Friday, September 22, 2017

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

Natural Disasters, Infrastructure, Preparation, Funding

“First, there is a better way to handle disasters than appropriating money for relief after each catastrophe. In a previous era of politics, this wouldn’t be a problem, but conditions are such that any “must pass bill” like funding for the victims of hurricanes creates opportunities for partisan irresponsibility in Congress. It’s true that the federal government has a spending and debt problem, but that issue should be completely separate from helping people who just lost their homes, livelihoods or worse.

Instead, Congress, in consultation with state and local government, should create a national strategy for disaster relief and prevention including funding replenished each year through predictable sources. Democrats, in the past, have proposed taxing carbon energy producers and other polluters. Obviously this solution does not appeal to most Republicans. But perhaps, as we enjoy a brief moment of bipartisanship after storms that tore down the homes of Democrats and Republicans alike, Congress can find a mix of revenue streams to create such a fund in a bipartisan way.

Second, those moneys shouldn’t be used exclusively for emergency relief, which is obviously critical. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Of course you can’t prevent a hurricane or an earthquake, but you can help communities likely to be affected by natural disasters better prepare to handle them. By investing in infrastructure improvements in vulnerable areas, we can prevent the worst effects of natural disasters.”


““After the last election, there were a lot of people who felt their votes aren’t being counted due to the two-party system,” says Cindy Black. “People were like, what are the (other) possibilities?”

Black, executive director of the Seattle-based nonprofit Fix Democracy First, is now heading up an effort to answer that question: A Seattle charter amendment that would shift the city to a ranked-choice balloting system.

The system, used in 13 cities across the United States including San Francisco and Minneapolis, asks voters to rank their preference of candidates, rather than casting a vote for a single candidate. Ideally, the system takes away the threat of a minor candidates acting as a spoiler, empowering voters to cast their ballots for candidates they most agree with without worrying about electability. For example, in this year’s mayoral primary, had a voter been 100 percent on board with Dave Kane’s campaign, but seen Jessyn Farrell as the most palatable of the “top six” candidates, they could have put Kane as their No. 1 choice and Farrell as No. 2 and continued ranking down the rest of the 21 candidates. If no candidate got more than half of all No. 1 votes in the first round of counting, then the candidate with the fewest No. 1 votes (Dave Kane) would be eliminated and the No. 2 choice on those eliminated ballots would be added to the totals of the remaining candidates (in the case of our hypothetical voter, that vote would transfer to Jessyn Farrell), and so on (go here for a more detailed explanation.)”

Inspiration, Women

“At an event for first-year law students at Georgetown University, Ginsburg reflected on her years working on women’s rights cases, with several of the selected student questions centering on issues facing women in the law.

When asked why she built her legal career around issues of gender equality, she rephrased the question.

“You mean, how did I decide to become a flaming feminist litigator?” she said, to laughter.

Saying that it was “exhilarating” to see women making up the majority of students in Georgetown’s incoming law class, Ginsburg recounted that there were only nine women in her class at Harvard Law School, and that there were few, if any, anti-discrimination laws when she was entering the profession.

“Employers were up front about wanting no, quote, lady lawyers,” she said. “The main difference is all the closed doors are now open. There is nothing that a woman can’t do in the law.”

While “overt barriers” no longer exist, she said, women now face challenges that are harder to detect.”

The Brain, Mind, Body, Spirit

“Americans are taking in five times as much information each day this year than they did in 1987 — a stunning and impossible-to-process 35 gigabytes of information during our leisure time in just one day, said Levitin. “That’s a huge cognitive burden, and it leads to a sense of fatigue.”

Multitasking, the typical response to this firehose of information, doesn’t work, Levitin explained. The science is very clear: The human brain pays attention to each thing separately, shifting back and forth as necessary.

“We’re fracturing our attention into little bitty pieces and never paying full attention to one thing,” he said. “On every measure, we might think we’re getting more done, but on every measure we’re doing worse.””

DACA, Immigration

“PROVIDENCE, RI – Gov. Gina Raimondo said she and a number of philanthropic organizations have raised $170,000 to cover the renewal fee for all Rhode Island residents who are eligible to renew their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump rescinded protection for young adults who came to the United States as children but have now applied to legally work and attend college here. There are 1,200 so-called “Dreamers” in Rhode Island and approximately 250 are eligible to renew their DACA status but they have to act quickly.

Recipients whose work permits expire before March 5 must submit their renewal applications no later than Oct. 3. They must be received by Oct. 5. This money is for those young adults.

“This is a human issue,” Raimondo told a gathering of like-minded individuals.”

Thursday, September 21, 2017

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

Foreign Aid, Refugees

“The United States will contribute nearly $32 million in humanitarian aid to help Rohingya Muslim refugees, the State Department said Wednesday, in the Trump administration’s first major response to the mass exodus from Myanmar.

The new money for food, medical care, water, sanitation and shelter comes as the U.S. joins a growing chorus of international condemnation over the minority group’s plight. In less than a month, some 421,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries, as the United Nations and others raise allegations of ethnic cleansing.

The U.S. said the new money makes up roughly one-fourth of what global aid groups say they need to address the humanitarian crisis, with the expectation that the rest of the world will make up the remaining three-quarters. Over time, the overall cost will probably run into many hundreds of millions, said Eric Schwartz, the president of Refugees International.

“I’ve been doing this work for 30 years,” Schwartz said by phone as he flew back from Bangladesh. “This is as bad as anything I’ve ever seen in terms of the human mystery that the Burmese military has created.””

Inspiration, Science, Kindness

(Read or Listen)

“Sophia Spencer, 8, loves bugs — especially grasshoppers. She's an expert on insects, and likes to give her littlest friends an occasional ride on her shoulder.

That used to earn her mockery from her peers. But now it's earned her a massive outpouring of support — and a byline in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

Everything changed after Sophia's mom, Nicole Spencer, reached out to scientists for support last year.

She wrote to the Entomological Society of Canada and explained the dilemma. Her daughter wanted to know if she could learn more about bugs as a job, but her mom wasn't sure how to encourage her. And she wanted to reassure her that her entomological enthusiasm wasn't weird.

Mission accomplished. The organization tweeted out the appeal, with the hashtag #BugsR4Girls, and hundreds of people responded with encouragement. Scores of working entomologists reached out to share their stories. And Sophia joined forces with Morgan Jackson, the entomology Ph.D. candidate who wrote that tweet, to write a paper about the role Twitter can serve in promoting women in science.”

Women, Military
From March 2017:

“The US military is the largest employer in the world, but only about 15% of its nearly 1.3 million active-duty workforce are women. In the Marine Corps, it’s only about 7%.

The small numbers are a very big problem.

The latest US military scandal is shocking in its both scale and the level of malice: Hundreds of current and former Marines posted and commented on nude and sexually suggestive photos of female colleagues in a 30,000-member, private Facebook group.

Online harassment, not limited to the Marine Corps, is only one of the problems the US military struggles with to make the armed forces a suitable workplace for women. And while there are a number of critical steps to take toward true integration, the military needs, first and foremost, more women.

The military is slowly moving to draw them into more combat jobs. The Army also wants to increase the number of female recruiters by 1% per year. Neller’s initiative to recruit more women focuses on high-school athletes. His stated goal is modest—increasing female ranks to 10%. Even that is proving difficult. It’s been twice as hard to find women recruits.”

Disaster Relief, Mexico

“A devastating 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck near Mexico City on Tuesday, killing at least 139 people.

With power and phone lines down, people are having trouble getting in touch with loved ones. To make matters more stressful, the country was already recovering from an earthquake that hit less than two weeks ago.

Instead of feeling hopeless in the face of the destruction, here's how you can help earthquake victims. 

Donate what you can

Organizations like UNICEF Mexico are looking for monetary donations. 
There's a big need for clothes, water, and food. Giving to places like the Red Cross MexicoOxfam Mexico, and Save the Children Mexico is a way to get resources flowing. Smaller nonprofits like Project Paz are also collecting donations for earthquake relief.

A rescue brigade, Topos Mexico, was huge part of efforts back in 1985 and is hard at work with the latest earthquakes and taking donations.”

Cancer, Coping

“Sometime, during my cancer trial, I began to believe the lies cancer told me. Lies like, “You’re not good enough. You’re no longer a real woman. Your life is over.” Those words wormed their way into my heart and mind, taking up residence there. They would surface whenever I let my guard down. At first, I didn’t recognize the damage they were doing. I found myself saying, “I can’t” more often. I used my health issues as an excuse to get out of doing things I would normally do. But as I found myself speaking negatively more often, I realized something had to change. I needed to learn to discern fact from fiction.

By encouraging myself with positive self-talk, I found, like the little engine that could, that tasks were easier to complete. At first, I felt silly being my own cheerleader, but even when I didn’t speak the words aloud, my thoughts gradually shifted from negative to positive ones. If I needed to accomplish a task for which I didn’t have the strength or energy, I’d tell myself I’d try. Sometimes I’d attempt a task multiple times before it was complete, but if I persisted, I usually succeeded. Whenever I managed to get the job done, I’d compliment myself by saying something like, “See, you did it!” or “Slow and steady wins the race.” I was happier because even though my physical limitations were real, the power of positive thinking helped me a great deal.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - September 19 Edition

Well-Being, Travel

"If you talk to Wallace J. Nichols, Ph.D., a marine biologist and the author of Blue Mind, a book about the physical and psychological benefits of water, for long enough, he’ll eventually ask you what your water is. And as it turns out, nearly everyone has an answer.

Since humans started exploring the planet, we’ve followed the water. Crossing oceans gave way to new discoveries and changed the course of history; chasing rivers opened our horizons. As travelers, we seek waterways on vacation, driving new coastlines in search of wild surf spots. We return to familiar "blue spaces" we grew up around. Month after month, water graces the covers of travel magazines like ours.

The immeasurable sense of peace that we feel around water is what Nichols calls our "blue mind"—a chance to escape the hyper-connected, over-stimulated state of modern day life, in favor of a rare moment of solitude. Research has long found that humans are pulled toward Mother Nature’s blue for, in part, its restorative benefits. Take the Victorians for example: Doctors in that era prescribed “sea air” as a cure for all sorts of issues, from pulmonary complications to mental health conditions."

Aging, Physical Fitness, Inspiration

(Read or watch the interview)

JULIA GRIFFIN: At age 72, not only is Leightley a competitive powerlifter; she’s a record- setting one at that.

LINDA LEIGHTLEY: I have set several world records, which I’m really proud of.

JULIA GRIFFIN: Leightley competes in 100% RAW, a worldwide powerlifting organization that emphasizes clean, steroid-free competitions.
Since 2014, she’s garnered 12 world records in her age and weight categories; 132-pound Leightley can dead-lift 273 pounds.

But she wasn’t always so in shape. In 2006, after years of shuttling three children and six grandchildren to their athletic activities, she finally got her own itch to work out.

LINDA LEIGHTLEY: I was 60, and I was very sluggish. And I said, you know, I really need to do something for me.

Middle East, Girls, Leadership

"The war has taken its toll on my country, however, I am thankful it hasn't affected me in person," she says.

"Instead, it's made me stronger and helped me realise what I want to do in life. I know now that studying is the key to everything.

"Girl Guides has helped me no end and it's one of the reasons I consider myself successful.

"I am a part of the efforts of rebuilding Syria because I am a leader in the Scout movement."

Wall Street, Regulations

“There is another stark similarity between the 1987 and 2008 crises. In both cases, those warnings about fundamentally new market risks and a fragmented regulatory system were largely ignored. The current mechanisms for policing financial risk actually give regulators even less latitude for improvised emergency measures than they previously had, thanks to provisions of 2010’s Dodd-Frank legislation aimed at deterring financial “bailouts” during a meltdown.

In 1987, the financial situation truly was “different this time,” and it remains different three decades later. But while high-speed trading and social media mean the market can respond to panic rapidly, regulators can’t respond much faster than they could three decades ago. Bank regulators, market regulators, and insurance regulators still operate largely as separate fiefdoms; there is no single agency with the comprehensive view the Brady Commission recommended after Black Monday.

Why were so few safeguards put in place between 1987 and 2008, and even after 2008? The status quo always has many defenders, of course.” 

Personal Development

Developing mental strength takes a conscious effort, dedication and daily practice. Start with these 10 exercises to work out your mental muscles.”

Monday, September 18, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a better Tomorrow - September 18 Edition

History, War

“Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s ten-part, 18-hour documentary series, THE VIETNAM WAR, tells the epic story of one of the most consequential, divisive, and controversial events in American history as it has never before been told on film. Visceral and immersive, the series explores the human dimensions of the war through revelatory testimony of nearly 80 witnesses from all sides—Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as combatants and civilians from North and South Vietnam. Ten years in the making, the series includes rarely seen and digitally re-mastered archival footage from sources around the globe, photographs taken by some of the most celebrated photojournalists of the 20th Century, historic television broadcasts, evocative home movies, and secret audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations. THE VIETNAM WAR features more than 100 iconic musical recordings from greatest artists of the era and haunting original music from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross as well as the Silk Road Ensemble featuring Yo-Yo Ma

The second part airs tonight on PBS. The first episode aired last night, September 17. You can view it and the entire series online HERE

Job Retraining, Education, Coal Mining

(Read or watch the entire interview.)

HARI SREENIVASAN: Brandon Dennison grew up in Appalachia, but left to study social entrepreneurship. After earning his master’s, he returned to retrain displaced workers.

BRANDON DENNISON: The moral arguments, I’m not interested in on coal, but it’s like investing your money. You never put it all in one investment account. You spread it out, you diversify.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In 2010, Dennison formed a nonprofit called the Coalfield Development Corporation. With financial support from the Appalachian regional commission, the nonprofit launched new businesses that Dennison believes will generate sustainable jobs, everything from furniture making and solar installation, to home building and agriculture.

BRANDON DENNISON: What we need is a diversified economy, with lots of different businesses and lots of different opportunities for all different types of people.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Coalfield crew members are paid $11 an hour and given 33 work hours per week, an amount that doesn’t come close to their former coal job wages. They must also attend three hours of life skill classes, and six hours of community college. Money to pay crew members comes from sales, contracts, and private and public funders.

BRANDON DENNISON: We are not just creating a job for these folks, many of whom still need a lot of job training, but we’re also enrolling them in the local community college. And then we’re providing three hours a week of personal development to figure out how business works and to be successful.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Chris Farley is now an honors student working toward his associates degree in applied science and agriculture.

CHRIS FARLEY: I can still pay my bills. I’m getting an education that I would never thought I would get. I never thought I would be in school. I never thought — never dreamed I would have a 4.0 GPA.

Entertainment, Music

Dame Judi Dench knows how to spit some hot bars.

The Academy Award-winning actress can now add rapping to her repertoire after she joined British grime star Lethal Bizzle for a lyrical lesson.

In video that LADBible shared online, the 82-year-old learned some of the words to his hit tracks “Celebrate” and “Pow.” The “Victoria and Abdul” star then helped the 33-year-old London-based musician perform both of the songs.”

Economics, Education

The CORE initiative was mentioned on the Marketplace Morning Report today (go to their website to listen to the podcast). It is a free program designed to teach economics in a more accessible and understandable way, using narrative and applying it to real-life situations rather than in the abstract. CORE is an international collaboration of experts in the field—scholars, researchers, teachers.

"CORE is an open-access, interactive ebook-based course for anyone interested in learning about the economy and economics.

CORE is a question-motivated way to learn the tools of economics.

CORE is based on recent developments in economics and other social sciences.

CORE is a community of learners and teachers collaborating to make economics accessible and relevant to today’s problems. Join us."

Please click on the link above to learn more.

Learning, Technology, Excel

“You'll be hard-pressed to find an office that doesn't use Excel for one purpose or another, even as more sophisticated solutions hit the market. Heck, my first business model was done in Excel.
Excel is prized for its perceived simplicity, but that is really a fa├žade, as it is far more capable and complex than it appears.

Sure, filling in cells is a snap, as long as you use the right formatting.
However, failing to follow Excel's rules can lead to panic, especially when seemingly innocuous input shifts into something unrecognizable after you finish with the field. Also, formulas can be tricky, and preparing spreadsheets for mail merge can be downright migraine-inducing.

But there is a way to offset these risks and improve your comfort level; the good old standby, more education.

Now, before you roll your eyes and assume I'm recommending you go back to college, hear me out. You don't have to attend formal classes at a university to get a grip on Excel. There are numerous free resources available that let you learn the program from the comfort of your home.

So, put on your favorite "Netflix and chill" outfit, grab a snack or a tasty beverage, and prepare to understand Excel like you never have before thanks to these 11 places where you can learn Microsoft Excel for free.”