Friday, October 13, 2017

No Post Today

There is no post today due to unforeseen circumstances. A Better Tomorrow posts will be back up on Monday, October 16.

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

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

Disaster Assistance, California Fires

“California’s Wine Country is in a state of emergency as more than a dozen wildfires burn through large swaths of land in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Yuba counties. The fires have destroyed at least 1,500 structures, caused at least 10 fatalities, and forced an estimated 20,000 North Bay residents to evacuate, with that number expected to rise.

If you’re local, the Sonoma Valley Visitor’s Bureau has a list of hotels offering special rates for evacuees and the Sacramento Bee has a list of ways for local people to help.

If you’re far away from the fires and want to help, here are a few options:”

Child Marriage, Girls, India

"India's Supreme Court has struck down a legal clause that allowed men to engage in non-consensual marital sex with girls as young as 15.

Wednesday's landmark decision, which coincided with International Day of the Girl Child, also raised the age of consent for all women to 18.

"In our opinion sexual intercourse with a girl below 18 years of age is rape regardless of whether she is married or not," read the ruling.

"The exception carved out in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) creates an unnecessary and artificial distinction between a married girl child and an unmarried girl child and has no rational nexus with any unclear objective sought to be achieved."

Jayna Kothari, who argued for Child Rights Group, an NGO that works to prevent child marriage, told CNN the ruling will create a "uniformity of laws"."

Innovators, Artists, Researchers, Inspiration

“It's not often you'll find these 24 names in the same place. They are historians and musicians, computer scientists and social activists, writers and architects. But whatever it may read on their business cards (if they've even got business cards), they now all have a single title in common: 2017 MacArthur Fellow.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced the winners of this year's fellowship — often better known as the "genius" grant — and the list includes a characteristically wide array of disciplines: There's painter Njideka Akunyili Crosby, for instance, and mathematician Emmanuel Cand├Ęs and immunologist Gabriel Victora, among many others.

(Note: The foundation is among NPR's financial supporters.)
Each of the recipients has been selected for having "shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction" — and each will receive a $625,000 award from the foundation "as an investment in their potential," paid out over five years with no strings attached.

You can find the full list of winners below (by clicking on the title above) — paired with the foundation's description of their work and, where possible, links to NPR's previous coverage to get to know them better.

Climate Change, Photography

“The UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015 was hailed as a historic landmark in the battle against climate change, but, says British environmental photographer Ashley Cooper, is it enough?

“I obviously applaud this momentous agreement,” he said, “but, having witnessed the scale of the destruction currently being wreaked around the world, this is too little too late.”

In his book, Images from a Warming Planet, Cooper hopes his photography will ‘wake people up’ to the reality of climate change as well as showcasing efforts to tackle the huge challenge. Photographs range from shots showing increasing rates of desertification, to images capturing the huge range of renewable energy projects across the globe.
The project began in 2004 with a trip to Alaska, which Cooper took after reading scientific journals and becoming increasingly aware of the potentially devastating consequences of climate change.

“I spent a week on Shishmaref, a tiny island in the Chukchi Sea,” he said. “It is home to a community of around 600 Inuit people, whose homes were being washed into the sea. It was here I first witnessed something I have seen many times since: that is, those least responsible for climate change are most impacted by it.

Exercise, Heart Health

From the America Heart Association:

“After a heart attack, more than 60 percent of patients decline participation in cardiac rehabilitation. Although the reasons include financial concerns and distance to a rehab center, many patients stay away because they perceive physical exercise as unpleasant, painful or impossible given their current physical condition.

This is the first study suggesting that Tai Chi may improve exercise behaviors in this high-risk population.

"We thought that Tai Chi might be a good option for these people because you can start very slowly and simply and, as their confidence increases, the pace and movements can be modified to increase intensity," said Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University. "Tai Chi exercise can reach low-to-moderate intensity levels. The emphasis on breathing and relaxation can also help with stress reduction and psychological distress."”

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

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

Inspiration, Life Well-Lived


U.S.-Mexico Relations, Economic Opportunity

“The US-Mexico border is one of the most vibrant yet misunderstood regions in the world. Often portrayed as troubled territory characterized by negative attributes such as violence and disordered migration, the reality of this extensive geography is that it is also a place of unparalleled cultural richness and business opportunities created by the convergence of two nations, two languages, two cultures, and two economies.

In mid-September, the Institute of the Americas partnered with the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program to convene a ground-breaking conversation called Innovation and Culture at the Border. This convening examined the creative dynamism of US-Mexico border, with a focus on the impact of American Latinos in border economies, and the opportunities that border regions represent for them. Along the border, American Latinos — who are often bicultural, bilingual, and frequently binational — are uniquely positioned to contribute to new approaches that create economic opportunity and advance prosperity.

Examples of creativity and entrepreneurial success are abundant in border cities along the nearly 2,000-mile US-Mexico border. However, such models are many times invisible, actively ignored, or unacknowledged. To counter such invisibility and enrich the narrative, Innovation and Culture at the Border brought together individuals who work and live along the US–Mexico border (with a special focus on CaliBaja) and who have intimate, practical knowledge of the challenges and opportunities for innovation and creativity.”

Theatre, Social Justice

Dominique Morisseau

Humanizing the struggles of the school-to-prison pipeline

Dominique Morisseau, an award-winning playwright from Detroit, describes herself as an artist-activist. She recently developed a three-play cycle called The Detroit Projects, in which she highlights issues that have affected the city for decades, such as racism, urban renewal, and economic inequality.

Morisseau’s newest project, Pipeline, tackles the mass incarceration of Black men with the story of a devoted inner-city public high school teacher who tries to save her teenage son from the school-to-prison pipeline.

New research shows that kids can start going down that path as early as preschool, where Black children are 3.6 times more likely than White children to be suspended.

Morisseau, the daughter of a teacher and a former teacher herself, developed a deep understanding of the pipeline from her time living in urban cities like Detroit, New York, and Chicago.

“This concerns me,” Morisseau says. “And playwrights have the power to humanize social issues by making people visualize human beings at the forefront of those issues. We can spark emotions and make people feel these issues in their guts rather than simply make them think about it in their brains.”


Islam, Community

Huff Post "Listen to America" series:

“The Crescent Peace Society’s “Meet a Muslim” events are one of a handful of similar initiatives that have sprung up across the country since the election. One Muslim couple started a “dinner with your Muslim neighbor” project in Seattle, for instance, and a Muslim veteran has been traveling the country with a sign reading “I’m Muslim and a U.S. Marine, ask anything.”

When asked whether such projects place undue responsibility on Muslims to have to humanize themselves to non-Muslims, particularly in an environment of increased fear among the Muslim community, Latif demurred.

“There’s a lot of discussion in progressive circles on whose job it is to humanize people, and I understand it’s off-putting to explain, ‘I’m just a human being just like you are,’” he said. “But we’ve found in our work that waiting for other people to do the work doesn’t get anything done. You have to take that first step and hope that other people will join you.” 

“If we don’t speak, then other people write the narratives for us,” he added.

Amid a recent rise in anti-Muslim hate groups nationwide ― and spate of hate crimes in recent years in the Kansas City area ― Latif recognizes the effect and reach of the group’s events are small. But even if they touch only a few hundred people, he believes they still have value.

“There are so few Muslims and so much said about them,” Latif said. “Even just meeting people who [already] support us, they can say to their extended families: ‘I’ve met a Muslim person and this is what I found out,’ so it’s a ripple that hopefully reverberates further out.””

Women, Running for Office, Campaigning

This advice, while geared toward women, can help men as well. 

"Whether you're happy with the political climate or hell-bent on change, one thing is clear: You are underrepresented in government — and that void has far-reaching consequences, no matter what side of the aisle you're on. Currently, 70 percent of our elected officials are men, even though females make up more than half of the population. What's holding us back? The crazy (and statistically unfounded) notion that women can't win. Well, it's time to step up. Follow this ultimate guide to running for office to get started."

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - October 10 Edition

Las Vegas, Remembrance

“In 11 minutes of rapid gunfire into a Las Vegas concert crowd last Sunday night [October 1], a mass shooter killed 58 people attending a concert. As the NewsHour has done all week, tonight we remember the final 10 of those victims.

Health Care, Underserved Communities

Listen and read:

“The first teaching health centers began training residents in 2011. They operate primarily out of clinics in rural communities and other areas where primary care physicians are in short supply.

The ideal ratio of primary care physicians to patients is about 1 for every 2,000, Stewart said. The ratio in east Bakersfield “is more like 1 to 6,000, so we have a lot of catching up to do.”

Though teaching health centers remain relatively new, experts say they’re already succeeding: Their residents generally stay in the regions where they trained, putting down roots in communities with a big demand for health care.

In June, the Rio Bravo program graduated its first class of six doctors. Two joined the staff at a Clinica Sierra Vista clinic in east Bakersfield. The other four are practicing in clinics serving low-income communities in Sacramento, Riverside and Los Angeles counties.”

Business, Startups, Women

“…Julia Hartz, the co-founder and CEO of Eventbrite, summed up the sentiment for everyone. “It’s table stakes for building a great company,” she says. “If you want to build a once in a lifetime company that really matters, and really changes the space,” then social impact, philanthropy, and economic uplift need to be part of your thinking. “Legacies are built on the practices of your company,” she says. Renfrew agreed. “You can do well by doing good, and you should.”

While all four founders had stories to share about the nuts and bolts of building businesses. From working with investors, getting to profitability, and surveying existing customers for new product ideas—the idea of an expanded bottom line was essential. And, in many cases, unusual.

One example: Equity. When is the right time to share equity with employees? The Silicon Valley model, it was agreed, was old school. “Men hoard all the equity and give it out in snippets,” said Renfrew. “If you’re going to ask people to be committed to your mission, they should be included.””

Conservation, Environment


“People regularly approach Jane Goodall in airports, tears in their eyes, and tell her she’s their idol. She travels 300 days a year, and at 83, she speaks dreamily about her home in England, the house she grew up in, where her sister still lives with her own family. Goodall will be there soon for a rare five-day vacation, sleeping in the same room with her childhood books—Dr. Dolittle and Tarzan were among her favorites—and looking out the window at the trees she once climbed.

In the 1960s Goodall, perhaps the world’s most famous primatologist, taught us that humans and chimpanzees weren’t as different from each other as people then believed. Our closest relatives have individual personalities, eat meat, and even make and use their own tools. A 1965 documentary about that work, Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees, turned Goodall into a global celebrity, and she has been in the public eye ever since. She has used that attention to fund ongoing research in Gombe Stream National Park, in Tanzania, where she did her initial conservation work. But she has also gone beyond her role as a scientist to encourage children to become environmental and social advocates, to develop antipoverty programs in the areas around African nature preserves, and to promote environmental stewardship.

Goodall is on the road again now to publicize a new documentary, entitled simply JANE, which highlights her early-career insights. The film debuts Monday at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, with Goodall in attendance. 

Although immensely practical about the hard work it takes to keep up her social justice mission, Goodall retains the idealism that has propelled her for decades. “Every single individual makes a difference every single day,” she says in her quiet but determined British accent. “We get to choose what sort of difference we’re going to make.”

Goodall spoke to Scientific American about her past work, recent discoveries and plans and hopes for the future.”

Family Leave Policy, Work Place

“… the most revolutionary aspect of the plan is Amazon’s leave share program. Leave Share is more commonly seen in unionized workplaces, where employees can share their sick leave with one another, giving those who need it more time but ensuring work continues smoothly while they’re out. At Amazon, which isn’t unionized, instead of sharing paid leave with a co-worker, you can share it with your spouse, even if they don’t work at Amazon. Yes, really. If an Amazon employee is ready to return to work but has a spouse who hasn’t been able to take a full, paid parental leave, Amazon will allow the Amazon employee to share up to six weeks of their paid leave at the employee’s salary. That way, the spouse can take unpaid leave from their own jobs without creating extreme financial stress the Amazon employee would end up feeling too.

The reasoning behind Amazon’s leave share is sound: Parents succeed in the workplace when they have a supportive partner at home. When both parents spend time as the primary caregivers for an infant, studies show, they’ll continue to share caregiving responsibilities as the child ages. Since most workplaces today offer only maternity leave if they offer paid leave at all, it is difficult for fathers to take time away to take part in caregiving. In essence, Amazon is pioneering a new way to help its female employees by financially encouraging their partners to be more involved at home.

Studies show that women take on a majority of child care and household responsibilities, even when both parents work, which leads women to drop out of the workforce at a higher rate after having children. By promoting a shared environment at home, Amazon is likely to have higher long-term retention rates for women at the company.

Winter described the leave share program as a “game changer.” “Amazon has employees everywhere,” he said. “Not everyone has a spouse who has a luxury of taking paid leave. We decided it’s not just our employee that needs this, it’s choice and flexibility for our families.”

Monday, October 09, 2017

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

Las Vegas, Remembrances

“…we return to our remembrances of the 58 people murdered in Las Vegas last Sunday when a gunman fired into the crowd at a country music concert.

As more stories of heroism emerge, so do clearer pictures of the victims’ lives.

Here now, 10 more.”

Addiction, Education

Read or watch:

“…now to our America Addicted series.

Drug use has been down among teenagers, but mortality is rising. And that is leading many to seek out new options for their children.

The “NewsHour”’s Pamela Kirkland went to look at how one so-called recovery school in Indianapolis is giving new hope to students battling addiction.

It’s part of our weekly Making the Grade look at education.”

Sex Trafficking

To many, Emmy Myers appeared to be a model student during high school. She was involved in gymnastics, track and the agricultural club.

But her life took a dark turn into drugs and, eventually, sex trafficking.

Today, the 28-year-old Wisconsin native wants people to know that sex trafficking can happen to anyone ― and that the people buying women and girls can come from every income level and from every community.

Artificial Intelligence

“If we get it right, the upside is huge: Since everything we love about civilization is the product of intelligence, amplifying our own intelligence with AI has the potential to solve tomorrow's thorniest problems. For example, why risk our loved ones dying in traffic accidents that self-driving cars could prevent or succumbing to cancers that AI might help us find cures for? Why not grow productivity and prosperity through automation and use AI to accelerate our research and development of affordable sustainable energy?

I'm optimistic that we can thrive with advanced AI as long as we win the race between the growing power of our technology and the wisdom with which we manage it. But this requires ditching our outdated strategy of learning from mistakes. That helped us win the wisdom race with less powerful technology: We messed up with fire and then invented fire extinguishers, and we messed up with cars and then invented seat belts. However, it's an awful strategy for more powerful technologies, such as nuclear weapons or superintelligent AI — where even a single mistake is unacceptable and we need to get things right the first time. Studying AI risk isn't Luddite scaremongering — it's safety engineering. When the leaders of the Apollo program carefully thought through everything that could go wrong when sending a rocket with astronauts to the moon, they weren't being alarmist. They were doing precisely what ultimately led to the success of the mission.

So what can we do to keep future AI beneficial? Here are are four steps that have broad support from AI researchers:”

Nobel Prize, Economics

“Richard Thaler, one of the fathers of behavioral economics and a professor at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, has won the 2017 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science.

Renowned for his use of data to observe and predict how people behave in the real world, Thaler’s career has been a lifelong war on Homo economicus, that mythical species of purely rational hominids who dwell exclusively in the models of classical economic theory. In studies that borrowed from psychology, sociology, and plain-old curiosity, Thaler demonstrated that mankind was afflicted by emotion and irrationality, which influences their decision making on everything from retirement savings, to health-care policy, to professional sports.

But Thaler didn’t contend that humans were randomly irrational. More importantly, he observed that people are predictably irrational (to borrow a term from the economist Dan Ariely). Some of Thaler’s most interesting work studied the predictably irrational effects of ownership, confidence, and a sense of fairness.”