole or probation. Florida is one of very few states that revokes an individual’s right to vote upon conviction of a felony and does not automatically restore it.

The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that 1,686,000 Florida citizens are disenfranchised due to the current felony disenfranchisement provision in Florida’s Constitution. The result is that one in 10 Florida citizens, including more than one in five African-Americans, are deprived of their right to vote.

“In 2016, more people were disenfranchised in Florida than in any other state and Florida’s disenfranchisement rate remains highest among the 50 states,” according to a Sentencing Project report.

It’s time to correct this situation. An individual who has completed all of the terms of his sentence should be given a second chance to be a responsible member of his community, which should include the right to vote."

Personal Finance

"The latest Prosperity Now Scorecard highlights the fragile financial situation many American families face. One in five households experience significant income fluctuations, and 44% were not able to set aside any money to cover emergencies over the last 12 months. It’s not surprising, then, that many of these households are forced to tap long-term assets like retirement accounts to deal with income volatility and other short-term financial hardships. According to a 2013 report, one in four people with a defined contribution retirement plan will use all or some of their savings for nonretirement needs such as paying a bill, buying a home, dealing with a medical emergency, or sending a child to college.

So how can we help families cope with financial shocks and volatility while protecting their retirement accounts from being depleted prematurely? As we described in a recent brief, one exciting new idea to solve these interrelated problems is linking a short-term savings, or “sidecar,” account to a traditional retirement account."