Friday, October 20, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - October 20 Edition


“The world is incredibly close to wiping out polio. This year the number of polio cases has shrunk to fewer than a dozen. And those cases are in just two countries- Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"We are definitely encouraged by the decline in number of cases," says Dr. Rana Safdar, the national coordinator for polio eradication in Pakistan. His country has seen the number of reported polio cases drop from more than 300 in 2014 to just 5 so far in 2017.

"We hope to completely eliminate transmission during the current low transmission season, which starts from September and ends in May," he says. "We are very confident we can do this. But the last mile is always very difficult."

Pakistan has been holding national polio immunization days in which a quarter of a million vaccinators attempt to make sure 38 million children get all three doses of the oral polio vaccine.

"We must reach these children from the coast of Karachi to the mountains in the highest part of Pakistan," Dr. Rana says.”

Inspiration, Film

“IN 1960 Jane Goodall moved to Tanzania to study chimpanzees. She was only 26 years old; her credentials consisted of a love of animals and a secretarial qualification. The first of “Leakey’s angels” (also known as “the trimates”)—Ms Goodall was one of three women encouraged by Louis Leakey, a renowned paleoanthropologist, to observe apes in their natural habitats to see what insights it might yield about early man. Scepticism abounded, but Ms Goodall was determined. She astonished everyone when, towards the end of her six-month trial, she wrote to Leakey having observed a chimp adapting a twig to capture termites. Leakey sent back a telegram: “Now we must redefine tool. Redefine man. Or accept chimpanzees as human.”

Overturning the assumption that only humans used tools was the start of Ms Goodall’s illustrious career in research, activism and education. She is now an iconic figure. At 83, she rarely spends more than a few months in one place, instead travelling the world to raise awareness for her causes. She started the Jane Goodall Institute, an organisation which has created sanctuaries for apes, in 1977 and has worked on community development for 40 years. Roots & Shoots was established in 1991 to encourage awareness of environmental and conservation issues among schoolchildren. It now operates in 140 countries.

Ms Goodall felt that her story had been sufficiently told: she is the subject of more than 40 films. But “Jane”, released on October 20th in America and on November 24th in Britain, finds plenty to say. At its heart is footage from the National Geographic archives, unearthed in 2015, of Ms Goodall’s early years in Tanzania. Totalling 140 hours, the material was untouched for 50 years and thought lost. Brett Morgen, dubbed the “mad scientist” of documentary film for his immersive, experiential style of film-making, was brought on to direct. Though Ms Goodall seems a far cry from his previous subjects—Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, the Rolling Stones, maverick producer Robert Evans—Mr Morgen insists that “she is my type of subject” as, like those rock stars, “she’s lived life by her own rules and redefined her field.” He adds: “In that sense she’s the biggest rock star I’ve ever filmed.””

Universal Healthcare, Medicare

“Medicare X would allow all Americans to buy a public health insurance plan. That plan would pay doctors the same prices that Medicare currently does, and it would allow patients to be seen at the offices and hospitals that Medicare has in network.

But it would have a different benefit package from the public program that covers Americans over age 65. The Medicare X plan would cover things that Medicare does not, such as pediatrics and maternity care.

Bennett and Kaine envision the Medicare X plan growing slowly. In 2020, it would become available only in counties with one or zero health plans selling on the Obamacare marketplace. In 2023, it would open to the entire country and, in 2024, allow small businesses to enroll too. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), one of the sponsors, says he could foresee a future where large employers are also allowed to buy into the plan. (That is not included in the current version of the plan.)”

Cities, Waste 

“The guidelines offer a preliminary and highly customizable blueprint for how New York could grapple with its daunting piles of detritus—and call on designers and architects to be at the forefront of research and policy to drive the city closer to the goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030. That target is one tenet of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s larger “One New York” plan, which outlines an ambitious agenda for broad sustainability and resilience measures.

Since landfill-clogging waste releases methane gas, it’s an obstacle to the administration’s pledge to drastically curb emissions—a commitment that officials cast as a defiant response to the federal move away from the Paris agreement. “Better designed, more effective, and more intentional waste management
 is a necessary part of the City’s effort to meet its climate goals,” said Mark Chambers, director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, in a statement about the guidelines. And that’s where designers and architects come in: rethinking the way people interact with waste from the chute to the street.

Architects have already intervened in complex urban problems such as mobility and resiliency: They’ve adapted the street for bikes and pedestrians, and to siphon stormwater, says Clare Miflin, a partner at the architecture firm Kiss + Cathcart and the report’s lead author. Moreover, Miflin says, architects are already concerned about waste—both the physical castoffs generated during construction and the more abstract problems of inefficient windows, lights, and other energy sucks. But somewhere along the line, trash had slipped through the cracks. “Nobody’s applying design to waste,” Miflin says.

In fact, waste is a planning issue that has a lot to do with how a city uses its space. “It’s often considered operational, or a hygiene issue, not a land-use issue,” says Juliette Spertus of the infrastructure-planning firm Closed Loops, who collaborated on the report. “But it’s something that’s stored and has a presence.”

Banking, Credit Unions

“Congress should consider allowing credit unions to serve communities that exist only online, the industry’s top regulator said—remarks that could stir ire in the banking industry, which competes with credit unions and is fighting their ability to expand their fields of membership.
National Credit Union Administration Chairman J. Mark McWatters said such a change would better reflect today’s society.

Under federal law, a credit union can serve a community with a “common bond,” a concept that regulators and Congress have expanded over the years. The number of credit-union memberships in the U.S. has moved past 100 million in recent years, but the law still generally limits credit unions’ field of membership to pools of people living or working near one another.

“We need to think about how we can create common bonds, or how we can reflect in the Federal Credit Union Act, what people today use as common bonds,” Mr. McWatters said in an interview this week at the regulator’s headquarters. “Chances are [such a change] would be very broad, and chances are it would be something that the bankers might not be totally in love with,” he said. “But again I am trying to parallel reality today as opposed to what it was a generation—or two or three or four generations—ago.””

Thursday, October 19, 2017

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

“Discussion of green infrastructure blossomed a few years back. ALCOSAN had proposed dealing with combined-sewer overflows (CSOs) overwhelmingly with “gray infrastructure”: bigger sewer pipes and larger processing facilities. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rejected that plan, and recent local efforts have concentrated on “green” projects that would keep rainwater where it falls, and out of the sewers. Many cities face similar problems, and green-infrastructure advocates say such solutions are ultimately cheaper and more effective, as well as more environmentally friendly. Green infrastructure mimics nature, engineering ways to manage rainwater that hark to when the land was forest and field. Techniques include green roofs, permeable paving and rain gardens. Green stormwater control is gaining popularity with private developers, too. “You see everyone doing it,” says Vivien Li, president and CEO of Pittsburgh-based nonprofit advocacy group Riverlife.”


“…protecting societies from violent conflict is not only a job for soldiers and police. Ordinary people in countries teetering on the edge of violent conflict can also tip the balance back toward peace. Their contribution to keeping or restoring the peace will not be the same as that of soldiers and police patrolling the streets, but it is no less important in the long term. 

Halting and reversing a slide toward civil war requires acting on four levels. One level is concrete: demonstrating, and if necessary using, the capacity to impose order through force. That’s a job for professional soldiers and armed police. Government policymakers and experts from international organizations usually operate on two other levels — the political and the institutional — reshaping constitutions and institutions. But there’s also a fourth level that often gets neglected: the personal and intercommunal level. That’s where ordinary citizens come in.

Ordinary citizens have to step up and reach out both to suspicious, angry majorities and to fearful minorities. This is not a soft option: it takes guts, determination, and planning. And it can have a significant cumulative impact: A million small steps taken locally can add up to a national transformation.”

Basic Income, Poverty

“Next year, a random sample of the 300,000 residents of Stockton, a port city in California’s Central Valley, will get $500 per month ($6,000 a year) with no strings attached.

It’s the latest test of a policy known as basic income, funded not out of city revenues but by individual and foundation philanthropy. The first $1 million in funding comes from the Economic Security Project, a pro-basic income advocacy and research group co-chaired by Facebook co-founder and former New Republic publisher Chris Hughes and activists Natalie Foster and Dorian Warren; Hughes provided the group’s initial funding. Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs hopes to launch the basic income project as early as August 2018.

The project — known as the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) — will be, in a way, the purest expression to date of Silicon Valley’s passion for basic income proposals, which many tech entrepreneurs and investors see as a necessary way to support Americans if artificial intelligence and other automation advances lead to unemployment for vast swaths of the population.

To the tech world, basic income is a way to redistribute the vast wealth that Silicon Valley creates to poorer people and localities left behind. And what better place to start than by redirecting part of a Facebook fortune to Stockton, an overwhelmingly nonwhite exurb of the Bay Area that became the largest city in the US to declare bankruptcy during the financial crisis?”

Media, Girls

Fed up with the way women and girls were portrayed in music on the radio, a group of teenage girls on a Boston soccer team brought an idea to their coach. They wanted to start their own radio station that portrayed women positively and respectfully, they said. Through the help of their coach, in 2003 the girls presented their idea to then-Mayor Thomas Menino, who supported it. Later that year, GRLZradio went on the air.

Today, GRLZradio produces a girls-run radio show with programming that includes music and discussions. The Boston-based program is one of eight run by St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children. Annually, more than 100 girls—primarily girls of color—between ages 12 and 19 complete the nonprofit’s multi-month training in radio hosting, engineering, producing, and blogging. It’s more than just a job-training program, though. By giving them control over the airwaves—and supporting them when they’re off the air—GRLZradio is helping to uplift teen girls.

“It’s important to show them that they have a voice and that they can say what’s on their mind,” said GRLZradio broadcast manager Danielle Johnson. She added that the girls who participate in the program are “submerged in a culture” that sexually objectifies them in music and television.

Elections, Voter Registration

ATLANTA (AP) — “A federal judge says Georgia cannot close voter registration for any federal election, including runoff contests, more than 30 days before the election.

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law had filed a lawsuit in April challenging the state's registration deadline for voters wishing to participate in a June 20 special election runoff for an open U.S. House seat.

State election officials argued a runoff is a continuation of an initial election under Georgia law and that the registration deadline should, therefore, be 30 days before the initial election rather than 30 days before the runoff.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten in May ordered the registration deadline extended to 30 days before the June runoff election. The consent decree filed Tuesday applies that to all federal elections and runoffs.”

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - October 18 Edition

Foreign Policy

“You don’t hear much about it in the media, but American forces are waging several conflicts around the world these days. As Washington obsesses over soap operas and scandals, the actual work of maintaining global order continues under the radar. The result is a national security discourse that looks like a mullet: business at the front, party in the back.

Our lead package this issue is an attempt to redress the balance, giving U.S. interventions the serious scrutiny they deserve. Think of it as a journey back to the front. We asked top experts on six key conflicts to sketch where things are, where they are going, and what the United States should do next—and we’re delighted to bring you their answers.”


From my home state:  Positive reactions from people living in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. "Locals like how the Indiana city is big but has “a small city feel.”


“For close to two decades now, or even longer, depending on your perspective, education reform has been on the agenda of Democrats and Republicans alike, school leaders around the country and major philanthropists who have influenced the debate.

It’s all led to big changes, new laws and programs, tougher requirements and additional funding, lots more testing, and occasional school closings and teacher layoffs. But what has it all brought?

Our former education correspondent John Merrow chronicled these efforts for our program for many years. He now looks back and into the future with a critique and with prescriptions in his new book, “Addicted to Reform: A 12-Step Program to Rescue Public Education.””

Girls, The World

“We know that in many countries, girls are less likely to go to school than boys; there are currently 130 million girls who aren’t getting an education worldwide. We also know that girls are more vulnerable to early marriage and human trafficking; 15 million are forced into marriage every year, and 71 percent of trafficking victims are female. We know that 63 million girls are at risk of female genital cutting, that girls are more vulnerable to diseases like HIV, and less likely to be treated for cancers. We know that gender stereotypes are deeply ingrained in both boys and girls before they reach the age of 10, so it’s hardly surprising that poor mental health is a significant cause of death in adolescent girls.

We also hear that girls are the key to eradicating poverty, stimulating the economy, even fighting climate change, if they are just given the right opportunities. But girls are more than just machines for global development: They are citizens with their own successes, challenges, and stories to tell. So today, Women & Girls is collecting the latest news relating to girls, along with a selection of our most important stories about girls from 2017, as well as new dispatches from India and Kenya on programs that are giving girls the opportunities to tell their stories on their own terms. We hope you enjoy them.” – Megan Clement, Managing Editor

Inspiration, Career Change, Burnout

Wendell Potter: “I didn’t have another job lined up. All I knew was that I didn’t want to keep doing what I was doing, and I didn’t want to leave one big corporation just to work for another one. What I really wanted to do was go back into journalism. I was a newspaper reporter in my first career. A lot of journalists go into PR for the money—or after being laid off—but I had never heard of anybody leaving the corporate world to go into journalism.

I also knew that it wasn’t just about me and what I wanted. My decision would affect the people closest to me, my family. I finally did walk away from that job, of course, but I went through a months-long process of self-examination before I handed in my resignation. Here’s what that looked like and actions I took to muster the courage to do what I know was the right thing.” 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - October 17 Edition

Happy 53rd Wedding Anniversary to my parents!

Transit, Greenhouse Gas Emissions

“Almost every major U.S. city has seen years of decline in bus ridership, but Seattle has been the exception in recent years. Between 2010 and 2014, Seattle experienced the biggest jump of any major U.S. city. At its peak in 2015, around 78,000 people, or about one in five Seattle workers, rode the bus to work.

That trend has cooled slightly since then, but Seattle continues to see increased overall transit ridership, bucking the national trend of decline. In 2016, Seattle saw transit ridership increase by 4.1 percent—only Houston and Milwaukee saw even half that increase in the same year.

Bus service is crucial to reducing emissions in the Seattle region. According to King County Metro, which serves the region, nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state come from transportation and its operation displaces roughly four times as many emissions as it generates, by taking cars off the road and reducing traffic congestion. The public transit authority has been recognized for its commitment to sustainability and its bus fleet is projected to be 100 percent hybrid or electric by 2018.

So what exactly did Seattle do to improve ridership in a city famously clogged by cars? Three people with different positions in the Seattle transit community—a  bus driver, a transportation official, and a transit advocate—weigh in.”

Long Term Care, Work Force, Aging

“Conversations around health care in the US often revolve around doctors, hospitals, and the rising cost of insurance. Lost in these exchanges is the importance of the long-term care industry. As the population ages, direct care workers such as home care aides and certified nursing assistants are becoming essential to more families in the US. Census estimates indicate that by 2050, the population aged 65 and over will be almost double what it was in 2012. 70 percent of that population will require long-term care.

The rising number of clients is just one challenge faced by the long-term care industry. Its workforce is marked by low levels of training, poor earnings, and high turnover rates. To address these mounting concerns, the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program and Health, Medicine and Society Program gathered a panel of experts on the long-term care industry. This latest conversation in the Working in America series was moderated by Alison Kodjak, health policy correspondent for NPR.

Paul Osterman, co-director of the MIT Sloan Institute for Work and Employment, opened the discussion by sharing insights from his new book, Who Will Care for Us?. “Long-term care is a challenge because it’s confusing, expensive, and because the costs and need for it are going to explode as people get older and retire,” Osterman said. He explained that, despite being protected by an Obama-era minimum wage and overtime extension, many of the 2 million home care workers live on or below the poverty line. The workforce is dominated by women of color who care deeply about their jobs, but receive little to no training.

Adria Powell aims to change that. Joining Osterman for the panel discussion, she explained that as president of Cooperative Home Care Associates she has advocated on behalf of her organization’s workers by investing in their career development. CHCA uses peer mentors to help new home care workers adjust to the demands of their jobs. They also provide them with opportunities for career advancement. Powell believes that we must reframe the narrative around home care workers. Too often they are seen as companions. “We always push to see that the home care worker is included as part of the health care team,” she said. “That home care worker probably spends more time with the patient than anyone else.”

Sexual Harassment

“The poll found that, all told, 33 million U.S. women have been sexually harassed—and 14 million sexually abused—in work-related episodes.

Yet nearly all women—95%—report that male perpetrators of such abuse usually go unpunished.

The poll did provide some promising results: 75% of American call workplace sexual harassment a problem, while 64% deem it a “serious” problem—that’s an increase of 11 and 17 percentage points, respectively, since the last similar poll in 2011. But despite wider awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace, it remains prevalent—to an alarming degree.”

Sleep, Health

Read or Listen:

“The National Sleep Foundation recommends an average of eight hours of sleep per night for adults, but sleep scientist Matthew Walker says that too many people are falling short of the mark.

"Human beings are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent gain," Walker says. "Many people walk through their lives in an underslept state, not realizing it."
Walker is the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He points out that lack of sleep — defined as six hours or fewer — can have serious consequences. Sleep deficiency is associated with problems in concentration, memory and the immune system, and may even shorten life span.
"Every disease that is killing us in developed nations has causal and significant links to a lack of sleep," he says. "So that classic maxim that you may [have] heard that you can sleep when you're dead, it's actually mortally unwise advice from a very serious standpoint."
Walker discusses the importance of sleep — and offers strategies for getting the recommended eight hours — in his new book, Why We Sleep.”

Travel, Photography

“My alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. Determination masked my sleepiness. My goal was simple: to photograph the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine near Kyoto, Japan without any people. The early bird gets the photo.

For the past seven years, I have roamed the world working as a freelance photographer and running photo trips in Asia. The secret to travel photography is getting up painfully early. The reward is silence, photos with clean backgrounds and a glimpse of the real culture.

Whether you are shooting with an iPhone 6 or a DSLR, these tips will help polish your photography skills for your next adventure.”

Monday, October 16, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow

Refugees, Heroes

“Over the past four years, De Andrés says she has built a network of about 3,000 refugees and volunteers without ever leaving her hometown of Vigo. She calls it “Red Alert” — a play on red, the Spanish word for net or network.

De Andrés is not a trained aid worker, but her collaborative efforts to track people attempting to cross the eastern Aegean have helped shine a light on urgent cases, providing assistance to those in need. Proactiva Open Arms, the Spanish lifeguard NGO that has plucked thousands of refugees from rubber rafts in the eastern Aegean and the Mediterranean Sea, credits her with having saved many lives.

That night De Andrés stays up until 3 a.m. responding to messages, though most of the problems passed her way go unresolved. In the days that follow, some progress is made: It turns out the man in Turkey needs around $3,500 for a neck prosthesis, so De Andrés reaches out to her WhatsApp network and online to friends to see how best to raise the funds. The Syrians whose raft was lost at sea made it safely to the Greek island of Chios. She says she plans to send $60 out of her own pocket via Western Union to the family in Erbil.

“We can’t stop war, nor can we save everybody,” De Andrés says. “But we can save this one and that one.””

Girl Scouts, Boys

“Girls will soon be able to join the Boy Scouts. The group says it has a lot to offer girls. But it’s also worth considering what boys could learn from the Girl Scouts.

The organizations are different in many ways, starting with the badges they offer. Over all, the boys seem to have more chances to do things (with badges in activities like whitewater rafting, welding and bugling). The girls have more badges for caring for others (being a good neighbor, a voice for animals, a social butterfly).

The Girl Scouts, who allow only children who identify as girls, say they teach leadership and risk-taking, and are adding badges in outdoor skills, engineering and computer science. But what if the Boy Scouts also did more of what the Girl Scouts do? It could serve them well in their personal lives and their careers.

Boys are falling behind in school and in some parts of the economy. That’s in part because modern-day work relies less on physical labor and more on caregiving and collaboration. Jobs that involve these so-called feminine skills are the ones that are growing, in number and pay, according to research from Harvard.

Meanwhile, when girls are encouraged to do things that boys have traditionally done, but boys aren’t encouraged to do “girl” things, it’s a message that what’s masculine is superior and what’s feminine is inferior. That dynamic helps explain why jobs that are considered traditionally female pay less, and why pay goes down when women enter jobs that used to be done mostly by men.”

Cancer, Caregiving

“As a caregiver, I did many things for my sister. I provided physical and emotional support, both at home and in the hospital. On a practical level, I helped her with her daily needs, such a transportation and from appointments and dosing of medications. While I chose this role in part out of love and in part out of fear, but I do not have one steadfast motive behind my decision.

However, as much cancer changes the person that has been diagnosed, it also changes those around that person. As cancer progressed and mutated within my sister, my role as a caregiver changed, too. When she was at her sickest, I was her power of attorney and made nearly every choice for her. Now, I am no longer her caregiver. Not only because I chose to discontinue that role, but also because the role is no longer needed.

Since I have stopped being a caregiver, it has been a struggle to return to a normal life. I devoted an enormous amount of time and support helping and caring for my sister. I am lucky that I had many around me telling me that I needed to start focusing more on myself. While their words did not completely remove the guilt from walking away, it did help to lesson it.”


“Unfortunately, it's no longer enough to cut CO2 emissions to avoid further global temperature increases. We need to remove some of the CO2 that's already there. Thankfully, that reversal is one step closer to becoming reality. Climeworks and Reykjavik Energy have started running the first power plant confirmed to produce "negative emissions" -- that is, it's removing more CO2 than it puts out. The geothermal station in Hellsheidi, Iceland is using a Climeworks module and the plant's own heat to snatch CO2 directly from the air via filters, bind it to water and send it underground where it will mineralize into harmless carbonates.

Just like naturally forming carbon deposits, the captured CO2 should remain locked away for many millions of years, if not billions. And because the basalt layers you need to house the CO2 are relatively common, it might be relatively easy to set up negative emissions plants in many places around the world.”


“There are so many barriers for women in India when it comes to education,’’ Shroff said. “They get their periods and stay home for a week and fall behind. Or their parents have another child and they stop going to school and start babysitting the younger ones and become the mother of the household.’’