Tuesday, July 29, 2014

light the night | Energize Africa

29 July, 2014

Just about everybody enjoys a candle, a campfire, a flickering lantern. But I don't know anyone who wants to read by that light, or mend clothes, or give birth.

So, this from the good folks at the One Campaign:

Next week, 40 to 50 African leaders will be in DC for the first-ever US-Africa Leaders Summit. This is going to be a huge event.


Next week the Senate will be gone. For the entire month of August.


This week is THE week to get the Energize Africa Act passed.  

Send a message to your U.S. senators and tell them this is the week to stand up and support the Energize Africa Act. We've only got a few days to make this happen—but it's totally doable if enough of our senators hear from enough of us.

Here's the message I sent my senators—feel free to borrow and personalize it however you wish (I borrowed it from the One Campaign and added a tiny bit of a personal appeal).
I'm writing to ask you to co-sponsor and support S. 2508, the Energize Africa Act. 
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN), Sen. Coons, Sen. Markey, Sen. Isakson and Sen. Johanns just introduced this bill, which seeks to reduce poverty, improve health and education, and bolster economic growth in Africa by ramping up U.S. involvement in promoting first-time access to electricity for at least 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.  
Similar bipartisan legislation, H.R. 2548, the Electrify Africa Act, was recently passed in the House by a bipartisan vote. The Electrify Africa Act is also aimed at bringing first time energy access to 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, would actually reduce the budget deficit by $86 million over the next 5 years. Both bills represent a new approach to development aid that leverages the private sector to assist the world’s poorest.  
I hope you'll support the Energize Africa Act with the energy and imagination I so admire in you.  
Jim Hancock 
Africa doesn't have to be in the dark; we can help turn on the lights.

Monday, July 21, 2014

in the wind | tweets from the space ending 07.19.14

Out of control | when people really know how to read, they're hard to dominate 

dignity | Archbishop Desmond Tutu on 'assisted dying' http://bit.ly/1wmih8b 

falling | US birthrates for 15-19 year-olds 

'Wimpy Kid' author's six tips for getting grade-schoolers hooked on reading http://bit.ly/1u3EKuK 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

falling | US birthrates for 15-19 year-olds

2013 birth rates for US 15-19 year-olds fell to historic lows in every racial and ethnic population. 

Centers for Disease Control
In related news, a trend that goes against some narratives that contrast urban and rural life: Teen birth rates in rural counties are higher, and declining more slowly, than urban centers and suburban counties, regardless of race and ethnicity.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

in the wind | tweets from the space ending 07.12.14

Slenderman | a brief history and analysis 

media trolls | I'm looking at you Daily Beast 

all weather is local | three maps that have nothing—and everything—to do with youth work jimhancock.blogspot.com 

Smoke | hookah use up 20% by relatively well-off US high school seniors http://bit.ly/TYrQOc 

peace through strength | Martin Marty on a side of East Germany's liberation you may have missed jimhancock.blogspot.com 

call it what it is | the power in naming the truth http://bit.ly/1pZEVph

A rape video goes viral and...what? when will that no longer be ok? 

if your small business or nonprofit depends on the internet, you have until July 15, 2014 to speak up for fair treatment http://usat.ly/1oqsNab

Monday, July 07, 2014

peace through strength | Martin Marty on a side of East Germany's liberation you may have missed

Prayer Meetings in Leipzig
Monday | July 7 2014
Reposted by permission of The Martin Marty Center of the University of Chicago Divinity School
Pastor Christian Führer (Dec. 2, 2009)                 Photo Credit: Marco Schulze / Creative Commons
“Christian Führer, 71, East German Pastor Whose Prayer Meetings Inspired Protests” was the headline for a July 3, New York Times obituary.

In 1983, when the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall still symbolized the reality of non-freedom, including for Christians, I visited Johann Sebastian Bach’s native city of Leipzig in the then German Democratic Republic also known as East Germany. While there, I was invited to the home of a professor’s wife and daughter. In that drab and dingy world, the hostess opened her door and pointed: “Komm herein! This is this year’s flowers and wine on the table, and you are this year’s guests.” Her apartment was debugged, so she could speak freely, as did her daughter who had to choose between being a confirmand or getting into a university.

Meanwhile, in the same East German city, a young pastor (born 1943, ordained 1968) was praying his way to becoming a leader. His last name, Führer, means “leader” in German—his mission changed the world. The story is well remembered, though the pastor’s name did not become a household word in our part of the world.

Impelled, he made clear, by Jesus and the gospel of peace, and inspired by other leaders with names like Bonhoeffer, King, and Gandhi, he believed in, preached, and practiced the way of peace. Führer worked with young people who were hungry for freedom and who would pray and march their way toward its realization.

During 1987-88 he and his colleagues organized peace marches at and from Leipzig’s St. Nicholas Church. The movement grew from a few participants to 320,000 pray-ers willing to brave the clubs of police officers though the officers were powerless to stop the marches. Some, it was said, practiced self-restraint in admiration for the courageous young folk.

Führer, clad in jeans and leather, did not look like a pastor in the official, but scrutinized and suspect Lutheran church. Still, his “forces” are usually credited with having the most significant role in bringing down the Communist regime in East Germany and in contributing to the fall of the Wall. The pastor, true to his calling, insisted on non-violence and convinced his followers to be utterly peaceful. “We were ready for anything but candles and prayer,” the police acknowledged.

Führer stuck to his message. “What I saw [at the biggest demonstration] still gives me shivers,” he said years later. “And if anything deserves the word ‘miracle’ at all, then this was a miracle of Biblical proportions. We succeeded in bringing about a revolution, which achieved Germany’s unity... It was a peaceful revolution after so much violence and so many wars that we, the Germans, so often started.”

Saturday, July 05, 2014

all weather is local | three maps that have nothing — and everything — to do with youth work

This map shows states with significantly higher and lower than average deaths from drug-poisoning in 2011—including suicides, homicides, unintentional and unknown. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Dark blue states reported significantly higher rates of drug-poisoning deaths in 2011 than the national average of 13.2 per 100,000 population (drug-poisoning = overdose); light blue states report significantly lower rates.

North Dakota saw fewer than 20 drug deaths per 100,000 people in 2011 (they're the white rectangle in the northern tier of states). By comparison, West Virginia was awash in drug-related deaths, with just over 36 per 100,000 people.

The patterns defy conventional expectations, with New York at 9.7 per 100,000, New Mexico at 26.3; California at 10.7, Kentucky at 25 (It's a shock to the system to find that that New York and California do not have higher drug death rates than New Mexico and Kentucky).

The national death toll from drug-poisoning in 2011 was 43,340—not 850 deaths per state + DC, but spread irregularly and all over the map because of...what? Not total population. Not population density. Not ethnic/racial composition. Not red/blue political majorities. If none of those, then what?

+ + +

A few years ago I was in Kenya to look, among other things, at Compassion's Child Survival Program. This initiative provides prenatal care to pregnant poor women and then maintains the connection with mother and newborn through early childhood with growth monitoring, immunizations, female literacy, food supplements, family planning and other interventions.

This map reports Infant Mortality Rates by country. Infant Mortality Rate is calculated by the number of deaths before the age of one per 1,000 live births (not the deaths per 100,000 population in the drug-poisoning map above).

Index Mundi - click here for interactive map
At the time of my visit, Kenya's infant mortality rate was around 50—meaning about five children in a hundred died before turning a year old. But the community around the Compassion Child Survival Program we visited reported an estimated infant mortality rate somewhere around 300—meaning, for every hundred children born in that area, around 30 died within a year. Imagine living in a community where your neighbors lost about one infant in three...

But that was before Compassion planted the Child Survival Program center there. Once they were up and running, the estimated infant mortality rate was near zero. In the years since the center opened, there had been only one infant death in the community. Compassion learned to deliver the right interventions, at the right time, to the right families, in the right way.

+ + +

This map is from a new project called, Risky Business, that assesses a range of regional economic scenarios related to climate change between now and the next century or so. The project is a nonpartisan coalition of political conservatives, moderates and liberals working to understand the likely impacts of climate change on natural resources, business productivity, and economic outcomes in the U.S. economy. 

riskybusiness.org - click here for interactive map

The initial report shows how already existing climate change factors are likely to reshape regional economies if A) we do nothing different, B) we make modest reductions in the risk factors that contribute to climate change, or C) we make significant changes in those negative contributors.

The economic risks and burdens of climate change aren't the same in every part of the country for the simple reason that the U.S. is big and geographically diverse.

So, sea level rise is a profound economic and national security risk in the Far West where I live. Add in increasing risks of fresh water shortages and wildfires and it doesn't take a genius to anticipate serious threats to natural resources, property, productivity and economic growth in the West.

In the Northeast and Southeast where my spouse and I were raised, economic and health dangers merge in a scale called the Humid Heat Stroke Index that measures the impact of increasing humidity and heat on the safety and productivity of people who must work outdoors (agriculture, construction, transportation, and so on). Add to that the increased costs of cooling indoor spaces for the rest of the workforce, plus the risks associated with coastal flooding, and the future in the East Coast looks hot, sticky, physically hazardous and very expensive if we continue doing business as usual.

And so it goes across all six geographic and economic regions, each with its own assets and liabilities (not to mention its own microclimate zones) which must be weighed and balanced in a long view economic picture. Try to average them all out and you get an almost useless picture of possible futures. As Risky Business Co-Chair, Tom Steyer, said, "Talking about climate change in terms of U.S. averages is like saying, 'My head is in the refrigerator and my feet are in the oven, so overall I'm average.'"

+ + +

Perhaps you see a pattern here...

  • Economists, scientists, policymakers, elected officials and courts can't lead the U.S. into a secure future by ignoring the distinctive conditions of life on the ground. Mississippi is not Montana and it's no good pretending they don't face unique challenges and opportunities going forward.
  • Compassion opens Child Survival Programs in infant mortality hotspots to address the needs of children and mothers at high risk. Outside those hotspots, Compassion's work focuses mainly on child development through the school-age years—but as Duffy Robbins noted on that same trip: "You can't develop children who don't survive." Compassion looks at conditions on the ground, and does what it takes.
  • American's die from drug-poisoning at different rates in parts of the country. So it behooves anyone working with teenagers to know something about the rate of drug-related deaths where they live and work. And then, whether high or low, it makes sense to learn how to deliver the right information and interventions, at the right time, to the right people, in the right way. 
Part of the "work" in youth work is figuring out how to be the right people with the right skills and practices to nurture teenagers into adulthood whole and healthy. We don't measure this work against the scale of national averages; we measure this work in the real and hyperlocal circumstances of the real people we serve.

Am I in a drug-death hotspot? a gun-violence free fire zone? a microclimate of high teenage pregnancy? Whatever the case, borrowing a notion from Reinhold Neibuhr, what can I do but pray for the grace to take this world as I find it—not as I would have it—and seek God's kingdom and will as if my life depended on it...which I imagine in some way it does.

Youth work is not national or even regional; youth work is practiced in microclimates. 

This is why massive umbrella strategies and programs for youth work often fail. Grand strategies and programs are not the stuff of youth work—youth workers are the stuff of youth work: men and women so tuned to conditions on the ground that they make a difference by being there; by the content of their character; by the company they keep in relationships they sustain and relationships that sustain them; by the knowledge, insight, wisdom, skill, craft and sound practices they apply in their own microclimates, season after season, for as long as they're able.

Whatever the forecasters and prognosticators think, report, publish, or offer for sale, youth workers have to reckon with the downpour or drought that's playing out right where they are—because, as anyone can tell you, all weather is local.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

media trolls | I'm looking at you Daily Beast

The Daily Beast headline read:

DANCING WITH MOLLY connects the story, harvested from the Boston Globe, to MDMA — methylenedioxymethamphetamine Ecstasy, as they say. 

The Daily Beast-generated text beneath that bit of clickbait read:

Club drugs! Out-of-control teenagers! Culture in collapse! Hair on fire!

The trouble is, as people are coming to expect from the Daily Beast, the connection between MDMA and the medical interventions at the show was conjecture, unsupported by the story to which they linked. The Boston Globe included reports from people at the show of drunkenness, high temperatures in the venue, crowding on the floor, dehydration, and an 18-year-old's statement that he saw some people taking what he believed were drugs.

And they may have been drugs. Or not. The Boston Police Superintendent in Chief and Boston EMS Deputy Superintendent said maybe, "but none have been identified."
I'm no apologist for club drugs or drunkenness. I am an advocate for teenagers as a class of human beings and I vigorously defend the importance of careful and accurate reporting of any story that represents or affects them. 

The Daily Beast can and should raise the game beyond water cooler speculation. I'm looking at Daily Beast, but they're not the only ones I'm thinking about. Can any of us be trusted as observers, reporters or commentators if our observations, reporting and cultural commentary don't reliably elevate the conversation above the level of gossip?