Friday, September 15, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - September 15 Edition


“It’s important to remember that good things can sometimes be born of tragedy, especially at a time when so many Americans are dealing with so much adversity. Storms in the South. Wildfires in the West. A nationwide opioid epidemic. And of course, Monday was the 16th anniversary of 9/11.

On that day, Victor Saracini, 51, was the captain of United Flight 175, the airplane that hijackers directed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Inside that building, on the 84th floor, Patrick McGuire, 40, was working at Euro Brokers Inc. His plan to evacuate had been interrupted by an announcement that the situation was under control.

Each man left behind a wife and children — the Saracinis have two daughters, the McGuires have two sons and two daughters. On Sept. 9, Victor Saracini’s younger daughter, Brielle, and Patrick’s McGuire’s older son, Sean, wed in Austin, Texas, in front of a gathering that included their mothers, Ellen Saracini and Danielle McGuire. It’s the second wedding this summer for the Saracinis. Brielle’s sister, Kirsten, was married in June. Ellen Saracini said she is certain that Victor, whom she describes as a “real participating father,” would have been thrilled with their daughters’ choices.”

Hurricane Irma, Pets

“Between 800 and 900 dogs — and a handful of cats — became guests of the Hyatt Regency Orlando on International Drive this weekend after hundreds of Hurricane Irma evacuees headed here from other parts of the state.

“We’re always dog-friendly,” hotel manager Kevin Kennedy said on Saturday night.
Marcus Newton and his daughter Adison, 11, from Vero Beach planned this trip to Orlando nearly two months ago and decided to keep the reservation as an evacuation plan.

“I couldn’t imagine leaving them in a shelter,” said Adison, referring to their two dogs Reagan and Riley.

Mia Gallow drove up from Naples on Wednesday with her golden retriever Scout to avoid the storm.

“I’m actually from California, so I’m used to earthquakes and fires,” Gallow said. “This is my first hurricane.”

Gallow said she was surprised how many dogs you can spot in the lobby at any given time.”

Wellness, Health

“If you’ve visited a health website in the past five or so years, you know that sitting is the new smoking. Now, there’s more data to add to the pile of research showing that excessive sitting is hazardous to your health: a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who sat for longer uninterrupted periods of time had an increased likelihood of dying over the course of the study. But on a more hopeful note, the study suggested that getting up at least every half hour could help.

Excessive sitting has been linked to everything from increased risk of obesity and depression to heart disease, as Clifton Leaf pointed out in Tuesday’s Fortune Brainstorm Health newsletter. This new study comes from researchers at institutions including Weill Cornell Medical Center, University of Michigan and Columbia University Medical Center.”

Health Care, Insurance

“Coming less than two months after progressives and America’s families won a huge victory by preventing GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to decimate Medicaid, the bill marks a new, less defensive Democratic position. Vigilance and unity are still needed to protect against attempts to undermine recent historic health improvements. But this bill aggressively advances the debate over how best to advance the progressive goal of achieving high-quality, affordable health care for everyone.

Maybe we should hit pause before we get on this bandwagon. The overriding goal among progressives is to ensure that health care becomes a basic human right — truly and affordably available for all, irrespective of income, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, and geography.

But there are several paths to universal health care coverage. Single-payer can be one of them — but it isn’t the only one. Indeed, many countries have reached the goal using methodologies other than single-payer, including varying blends of public and private coverage.
Too many progressives and others fail to distinguish between “universal coverage” and “single-payer.” The terms are used interchangeably in private conversations and in the national arena.”


“This was where I was a year ago: aware that I was ruining my trip, but unable to stop myself from doing it. Now that I’ve had time to process — and thanks to Jaime Kurtz, Ph.D., and her book "The Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations" — I can see quite a few factors that contributed to my guilt-laden discontent in Paris. For me and anyone else who’s ever found solo travel wrought with burden and shame as opposed to the wonder and delight they were promised, I’ve laid out my mistakes and how I plan to prevent or work through them, with help from Kurtz, on my next solo trip.”

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - September 14 Edition

Foreign Aid

"Today, few would write off Africa—or developing nations on any continent—as hopeless. Instead, the health of the developing world has been very much a story of hope. Since 2000, new malaria infections have halved in sub-Saharan Africa. Child mortality and AIDS deaths have fallen precipitously. Between the 1870s and the 1970s, famines killed about a million people per year around the world. Since 1980, that number has gone down to an average of about 75,000 annually. (Indeed, in 2011 even The Economist took note, publishing a new cover story titled “Africa Rising.”)

In a new report from their foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates write that it’s this type of progress that could be reversed if funding for global health is cut—including by the U.S. government.

President Trump’s budget proposal, released in May, recommended slashing global health funding by 26 percent and humanitarian funding by 44 percent, or $4.2 billion. It eliminated global family planning. The proposal will likely be watered down by Congress this fall, but global-health advocates are nonetheless worried that even minor cuts could have massive, and tragic, effects.ould be reversed if funding for global health is cut—including by the U.S. government."

Productivity, Commuting

"In America, the average commute is 26.4 minutes, up 21% from 1980, while commuters in London and Manchester spend about 85 minutes a day getting to and from work.

The rising cost of living in major cities like New York, London and Beijing has forced many people out into the suburbs and surrounding areas, giving them little choice but to commute long distances to the office each day. In Beijing the average commute is about an hour.

Rather than staring at our phones, we could use that time to upgrade our skills, start new companies, learn new languages and more."

Economic Development, Appalachia

"The Appalachian region has long faced daunting challenges of poverty and geographic isolation. Today, despite state and federal anti-poverty efforts dating back to the Johnson and Kennedy administrations, many of the region’s residents continue to be vulnerable to the effects of persistent economic deprivation. In recent decades, declines in coal production and traditional manufacturing, once the region’s backbone industries, have contributed to stubbornly high levels of unemployment and poverty—with serious ripple effects on people’s health and well-being. Because a larger share of Appalachia’s population lives in rural communities—over 40 percent, compared to 20 percent for the nation as a whole—the region has been particularly hard hit by problems, from opioid abuse to low educational attainment and youth out-migration, that are affecting rural areas across the United States.

Appalachia confronts these challenges with unique strengths and resources. As coal production has declined and other traditional manufacturing jobs have left the region, natural gas development has grown, and major auto plants and other state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities have moved in. Community and family bonds are strong, as is the region’s tradition of hard work and self-reliance. And Appalachia abounds with examples of success as well as hardship: communities that are successfully re-inventing themselves and attracting new business investment; programs that are achieving promising results; and individual citizens and local leaders who, despite formidable obstacles and limited resources, are making a difference. Now as in the past, Appalachia commands attention as a region that is both disproportionately affected by the negative consequences of recent social and economic disruptions, and uniquely positioned to demonstrate how these consequences might be addressed more creatively and effectively going forward.

The task force gathered leading regional and national experts to explore critical issues in four areas: education and workforce, entrepreneurship and job creation, energy and infrastructure, and rural health."

Infrastructure, Climate Change, Environment

"The challenge in prompting change — broadening the classic definition of “infrastructure,” and investing in initiatives aimed at adapting to a turbulent planet — is heightened by partisan divisions over climate policy and development.

Of course, there’s also the question of money. The country’s infrastructure is ailing already. A national civil engineering group has surveyed the nation’s bridges, roads, dams, transit systems and more and awarded a string of D or D+ grades since 1998. The same group has estimated that the country will be several trillion dollars short of what’s needed to harden and rebuild and modernize our infrastructure over the next decade.

For fresh or underappreciated ideas, ProPublica reached out to a handful of engineers, economists and policy analysts focused on reducing risk on a fast-changing planet."

Women, Politics

(From December 2016)

Amy Klobuchar is my #1 pick too.

"Here is a New Year's resolution for Democratic women in politics: be at least as brazen as Republican men are in deciding whether to run for President. It's not just that Donald Trump had no record of public service and a long list of what might be considered disqualifying attributes and actions. Ben Carson had no experience in elected office, and other candidates had very little. Marco Rubio was greeted as the future of the Party when he decided to run just two-thirds of the way through his first term. That was only two years’ more experience in the Senate than Ted Cruz, one of the final contenders, had. In 2017, there will be a dozen Democratic female senators with more experience. And why limit it to the Senate, or to any particular level of elective office? Women, in all professions, tend to feel that they need to make their résumés perfect before putting themselves forward. Maybe they should stop thinking that way, at least in American politics, where insiderness does not seem to be particularly valued at the moment. Here's another test to think of before asking whether a woman is enough of a national figure to jump into the Presidential race: How well known was the state senator Barack Obama in 2004?"

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - September 13 Edition

Women, Afghanistan

"The young women of Sahar Speaks can tell Trump what the U.S. has been doing in their country for most of their lives. Trillions of dollars of U.S. taxpayers’ money has been spent, mostly on supplying U.S. troops and training a large Afghan army and police force. Billions of dollars of aid money was notoriously misspent. Civilian deaths are at their highest in 16 years, and Afghan troops are being killed in ever-greater numbers. Islamic State has made inroads. The current unity government led by President Ashraf Ghani is incredibly weak: as of the start of this year, the Taliban controls almost half of the country. 

Many of the women also benefited from U.S. intervention. They learned English at American-funded institutions and were given the opportunity to attend university, despite their gender. They were encouraged. They enjoyed some semblance of civil society. They were given a glimpse ― albeit some would say fleetingly ― of what it looks like to live in a world where women have more rights.

But now, where once there was hope, there is a vacuum. The young women of contemporary Afghanistan live under the long shadow of a void, of what was meant to be a better life. This is reflected in their stories, which are told with a mixture of poignancy and urgency, a reaction to what many see as a broken promise."    


"MOSCOW — Since the waning days of Bill Clinton’s presidency, Svetlana has walked the dogs of American diplomats in Moscow.

The 52-year-old Russian is not a U.S. Embassy employee but has come to this work through recommendations by American pet devotees, lovingly passed down by word of mouth through the years. Svetlana, who gave only her first name, doesn’t remember how many dogs she’s looked after. “It’s definitely under 100,” she says, pushing her oval glasses up the bridge of her nose. “But more than 60.”

Soft-spoken and extremely affable, with her charcoal-colored hair pulled back into a loose ponytail, Svetlana never set out to work for foreign diplomats. But what started out as a side job to earn a bit of cash while raising her children has become her life. She doesn’t speak any English, only Russian, but “language doesn’t matter,” she tells me. “Dogs are like babies. They automatically know when someone is a good person.”"

Hurricane Harvey, Kindness

I desperately wanted to replace that broken cup. The world is a broken place, but also a place of great strength, dignity, and personal courage. That’s what I wanted to honor. Also, I figured that the cups could also be from her mother, just a long way around, hopping a few decades in the journey.”

Women, Football

"Beth Mowins took the microphone in the broadcast booth for the Monday Night Football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Denver Broncos and became the first woman to call an NFL game in 30 years.

She dreamed of that moment her whole life, from her days as a young girl in Syracuse, New York, broadcasting neighborhood kickball games into a toy microphone and then later calling high school games as a teenager. The last woman to call an NFL game was Gayle Sierens in 1987, and when Mowins was a kid, her dad cut out a photo of Sierens from a newspaper and gave it to his daughter.

She thought then, “I can do it, too,” she told CNN recently.

She was right."

Impact Investing, Economics, Finance

"INVESTORS might be expected to run a mile from a deal on offer in a conflict-torn part of Africa. At best, it will pay an annual return of 7%; at worst, 40% of the original investment is lost. But a dozen social investors have pooled SFr26m ($27m) to finance the world’s first “humanitarian impact bond”, issued by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). It will pay for three rehabilitation centres to be built and run in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Nigeria.

The ICRC’s obligations are backed by “outcome funders”, ie, donors, mostly governments. The bond is an example of “impact investing”, in which private investors seek out social and financial returns, and of “blended finance”, in which public funds help them to do so. Variants have included a bond aimed at educating girls in India and a World Bank-led initiative to raise money to respond to pandemics. The novelty in the ICRC’s bond is that the money raised will be used in conflict zones.

Of the 90m disabled people in the world in need of a mobility aid, the ICRC estimates only 10% have access to adequate rehabilitation. So centres that make wheelchairs, crutches and prostheses, and train people to use them, can have a big impact. The ICRC helps build and run such centres all over the world. But its budgets are set on an annual basis, and it has been hard to plan ahead. Bond markets can help."

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - September 12 Edition

Voter Registration, Elections

Automatic voter registration, a new reform that will modernize voter registration and dramatically increase registration rates, is gaining momentum around the country. Ten states and the District of Columbia have already approved the policy. So far in 2017, 32 states have introduced legislation to implement or expand automatic registration (and one more state has an AVR bill that carried over from 2016). A full breakdown of these bills, as well as those introduced in 2015 and 2016, is available below.

Automatic voter registration makes two transformative, yet simple, changes to voter registration: Eligible citizens who interact with government agencies are registered to vote unless they decline, and agencies transfer voter registration information electronically to election officials. These two changes create a seamless process that is more convenient and less error-prone for both voters and government officials. This policy boosts registration rates, cleans up the rolls, makes voting more convenient, and reduces the potential for voter fraud, all while lowering costs.

Arts, Technology, Personal Development

Think of the most artistic people you know. Now, call to mind the geeks in your circles--engineers, programmers and IT pros. The two camps are polar opposites, right?
Not so fast. People with a background in music, theatre and art are actually well suited for technical careers. That's according to Jacob Smith, head of engagement and cofounder of Packet, a NYC tech company that provides cloud infrastructure for developers and large enterprises. A professional bassoonist by training, he played with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and various opera companies before cofounding Packet in 2014. Here are his words on why artistic training helps kids grow into adults who rock at technology.

1. The best artists are disciplined.
An arts training helps build people that are self-driven, self-motivated, and are constantly searching for ways to improve and stretch. This is essential for tech innovation, where (just like in the Arts), perfection is an unobtainable goal that you strive for while racing for that new discovery around the next corner.

Food, Economy, Communities

Despite being an area rich in agricultural knowledge, Letcher County is ranked nearly the lowest in Kentucky for overall health factors and outcomes, including access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and resources are scarce to help feed young people and seniors. The local meal program for seniors has been cut back so far that for years meals have been mailed to seniors from the closest well-funded hub—in Iowa.

A new partnership between Mountain Comprehensive Health Corp., a local hospital, and the Community Farm Alliance, a grassroots organization that supports independent farmers, is helping remedy that. Community Agricultural Nutrition Enterprises is a project that supports the livelihoods of local farmers, increases access to fresh healthy food, and improves health outcomes for Letcher and surrounding counties.

The intent is for CANE to become a full-fledged community hub for nutrition, health, and wellness, with a community kitchen, preschool day care, and medical providers all under one roof—and it’s already well on its way.

Inspiration, Hurricane Harvey, Heroes

(Video included)

During the height of the flooding in the Houston area caused by Hurricane Harvey, the Coast Guard and Texas Children’s Hospital coordinated “mission impossible,” a plan to rescue 33 children with kidney failure who were stranded throughout southeast Texas.

They needed immediate transport to the hospital for dialysis; without it, they might die.

Zaiden lives in Bryan, Texas, about 100 miles from the hospital where he receives treatment four times a week. Gardner, alongside three other Coast Guard personnel, planned and executed the boy’s rescue by Blackhawk helicopter last Tuesday, Aug. 29. 

By Wednesday morning, all 33 children in need had made it safely to dialysis units at Texas Children’s Hospital and neighboring Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, thanks to the daring mission.


Domestic airports will be packed this holiday weekend. U.S. airlines expect 16.1 million passengers to take to the skies over Labor Day—a 5 percent increase over last year—at the same time as airlines work to reroute travelers impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The one upside: Fun, new amenities at airports across the country can make the journey more enjoyable once you're through security. If you’re traveling through one of these hubs this weekend, look for these new perks.