Friday, September 29, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - September 29 Edition

Athletics, Education, Well-being

“A two-tiered system of youth sports—one in which the wealthy play on pricey private clubs and the less well-off are limited to uncompetitive community programs—also undermines one of the quieter virtues of team sports: They can be places of organic integration, where economic and racial differences are supplanted by ordinary friendship and the collective desire to win. A football player interviewed by Canadian researchers on his sports experience explained how that social mixing played out on his team:

Before football, I had never like had different friends of different races. And in football, everyone’s just, yeah your Jamaican kids, Somalian kids, people from Singapore, some Italians. So it really helps you learn how to be, how to deal, like not deal, but how to make friends, diverse friends.

Groups of all kinds, including community organizations, nonprofits, major league sports teams, and corporations, are mobilizing to bring athletic opportunities to all kids. Many gathered at the Aspen Institute’s Project Play Summit in September to share their ideas. Theresa Lou Bowick from Rochester, New York, talked about the no-frills bike-riding initiative she founded six years ago, Conkey Cruisers, that invites residents of all ages to ride around the neighborhoods on donated bikes; riders meet at the corner of Conkey and Clifford Avenues for nightly “voyages.”

In Eugene, Oregon, Kidsports provides sports options for 14,000 kids in grades kindergarten through eight, regardless of income or athletic ability. Club teams and other expensive sports options have cut the number of kids who participate in Kidsports, said Beverly Smith, the executive director. But Smith embraces the fact that her inclusive local group is the default organization for some: “It’s a point of pride,” she said. Nike, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Major League Baseball, among other organizations, pledged to make sports more available to low-income children.”

Communities, Urban Renewal, Opportunity

“Besides true grit and 40 years of steady effort to come back, the Pittsburgh region ― the city and surrounding counties that together constitute the nation’s 26th largest metro area ― has benefited from a host of special circumstances. They include geography that kept the focus on a downtown that did not collapse and on neighborhoods that did not lose their communal identity; two top-flight educational institutions, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon; a tradition of family philanthropy that includes names such as Mellon, Heinz, Frick and Carnegie; a world-class bank, PNC, heavily committed to the city; the world-class University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; abundant energy sources, including frack-able natural gas; an infrastructure of parks, libraries and other cultural institutions left over from the city’s wealthy heyday; and, of course, pro sports teams such as the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates, who style themselves as emblems of the city.

“Pittsburgh may not be exactly a blue-collar town now,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, a Virginia native who settled his family in a city neighborhood. “But the blue-collar mentality survives,” he told me during training camp late this summer.

The challenge now is to translate that mentality into what Mayor Bill Peduto called “a fourth industrial revolution,” focused primarily on human capital ― through education, housing and jobs that lift people out of poverty ― and the environment. “The fourth revolution is about people fulfilling their potential and about giving those who’ve been left behind a full chance to be part of the future,” Peduto said.

That means focusing on the low-income neighborhoods that are too often ignored (in Pittsburgh they tend to be on hard-to-reach hilltops) and on other neighborhoods that are gentrifying long-term residents out of their homes.”

Breast Cancer, Cancer Treatment

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Verzenio (abemaciclib) to treat adult patients who have hormone receptor (HR)-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative advanced or metastatic breast cancer that has progressed after taking therapy that alters a patient’s hormones (endocrine therapy). Verzenio is approved to be given in combination with an endocrine therapy, called fulvestrant, after the cancer had grown on endocrine therapy. It is also approved to be given on its own, if patients were previously treated with endocrine therapy and chemotherapy after the cancer had spread (metastasized).

"Verzenio provides a new targeted treatment option for certain patients with breast cancer who are not responding to treatment, and unlike other drugs in the class, it can be given as a stand-alone treatment to patients who were previously treated with endocrine therapy and chemotherapy," said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence and acting director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Verzenio works by blocking certain molecules (known as cyclin-dependent kinases 4 and 6), involved in promoting the growth of cancer cells. There are two other drugs in this class that are approved for certain patients with breast cancer, palbociclib approved in February 2015 and ribociclib approved in March 2017.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health estimates approximately 252,710 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and 40,610 will die of the disease. Approximately 72 percent of patients with breast cancer have tumors that are HR-positive and HER2-negative."

Kindness, Paying it Forward

Read or watch:

"A husband and wife sit at the bar at the Applebee’s in Washington, Pa.

They are there three or four times a week, and they randomly pick up the tab of some diners. Several people have benefited from their generosity.
She posted on Facebook, “Thank you to the person that took care of the bill tonight at Applebee’s in Washington! This person paid for the whole party of 16. I have never had this happen before and it brought tears to everyone’s eyes.”

Good food, good times, and sometimes, when you least expect it, the meal is taken care of. It happened earlier this week to Jolie Welling. It was her daughter’s birthday celebration.

“I was almost in tears,” Samantha Powell said. “It touches me, too.”

Powell was the server the night of the birthday party.

But who are these people?"

Politics, Gerrymandering, Supreme Court

"Is partisan gerrymandering constitutional? And if not, how is it to be measured? Those are the questions at the heart of one of the most consequential Supreme Court cases of the year, which the justices will hear next week. How the court answers those questions in the case, Gill v. Whitford, has the potential to fundamentally change how we build our representative democracy.

Later this fall, FiveThirtyEight is launching an audio documentary series about the challenges of reforming the redistricting process in America. Traditionally, state lawmakers redraw the maps that determine the races in which you vote after the census every 10 years. Reformers want to change who draws the maps and/or the criteria for drawing them. One of the episodes of our series focuses on the gerrymandering case before the Supreme Court. Rather than keep it in our pocket until after the case is heard, we wanted to share it with you ahead of oral arguments, which are on Oct. 3. So here it is! Listen here or subscribe to the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast feed."

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - September 28 Edition

Heroes, Vietnam War

"In writing my preview of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s epic 10-part documentary The Vietnam War, which is now airing on PBS and streaming on the network’s app, I couldn’t stop thinking about one particular figure who reappears throughout the series: an eloquent, soft-spoken veteran named John Musgrave. In recent days and weeks, I have learned, other viewers and professional reviewers have found Musgrave equally captivating. Why? Take heed that some big spoilers lie ahead in the next paragraph, if you haven’t yet watched the full series.

It isn’t only that Musgrave is able to vividly summon the fear and pain he experienced as an 18-year-old Marine serving in Con Thien in 1967, but also that he underwent a profound evolution after suffering grievous wounds and then coming home to an America that was in no mood to honor its veterans. As the documentary advances, Musgrave, who grew up in a Missouri town where his father and his neighbors were revered for their World War II service, retreats into depression, considers suicide, and ultimately evolves into an anti-war activist and member of the organization Vietnam Veterans Against the War (V.V.A.W.). One of the series’ most dramatic moments comes in a later episode, when a bearded, long-haired protester first glimpsed in a still near the very top of Episode 1 is revealed to be the formerly clean-cut Musgrave: a transformed man.

For my V.F. article, I spoke by phone earlier this year with Musgrave, who now lives outside of Lawrence, Kansas, and has published volumes of poetry about his wartime experiences. Here are some previously unpublished excerpts from our conversation, about the documentary, his life, and the pride Musgrave still takes, despite everything, in having served as a Marine in Vietnam."

Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria, Disaster Assistance

"Royal Caribbean, which operates cruise ships and tours around the world, canceled a voyage so that its ship can help with recovery efforts on the Caribbean islands devastated by Hurricane Maria. 

Royal Caribbean announced Wednesday that it will cancel its Adventure of the Seas cruise, which was scheduled to depart from San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 30 and sail to various islands in the Caribbean, to free up the cruise liner to dock in ports in San Juan and on the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix to aid in relief efforts.

The ship will bring donated supplies to each port and bring evacuees from the islands to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, ahead of ship’s next scheduled cruise on Oct. 6.

The company said it will give full refunds to the customers who were booked on the Sept. 30 cruise, including for payments for onshore activities. On top of that, Royal Caribbean will offer a 25 percent cruise credit for those who rebook trips within 30 days." 

Opioids, Addiction

"The gravest public health emergency in America has hit Brumage’s home state hard, with the nation’s highest drug overdose rate that claimed nearly 900 lives last year.

Brumage, executive director and health officer of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, runs a harm-reduction program that includes overseeing a clean needle exchange for opioid users. It’s powered not with federal or state dollars, but with donations, grants and volunteers. In just over two years, it has grown as large as a similar program run by the city of Baltimore after 20 years ― serving some 3,700 patients.

People enrolled in a harm-reduction program are five times more likely to go into recovery than if they’re not a part of it, he said.

And while the challenge is immense, Brumage ― who also serves as assistant dean at the West Virginia University School of Public Health among other social positions ― has pushed ahead with his innovative approach to a stark crisis.

“I’m convinced based on the evidence that syringe service programs, as part of a larger harm-reduction program, are really one of the major solutions to dealing with the epidemic,” Brumage said. “So in the syringe service program, of course, what we’re trying to do is avoid becoming the next Scott County, Indiana, where they had over 200 cases of HIV in about a year.”"

Child Care, Work

"When workers have access to affordable, high-quality child care, they are less likely to experience unplanned absences, which reduce productivity and hurt an employer’s bottom line. These absences aren’t negligible, either. A 2017 survey reported that 21% of households with at least one working parent reported being absent from work in the last three months. Some employers even provide child care on premises as a way to keep productivity high and as a recruitment tool.

With access to child care, they’re also less likely to drop out of the workforce entirely, which is a tremendous expense for employers. For most workers, it costs approximately 20% of salary to replace a lost employee. That’s significant whether you’re a small or large business.

We also know that investing in high-quality early learning now will pay off in the long run for our future workforce. In fact, high-quality child care has been shown to have positive impacts on children’s cognitive and social developments, leading to better outcomes in school and later in life.  When I ran the YMCA of Greater Miami, countless parents from our child care program would share with me how much more prepared their child was for kindergarten than many of the other children in the class."

Business, Email Etiquette

"If you're brand spanking new to the professional world, there are hundreds of perfectly good lists of email etiquette tips out there, reminding you to do basic things like proofread, keep it brief, and use a short, sensible subject line. This list is not one of those.

This list is for people who have been firing off emails for years, who have not only long ago banished excessive exclamation points and long-winded asks, but have even mastered the dark art of the subtle email clapback and figured out how to pack even complicated communication into a tight, five-line missive.

But even email pros sometimes make mistakes. They're not just the "reply all" disasters of the less experienced (or less cautious). Instead, they're usually errors of context, timing, or empathy, like these below, that can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, or blown deals."

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - September 27 Edition

Black Lives, Feminism, Role Models

"Even if their stories weren't told in the headlines or transcribed in the history books, black women have always been at the front line in the fight for equality. Many of the struggles and rewards we have today are off of the shoulders of black women, both known and unknown. These women are essential in understanding feminism and the fight for civil rights.

Composed of various class backgrounds, sexual orientations, and voices, black women are anchored in intersectionality — a term developed by legal scholar KimberlĂ© Crenshaw in 1993 to describe the oppression individuals face due to their position in society. From speaking about issues of empowerment and suffrage to making the connections between race, ability, and gender into conversations around equality, black women have long been teaching about the multifaceted and interlocking systems of oppressions that effected marginalized people.

To better explain this history, The National Museum of African American History and Cultureproduced #APeoplesJourney: African American Women and the Struggle for Equality, an animated visual media that displays the roles of black women feminists through time, in partnership with YouTube for Good.

Lanae Spruce, manager of social media and digital management for NMAAHC, described the video to Teen Vogue as an opportunity to amplify women and tell stories they never heard before about black women leaders; to highlight those stories and expand upon narratives in order to instill a platform that describes the rights of black people and women."

Immigration, Workplace

“Presented as a compassionate but pragmatic compromise, IRCA coupled a one-time amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants with an employer sanctions regime to punish those who knowingly hired persons not authorized to work in the United States.

But the law came into the world with a fatal defect. Because of the clout of strange-bedfellows — a left-right coalition that united immigrant rights activists, Latino politicians, businesses, and libertarians — IRCA was stripped of a mandate for the executive branch to develop a secure means of verifying that workers were authorized. Instead, workers were allowed to present documents from a wide assortment of easily counterfeited identifiers, and employers were required to accept any document that “reasonably appears on its face to be genuine.”

The result was a proliferation of counterfeit documents and fraud on a massive scale. Far from stopping illegal immigration, IRCA had actually stimulated it, according to Philip Martin, an immigration scholar at the University of California at Davis. “Perhaps the most important effect of immigration reform was to spread unauthorized workers from the Southwest to the rest of the country,” said Martin.”

Middle East, Women

"Saudi Arabia’s extreme repression of women has long been illustrated by their prohibition from driving. Some women who have protested that restriction — or flouted it — have been harshly penalized or arrested.

Late Tuesday night local time, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman issued a royal decree declaring that women will soon be allowed to apply for drivers’ licenses and drive legally.
The decree is a win for women, but it’s also a tactical win for the state. Refusing to allow women to drive has been a public relations disaster for the Saudis for years. Giving them the keys, they hope, will not only ease public international pressure but also give women the chance to contribute more to the economy.

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam. The ban on women drivers has long been explained as being religiously motivated, but it is the only country in the world, of any religion, that had instituted such a ban."

Rural America, Higher Education

"It’s not that rural students aren’t academically prepared. They score better on the National Assessment of Educational Progress than urban students and graduate from high school at a higher percentage than the national average, the U.S. Department of Education reports. At the regional high school Gordon attended in Lenox, Iowa, the graduation rate is typically at or near an impressive 100 percent.

Yet even the highest-income white students from rural areas are less likely to go to college right from high school than their well-off white city and suburban counterparts, according to the National Student Clearinghouse, which tracks this data: 61 percent, compared to 72 percent from urban schools and 74 percent from suburban ones.

Overall, 59 percent of rural high-school grads—white and nonwhite, at every income level—go to college the subsequent fall, a lower proportion than the 62 percent of urban and 67 percent of suburban graduates who do, the clearinghouse says. Forty-two percent of people ages 18 to 24 are enrolled in all of higher education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, but only 29 percent come from rural areas, compared to nearly 48 percent from cities.

The reasons for this are as myriad as they are consequential, affecting everything from regional economic competitiveness to widening political division."


"When an estimated 4 million people turned up for the Women’s March protest in Washington, D.C., and 650 sister marches across the United States in January, just a day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, both participants and observers asked, “What’s next?”

Nearly eight months later, the march’s organizers are planning a major follow-up event: a multi-day forum, called the “The Women’s Convention,” aimed at building support ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The convention is scheduled to take place in Detroit on Oct. 27-29.

We need to take the organizing power we gained from the Women’s March and convert that into political power,” said Bob Bland, the national co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington. “Our goal is for people to come out of this with revolutionary new knowledge, training and connections.”

The convention is the latest high-profile effort to maintain the grassroots energy from the January march, which was likely the single largest protest in U.S. history. Organizers expect 5,000 people will attend the convention; nearly 1,500 people have registered so far."

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - September 26 Edition

 Black Lives, Women, Inspiration, Role Models

"Katherine G. Johnson, the human computer behind some of NASA’s biggest advancements, attended the ribbon cutting of the research facility named in her honor on Friday (9/22).

The 99-year-old mathematician was thrust into the spotlight last year when the Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures” told the story of three black women who broke barriers at NASA.  Johnson, along with Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, shattered the segregational norms within the agency in the 1960s to push forward some of the country’s greatest aerospace advancements.

The Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility is a state-of-the-art facility run by NASA’s Langley Research Center. The building, which cost $23 million, will consolidate four of the organization’s data centers as a part of Langley’s 20-year revitalization plan."

Crisis and Conflict, Education, Heroes

"IN 2015, YASMIN Al Dabaan fled the war in Syria and settled just across the border in Turkey, in the town of Reyhanli. One day, the single mother and teacher saw a Syrian refugee girl searching through a trashcan for food. That image inspired Dabaan to set up the Active Child Center, a place where street children could come to feel safe. At the center, children get informal lessons every afternoon. Every Friday, Dabaan cooks them a big meal. Her small teaching salary funds most of the center, and the rest comes from private donations.

Ultimately, Dabaan would like to see all the children attend a proper school, but many families are unable to afford the fees. So, she also helps parents find jobs, which means their children no longer have to work on the streets to help support their families."

Education, Technology

"The platform allows students to learn at their own pace, argues Andrew Goldin, Summit’s chief of schools. At conventional schools, “there are many students waiting for others to catch up.” Rather than rely on high-stakes tests, the platform tracks individuals as they go along. It prompts pupils, Goldin says, to reflect on why and how they learn.

Pupils in a senior year English class seem to agree. One 17-year-old girl says that, unlike her friends at other schools, “I actually like my school”, since it offers lots of chances to try out new things. Her deskmate, also 17, adds that, “you really get to know the teachers, and they to know you.” It helps that teachers at Summit spend less time than their peers marking lessons. They can use that time mentoring pupils, coaching them in “habits of success” such as stress management and curiosity and helping with pupils’ projects.

Not everybody is as delighted as these pupils are by the spread of such techniques. Benjamin Riley, executive director of Deans for Impact, a charity, believes that giving children too much control over the pace and content of what they learn can be dangerous. “Effortful thinking is what our minds are built to avoid.” While some may thrive in such a system, many others will take the easy way out and not think too much.

Cognitive scientists such as Daniel Willingham of the University of Virginia worry that autonomy can be taken too far. If children can opt out of learning important facts, he says, they will find it harder to understand more complex ideas at a later stage."

Technology, Future, Cars

"“In 60 seconds you have to consider 70 options,” says my rickshaw driver Raju, leaning over his shoulder as we weave through traffic. We’re navigating the infamous congested streets of Bangalore, and he’s explaining the rules of the road.

Having lived in India for two-and-a-half years, I get what he means. Not an inch of the road is wasted – if there’s a gap, a scooter will fill it. Vehicles travel bumper to bumper. Overtaking is attempted as frequently as possible. Indicators and wing mirrors are optional extras. Most drivers seem to rely on the incessant honking of nearby vehicles – almost a form of echolocation.

But there is method to the madness. Drivers deftly navigate around manoeuvres that would lead to accidents in the UK, and offenders rarely illicit more than a mutter. They’ve adapted to predictable unpredictability.

We expect anything; only then do we make predictions. We are always expecting that the car in front could go left, right, brake suddenly,” Raju says. "Something always happens."

This driving philosophy has complex cultural and historical roots, but it's also a product of rapid growth in both urban populations and vehicle ownership – which government figures show nearly quadrupled between 2000 and 2013. This growth is outstripping the ability to build new infrastructure, leaving citizens to adapt.

India is far from alone – rapid urban overcrowding and car ownership put countries like China, Brazil and the Philippines all in a similar boat.

But for many tech companies and researchers, India’s chaotic roads make it the perfect testing ground. They might help us solve some of the big problems that come with living in crowded cities… ones that are only going to keep getting more crowded."

Travel, Innovations

"In a time when our phones check us into our flights, vacations are photographed by drone, and travelers cheques have been replaced by Apple Pay, it’s hard to imagine that, not too long ago, a suitcase was a cumbersome item with no stand-up handle to drag it by, and, before 1970, no wheels to glide on at all. For a little perspective, we managed to put a man on the moon faster than it took to invent rolling luggage.

In fact, just as the debut issue of CondĂ© Nast Traveler arrived on newsstands in 1987, the now ubiquitous Rollaboard suitcase made its first appearance in airport terminals, after a resourceful Northwest Airlines 747 pilot named Robert Plath had the bright idea to turn his suitcase upright, add on a couple of extra wheels, and insert a pull-up handle. However, the very first use of wheels on a suitcase can be credited to the late Bernard D. Sadow, vice president of a Massachusetts luggage company, who invented rolling luggage 40 years ago. Back then, Sadow’s design rolled flat on its front and was pulled via a strap attached to the top. Though initially met with resistance by stubborn travelers, he told the New York Times in 2010, his innovation caught on like wildfire after a little convincing. Sadow, who patented numerous inventions over his lifetime, called it “one of my best ideas.”"

Monday, September 25, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - September 25 Edition

Disaster Relief, Puerto Rico

"At least 13 people are dead. Most people don’t have water or power. There’s no cell service. Roads have been totally washed away or blocked by debris. This is life right now in Puerto Rico, where 3.5 million Americans are struggling to recover from the devastation of last week’s Hurricane Maria.

Local officials described the scene as “apocalyptic” on Sunday. And just two weeks earlier, Hurricane Irma blew through and caused as much as $1 billion in damages to the island.

A lot of mainland Americans don’t realize that Puerto Ricans are Americans. FEMA has been providing lifesaving resources to the island, but people there could use any help they can get to try to rebuild their destroyed lives. While President Donald Trump may be spending his weekend trashing football players on Twitter, if you want to lend a hand to a fellow American in need, there are easy ways to kick in a few bucks".

Click HERE to find out where and how you can contribute.

Crime, Housing, Public Policy

"Between January 1 and July 31 this year, the state of New Jersey has seen its pretrial jail population — the number of people sitting in detention, awaiting trial, without having been convicted of a crime — fall by 15.8 percent.

That’s an astonishing drop in under a year. It means that 2,167 fewer people were in pretrial detention on July 31, 2017, than were at the same time in 2016. That’s more than 2,000 people who have not been convicted of any wrongdoing, and who get to live at home with their families rather than in a jail cell, who stand a better chance of keeping their jobs and their kids, whose lives aren’t unnecessarily disrupted so they can be locked in a cage.

And as this happened, New Jersey’s crime rate actually fell. Violent crime in January through August 2017 was 16.7 percent lower than the same period of 2016. Murder fell by 28.6 percent, assault by 13.3 percent, robbery by 22 percent. By contrast, violent crime only fell 4.3 percent in 2016, and didn’t budge in 2015. It’s far too soon to say if bail reform contributed to the big year-to-year drop. But at the very least, bail reform hasn’t been accompanied with some dramatic increase in danger or crime. More people are free, and more people are safe.

The jail trends are the result of sweeping bail reforms adopted by the New Jersey state legislature, with the help of a voter-approved constitutional amendment, in 2014."

Global Poverty & Disease, Foreign Aid, Development Goals 

SEATTLE, Sept. 13, 2017 – "The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today launched an inaugural annual report showcasing the remarkable progress that has been made in reducing extreme poverty and disease in recent decades, but issuing a stern warning to the world that future progress is in jeopardy.

Goalkeepers: The Stories Behind the Data, co-authored and edited by Bill and Melinda Gates and produced in partnership with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, highlights past progress against some of the most devastating issues facing poor countries and uses breakthrough data projections to forecast good and bad future scenarios – with millions of lives hanging in the balance.

In all, the report tracks 18 data points from the UN Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, including child and maternal deaths, stunting, access to contraceptives, HIV, malaria, extreme poverty, financial inclusion and sanitation. The report looks beneath the numbers to pinpoint the leaders, approaches and innovations that made a difference.

Through the data and first-person accounts from six contributors, the report showcases the stunning progress the world has made in the past generation: cutting extreme poverty and child deaths in half and reducing HIV deaths and maternal deaths by nearly half, among many other accomplishments. But as the report shows, serious challenges remain – including deep disparities between countries – and future progress is not inevitable."

Women, Menstrual Politics

"Flowing with wry wit through its lively chapters (each, from “Code Red” to “Shark Week,” named after a euphemism for menstruation), Weiss-Wolf’s compelling book Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity is part memoir and part social analysis. It’s also a loving homage to 2015, which National Public Radio dubbed “The Year of the Period” and which brought period panties, the rise of tampon-themed games and other cutting-edge products to the mainstream market while simultaneously heralding major shifts in menstrual politics. It was in 2015 that Weiss-Wolf began spearheading the grassroots campaign to eliminate the tampon tax in the U.S. Though nations from Canada to Kenya have eliminated sales tax on menstrual products, most American states still subject such goods to levies of 4 to 10 percent. “Why are pads and tampons still taxed when Viagra and Rogaine are not?” actor Ashley Judd demanded in a firebrand speech at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., in January.

To explain why sanitary products are still taxed—and not routinely offered in prisons, shelters or schools, nor covered by food stamps, Medicaid or Flexible Spending Account allowances—Weiss-Wolf examines the shame and stigma surrounding the essential biological process that makes women (and also many transgender and gender non-conforming people) bleed for an average of five days per month. From rules prohibiting menstruating Jewish women from having sex to strictures barring their Muslim sisters from entering mosques, prohibitions surrounding menses have endured for centuries. At the dawn of the 20th century, Weiss-Wolf writes, “instability caused by menstruation was among the reasons touted to discredit universal suffrage.” And in the first leg of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump maligned Fox News correspondent Megyn Kelly for having “blood coming out of her wherever.”"

Climate Change, Campaign Contributions, Lobbying

"Why do so many American politicians feel so comfortable sticking their heads in the sand on climate science? One reason is that some major donors insist on this stance and then spend millions (and in some cases billions) lobbying for a dangerous denial of the overwhelming evidence.

As the Union of Concerned Scientists reported a few years back, companies promoting climate change denial often hide their fingerprints by spending through trade associations. This technique is also used to conceal corporate political spending. One of the ways so-called “dark money” becomes “dark” is by spending through trade associations.

But not all of the money spent on politics and lobbying is dark. According to, the energy and natural resources sector generally ranks fourth among all industries, behind health and finance/insurance/real estate, and well ahead of defense. So far in 2017, 650 lobbyists reported spending $64 million on behalf of 154 oil and gas clients.

In the past decade (2007 to 2017), the oil and gas industry has spent $1.4 billion on federal lobbying. Among the heavy hitters in this period   are Exxon ($167 million total); Koch Industries ($114 million); Chevron ($112 million); Shell (Royal Dutch Petroleum) ($96 million); Conoco Phillips ($89 million); the American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas trade association, ($76 million); BP ($68 million); and Peabody Energy ($51 million).

Climate change denial also gets a boost from campaign donations. Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of  PayPal and a climate change skeptic, donated more than $1 million to Trump’s campaign and inauguration. And, of course, the Koch Brothers’ long spending in politics has also shaped the debate. As Jane Mayer notes in Dark Money, “[b]y 2015, their [the Koch Brothers’] antigovernment lead was followed by much of Congress. Addressing global warming was out of the question.”"