Friday, August 25, 2017

Vacation Time

A Better Tomorrow Media's daily (Monday through Friday) round-up of positive stories will return on September 11.

I am traveling on vacation and will try to post some of my trip here. Travel can be a transformative experience, particularly when venturing out solo. Exploring new places, meeting new people, immersing oneself in a different environment are exciting and eye-opening, even if that environment is not so different than ours: I will be in Canada. 

Check in over the next two weeks. I hope to at least post some photos. 

À bientôt

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 24 Edition

Homelessness, Housing

JUDY WOODRUFF: Very small houses have become all the rage in recent years, as some people trade in their traditional lifestyles for an ostensibly simpler option: places that are less than 400 square feet. Well, today, there’s a twist. Tiny houses are being seen as a way to give homeless and low-income people the chance at homeownership.
Jeffrey Brown visited Detroit to find out more for our ongoing series on poverty and opportunity in America, “Chasing the Dream.”

JEFFREY BROWN: They may be tiny, but they have lofty goals: putting roofs over the heads of people who never dreamed they could own a home.
The idea for Detroit’s Tiny Home Project was born in an unlikely place — the floor of an old warehouse.

REV. FAITH FOWLER, Executive Director, CASS Community Social Services: People couldn’t imagine what 300 square foot would look like.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, could you?

REV. FAITH FOWLER: I couldn’t. (Laugh)

Environment, Regulations, Profit

“California has a long been on the leading edge of environmental policy. It all started because Los Angeles had such filthy air that, in 1947, after a lot of public outcry, the city formed its Air Pollution District—the first air quality agency in the US. (The US Clean Air Act didn’t pass for another 15 years!) Over the next several decades, California rolled out green building codes, efficient appliance standards, and cap and trade policies—all aimed at curbing pollution. All the while, the state made it easier for entrepreneurs to do business. This included actions like decoupling electricity sales from revenues, which forced more efficiency into the system. California also has healthy net metering caps, which allow rooftop solar panel owners sell more of their overstock electricity back into the grid.

The result of all this legislative tinkering: “California is the most energy efficient economy in the world, and least carbon intensive,” says Adam Fowler, a research manager at Beacon Economics, the firm that produced the Green Innovation Index at Next 10’s behest. And it pays. Fowler says that every $10,000 spent in California results in 55 percent less carbon dioxide than it would in the rest of the US. “We have a very clear time series showing that the decoupling of fossil fuel use from GDP is possible,” he says.”

Feel Good, Saving Animals

This story is from May 2015, but it showed up on my Twitter feed and made me smile, so I’m sharing it with you.

“A father and his 2-year-old daughter were treated for smoke inhalation at the Florida Hospital Flagler, Flagler Live reported.

The six dogs, which included two puppies, were rescued when Flagler County Sheriff's Deputy Steve Williams noticed the animals in the home.

Firefighter David Lawrence found the puppies had suffered smoke inhalation and carefully placed tiny oxygen masks up to the puppies' little noses.”

Disasters, Public Planning

“Direct flooding is only the most obvious way in which food access can be demolished during extreme weather. Food arrives in major metropolises every day, often via rail or road. When a storm’s debris clogs these arteries, the conditions can strand residents with limited food supplies, even in a sea of bodegas and convenience stores. Reserves run out quickly: as Kate Cox noted at The New Food Economy, at any given time, the contents of NYC’s food system can only provision residents for four or five days.

As urban centers stare down the threat of increasingly harsh lashings from extreme weather events, coalitions of researchers and city officials are working to answer a crucial question: What does a resilient food system look like?

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the Baltimore Office of Sustainability offer a number of answers in a new report focused on soothing shocks to the food system spurred by various emergencies, from storms to terrorist attacks, electrical outages, and pandemics. Storms could snarl road conditions and delay deliveries. In addition to laying waste to perishable or frozen food, power outages might prevent consumers from using EBT benefits or withdrawing cash to pay for purchases.

Incorporating food systems planning into urban resilience strategies “is a very new thing for many cities,” says Erin Biehl, the report’s lead author and the senior program coordinator in the CLF’s Food System Sustainability & Public Health program. (Boston was the first American city, in 2014, to plan for the repercussions disasters could wreak on the food system.) Plus, “there’s a lot of efforts right now to address future threats especially from climate change, in particular in coastal cities who might be seeing more frequent and intense storms,” Biehl adds. Later this year, Baltimore will fold some of the report’s suggestions into the next update to its comprehensive Disaster Preparedness Plan.”

Foreign Affairs

“Let’s start with democracies, which now come in many different shapes and styles and exist all over the planet. U.S. policymakers tend to spend most of their time focusing on trouble spots, and not worrying much about democracies, which they assume can take care of themselves. But such complacency is problematic. Democracies throughout the West are currently struggling with anti-Semitism and other forms of ugly sectarianism. Europe’s democracies have suffered an energy-sapping fiscal crisis, which the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU will make even more complicated. Countries aspiring to greater democracy, such as Ukraine, are now threatened by authoritarian neighbors, and others, such as Tunisia, are under assault by terrorist groups.

Finally, democracies everywhere are grappling with fundamental questions regarding immigration and national identity, which often involve tough decisions about how to balance security with individual liberty. All these tensions risk making democracies more authoritarian, as their anxious leaders curtail individual freedoms in their desperate attempts to hold things together.

Any new U.S. national security strategy should therefore start by looking for cooperative, not coercive, ways to shore up the world’s existing democracies. The United States can do this best by making the best use of its own example and showing how its democratic institutions promote prosperity, peace, and happiness. The better the United States does, the more its example will inspire other democracies to keep improving.

Authoritarian states represent today’s second major global power base. Like modern democracies, contemporary authoritarian states differ substantially from one another. And just as some democracies are starting to betray authoritarian tendencies, so some authoritarian nations have begun to democratize in certain spheres—by increasing participation in local governments, for example, as Vietnam has done.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 23 Edition

Literature, Democracy, Freedom

"In the opening chapter of his new book, Churchill & Orwell, Tom Ricks explains why he has picked these two great men for his subject: “In this period, when so many of their peers gave up democracy as a failure, neither man lost sight of the value of the individual in the world, and all that means: the right to dissent from the majority, the right even to be persistently wrong, the right to distrust the power of the majority.”

Ricks’ new book is not in the path of his normal line, which has involved an examination of the American military and, for the most part, its performance under the enormous pressures of combat. Instead, he has chosen to highlight two of the major literary figures of the 20th century, Winston Churchill and George Orwell. Churchill, of course, is famous as a statesman, but he also won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Orwell might well have won a Nobel Prize as well, but he died shortly after publication of his masterpiece, 1984.

The politics of the two men, not to mention their social backgrounds, could not have been more different. For much of his political life, Churchill stood with the Conservatives and he was a member of one of Britain’s great noble families. Orwell, on the other hand, stood on the left, and at times the far left, throughout his political career. He did attend Eton, but as a scholarship student. In his attitude toward class, he certainly regarded himself as anything but a member of Britain’s elite.

How does Ricks manage to bring Churchill and Orwell together, when they appear to be such poles apart? To many observers, their only apparent connection is they were both writers. But Ricks zeroes in on the fact that both were great defenders of human freedom, although Churchill perhaps less so when it came to the assorted peoples that populated the various overseas holdings of the great British Empire. But the crucial point here is that in the dark days of the 1930s and 1940s, when in every respect freedom was under massive assault from both the right and the left, the two men stood tall."

Women, Divorce, Justice

"Over the years, Muslim women in India have complained of living in perpetual fear of being thrown out of their matrimonial homes in a matter of seconds because a Muslim man, if he chooses, can end years of marriage just by saying the word "talaq" (divorce) three times.
A campaign to end the practice of unilateral instant "triple talaq" began in India several decades ago.

But it picked up steam last year when a 35-year-old mother-of-two approached the Supreme Court seeking justice.

Shayara Bano's petition, filed in February 2016, said she was visiting her parents' home in the northern state of Uttarakhand for medical treatment when she received her so-called talaqnama - a letter from her husband telling her that he was divorcing her.

Her attempts to reach her husband of 15 years, who lives in the city of Allahabad, were unsuccessful. She was also denied access to her children."

Personal Development, Integrity

"If you ask company executives to reveal their “core values,” integrity is always one of their first answers, says Joel C. Peterson, chairman of the board of JetBlue Airways and a Stanford University professor of management. The single most important ingredient to business success is trust, Peterson says, and trust starts with integrity.

Entrepreneur and angel investor Amy Rees Anderson borrows from C.S. Lewis’s famous quote, defining integrity as “doing the right thing all the time, even when no one is looking—especially when no one is looking.”

Anderson offers many examples of acting without integrity: CEOs who overstate their projected earnings because they don’t want to be replaced by their boards of directors. Competitors who lie to customers to seal a deal. Customer service reps covering up mistakes because they fear clients will leave. There’s no shortage of high-profile major lapses, too: Bernie Madoff’s long-standing operation of a Ponzi scheme considered to be the largest financial fraud in U.S. history, Michael Milken’s conviction for violating U.S. securities laws after being the one-time toast of Wall Street, and Major League Baseball star Alex Rodriguez’ use of performance-enhancing drugs.

“Do what is right; let the consequences follow.”

But what does a person acting with integrity look like? Positive examples may be harder to find. Anderson, who lectures on entrepreneurship at the University of Utah, believes “there aren’t enough of us saying that sometimes it’s better to lose than to lose your integrity.” A plaque in Anderson’s office reinforces her philosophy: “Do what is right; let the consequences follow.”"

Justice, Myths, Slavery

"As a scholar of slavery at the University of Texas at Austin, I welcome the public debates and connections the American people are making with history. However, they still have many misconceptions about slavery, as evidenced by the conflict at the University of Tennessee.

I’ve spent my career dispelling myths about “the peculiar institution.” The goal in my courses is not to victimize one group and celebrate another. Instead, we trace the history of slavery in all its forms to make sense of the origins of wealth inequality and the roots of discrimination today. The history of slavery provides vital context to contemporary conversations and counters the distorted facts, internet hoaxes and poor scholarship I caution my students against."

Family, Activities

"My family will tell you that when I see a bug in the house, I scream. So, when our friends suggested a camping trip along the Delaware Water Gap two years ago, it was not exactly a natural fit. But how could I say no to my then seven-year-old daughter, Lena, a city kid who was thrilled with the idea of sleeping in a tent and roasting S’mores around a campfire? Even my then three-year-old daughter Annika, usually averse to dirt and bugs, was game.

In the spirit of adventure, we packed the car and headed to a New Jersey campsite with a river view where, once in the woods, my kids magically transformed into wilder, more industrious versions of themselves. Lena, who typically protests when asked to set the table, eagerly hooked together tent poles and gathered kindling with a smile. Annika, meanwhile, let loose chasing fireflies (though still not quite touching them) with the older kids. The weekend went so well that we did it again the following summer. And the one after that.

As we approach our third annual camping trip, I realize we’ve made lots of rookie mistakes. We’ve mismanaged our food supply, forgotten essential clothes, and spent one night in a downpour inside a leaking tent. With this in mind, I asked the experts how they prep for a family camping trip."

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 22 Edition

Urban Farming, Innovation, Sustainability

"Amid the bustling streets of Newark sits one of the world’s most innovative vertical farms, pioneered by AeroFarms, Inc.

AeroFarms grows over two million pounds of leafy greens each year, making it the largest indoor vertical farm on the planet. The company aims to revolutionize how we feed the planet by using innovative technologies to grow healthy, nutritious food while using dramatically less energy.

A shuttered steel warehouse on Rome Street seems like an unlikely place to grow kale, red-leaf lettuce, and other greens. Yet AeroFarms is committed to breathing new life into old and unused industrial spaces."

Justice, International Criminal Court, Islamic State

"They make an unusual team. Amal Clooney is an Oxford-educated human-rights lawyer married to a film star. Nadia Murad was born in a poor Iraqi village and once aspired to become a teacher. Clooney is tall, dazzling and so recognisable that people walk up to her in the street and tell her they love her. Murad is small, shy and avoids eye contact. Yet among her people, the Yazidis, Murad is better known and more admired than any other woman on Earth. Murad is a symbol of survival for a minority threatened with extermination. She was once a slave of Islamic State (IS). And, almost alone among former prisoners of IS, she is willing to testify publicly and repeatedly about the terrible things the jihadists did to her. 

Clooney is Murad’s lawyer, and the two women are working to bring the leaders of IS before an international court for inflicting genocide on the Yazidis. The story of their campaign is an extraordinary one: a tale of pious savagery pitted against truth, law and the soft power of celebrity. 

It begins in August 2014, when Murad was a 21-year-old student. That month, IS fighters arrived in her village, Kocho, on the Nineveh plain. They were a terrifying mob, all of them heavily armed and many speaking languages that no one in Kocho understood. 

The jihadists saw Nadia and her neighbours as the worst sort of infidels. The Yazidi faith has no holy book, but draws on a mix of Mesopotamian traditions. Yazidis revere a peacock angel that temporarily fell from God’s grace; many Muslims regard this as devil-worship. 

Estimates of how many Yazidis there are range widely, from 70,000 to 500,000, mostly in Iraq but also in Syria and Germany. IS set out to reduce that number to zero, by forced conversion or Kalashnikov."

Employment, Giving Back

"For the first 24 years of his life, Chris Rickerson's future looked dim. He grew up in poverty, with a drug-addicted mother and drug demons of his own. Facing dire consequences, he turned his life around and, in 2013, started Elite Staffing Solutions, a Wichita, Kansas-based staffing company that lifts up people who are struggling as he once did."

--As told to Sheila Marikar

Democracy, Elections, Voting

"Too many Americans don’t realize that voter suppression works, and that it has a cumulative, destructive effect on our democracy that builds with every election.

Think about the Americans who have been denied the right to vote in recent elections. The Ohioans who, in 2004, took hours off work and waited in line to vote, but had to leave before getting a chance to cast a ballot. The Texas students turned away from voting even though they brought a state-issued university ID as proof of identification. The black churchgoers in North Carolina who used to vote the Sunday before Election Day — until Sunday voting was eliminated in counties across the state. The Wisconsin voter in 2016 who brought three forms of ID to vote but was still turned away from the polls because she didn’t have a driver’s license.

Can anyone blame these voters for thinking the democratic process doesn’t include them?

These real examples happen in state after state, in election after election, and over time they make elected officials less accountable to the people they represent. These experiences increase Americans’ apathy toward the democratic process while decreasing their trust in the results of that process. They harm our credibility in the world by leading other nations to question the legitimacy of our elections.

We have a few ideas about how to fight back."

Travel, Vacation Deals

"America has a vacation problem. Or a not-taking-vacation problem, to be more precise. Last year, U.S. workers left an astounding 662 million vacation days unused, according to a report by Project: Time Off. In response, T+L has launched Operation Vacation, making it our mission to encourage everyone to use their much-needed vacation days to get away and recharge. As incentive, we're offering more than 50 exclusive deals on flights, hotels, cruises, vacation packages, and more to help your budget go a lot further. The time to book your next hard-earned getaway is now."

Monday, August 21, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - August 21 Edition

Communities, Economic Development, Wellness 

Work is underway on creating more than 30 miles of multi-use trail across parts of the Tri-State. 
Crews just finished a portion of the path from Anderson Road to the Victoria National Golf Course subdivision.

The project is broken into six segments. The trail will eventually be about 30 miles long and stretch from Boonville to Vanderburgh County. 

It will also help connect schools, parks, and businesses in the area. 

"We're focusing on healthy living for our residents," Warrick Wellness Pathways President Howard Nevins said. "It's also in conjunction with economic development the people want to move to our area. Most want healthy living and healthy lifestyles, and it's a big attraction for people to move to Southern Indiana and for employers to get employees it's a good recruitment tool."

Small Towns, Tourism 

Here in Ohio, we know small towns are cool.

In fact, we’re home to what just might be the coolest small town in the Midwest. As a quaint college town full of color, plenty of things to do in nature and even a mobile “tiny home” or two, there’s truly nowhere else in Ohio—or the Midwest—quite like Yellow Springs. If you’ve yet to visit this gem of a town, you need to add it to your bucket list. Take a look:

Tucked away in southwest Ohio you'll find Ohio's most charming and unique town, where the benches are a work of art and the buildings are full of character—inside and out.

Environment, Green Initiatives

Separately, Commissioner Harvey Ward proposed Thursday to establish a “Green Ribbon Panel,” similar to the city’s Blue Ribbon Panel. Commissioners voted unanimously to send the idea to the city’s general policy committee, which is made up of commissioners.

Ward said he would like to have commissioners appoint experts to the panel to study how the city could become more environmentally friendly. Ward mentioned recycling, waste reduction, reducing carbon emissions and water conservation as potential starting points for the committee, which would include the city’s transit service and utility.

“I don’t want to claim to have the answers by any means, but there are experts that have the answers,” he said.

Community, Refugees, Immigrants


It was Saturday in suburbia, and a group of Syrian, Iraqi and American teens were at the local library when they decided to go to the field out back to play a little soccer. On the way, a Syrian boy asked an American girl if she wanted to be on his team.

She said yes.

That’s how it went, all summer long, in a respite from the religious violence and political turmoil roiling their young worlds. A group of American teenagers from the Maplewood and South Orange suburbs of North Jersey spent the summer hanging out with newly resettled refugee teenagers from Syria and Iraq, now living in the area around urban Elizabeth, NJ.

Travel, Weekends

Who says every trip you take has to be a big one? Two days can feel like two weeks if you plan them right. It’s easier than you think to maximize your travel opportunities by giving your weekends the credit they deserve. Here are ten ways to make a weekend getaway feel like a vacation.

1. Limit your transportation time 
You want to get to your destination with alacrity—not with anxiety! Leave early to avoid traffic, or choose a destination close to home. If you just can’t resist traveling farther, consider planning an overnight on the way. If you’re flying, don’t waste more time in an airport than you need to—make sure you have security pre-check.

2. Extend your stay, even by a little bit 

Squeeze as much extra time out of your weekend getaway as you can. Leave Thursday night, if possible, or early on Friday. Getting to your destination before dinner on Friday can make all the difference. (And getting home late on Sunday can be totally worth it, too.)

Click HERE to read more.