4 strategies to avoid #resistance burnout

Image: vicky leta / mashable

I was listening to The Read recently — it’s my favorite podcast — and I was struck by co-host Kid Fury’s observations about reaching the end of the year and feeling tired. 

I posted how I felt on Instagram: “Can’t add one more plan tired. Hard to get excited about exciting things tired. Can’t project, assume, or read minds tired. I’m letting myself be tired, be imperfect, be how I am. It is time to hibernate and make meaning of this year, understand the lessons.”

Five hundred people gave it a heart within a few hours. People reached out to me to say they are also tired — exhausted, really. Falling out in meetings, losing things, fighting with loved ones, letting hopelessness have our tongues. 

I am a social justice facilitator, practicing and teaching a methodology called Emergent Strategy. The goal is to learn how we do justice work that is adaptive, focuses on the small things that make up all large systems, and prioritizes critical connections over critical mass. I am also a visionary fiction writer (part of the Octavia’s Brood team) and a pleasure activist, which means I believe pleasure is an important measure of freedom, and that we need to make justice the most pleasurable experience we can have. 

And, even as someone focused on ease, nature, future, and pleasure, 2017 was a daunting year. 

And, even as someone focused on ease, nature, future, and pleasure, 2017 was a daunting year. But I am still going. Movements for social and environmental justice are still moving forward. 

Which gets me curious about how we are surviving, how we are generating energy to move forward in 2018 when everything is heavy and everything hurts. 

What do we do? 

The first thing is to give ourselves lots of room and respect for whatever we have done. It got us this far. So, shout outs to alcohol, sugar, sex, and weed, which have been doing the work of comforting and numbing millions. After the 2016 election, drinking definitely became one of my coping mechanisms for that “They all want my death” feeling that has become daily life. 

I know the newness of feeling this every day is as much an indication of my privilege as it is of political change; things aren’t getting worse, they are getting unveiled. Whatever I didn’t see before this moment is a sign that I was somehow benefiting from not seeing it. It feels worse nonetheless. 

But we need to be careful about numbing. The long-term impacts of numbing move us away from the very aliveness we are fighting for, that erotic level of presence, alertness, and feeling our miraculous existence in real time. Audre Lorde taught us that, “In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.”  

I wanted to offer some strategies beyond numbing that have helped me protect my aliveness. I invite you to practice these throughout 2018.

1. Reconnect with our movement ancestors. We are not the first to be in impossible conditions. And what we know is that we have survived, that our ancestors found ways to survive, to be in dignity and resistance. Focus on ancestors of your own lineage, knowing that every lineage on earth has individuals and groups who have left lessons behind. For me this year has been lit by the north star of Harriet Tubman. You might call on freedom fighters like Berta Cáceres or Bobby Sands — there are so many who inspire. Ancestors can and should humble us. 

2. Tune in to the three Gs every day: gratitude, good news, and genius. If you look, all three are within reach.

a) Start and/or end the day with gratitude. It’s a gorgeous world; pay attention to the beauty, the connection, the generosity and growth.

b) Read between the lines and find the good news. It’s always there, but it might be very small. For me, it’s often in the news of what movements for social and environmental justice are doing to resist. Boost it, grow it with your attention.

c) Our continued survival is actually a long, iterative practice of collective genius. Pay attention to the people and organizations who are doing more than reacting to the daily news or pulling each other down. Tune into the work of the Movement for Black Lives, the Women’s March, #MeToo, Cooperation Jackson, Movement Generation, #ourpowerpr, Mi Gente. These initiatives are attempting audacious, visionary, and difficult work that relies on the genius that arises from people working together across difference to address the challenges and opportunities of their real lives.

3. That thing about putting on your oxygen mask before helping others? It’s real. It’s not like other masks that hide your true face from others, which is an important distinction here. You don’t need to put anything over your truth right now to cover the emotional rollercoaster of being a human who is paying attention. But you do need to take care of yourself at a material level. Soothe without numbing, rest without guilt, hydrate to replenish your foundation, and use your body while there is still miracle in it. Hibernate: turn inward, get still, write down what you have learned from surviving the last year as well as what has been liberated within you, and what you are ready to grow. 

4. And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t remind y’all that an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away. Remember that your body is literally wired to feel good, thread with nerves that communicate pleasure and let you know what to move toward. And you can choose between the orgasm and the orgasmic — do a massage exchange with friends, eat delicious home-cooked meals, watch comedy shows. There are so many ways to turn up your aliveness.

None of these practices are small or trite. We are in the worst of times right now. If you need to be convinced to care for your body, mind, and spirit so that you can care for your community and this planet, let’s just review the past 12 months. 

There was a period of denial and grief for many of us. Perhaps you also spent some time under a blanket, wondering why our species is so self-sabotaging and embarrassing? Maybe you too called friends to discuss where you could run to, and realized, again, that there was no place far enough, no place beyond the reach of the United States?

Those of us with an intersectional analysis of our current situation know that every uphill battle we’ve been fighting is at least twice as steep. We are looking ahead at battles around the tax plan, net neutrality, protecting the planet as a livable planet for our species, resisting a police force encouraged to unleash increased violence on our devastated vulnerable communities. All while watching 45 play nuclear roulette with North Korea on Twitter.

For those of us working to create social change, 2017 was a wild year. We take our whiplashed necks and try to keep up the pace as we run from protest to petition to planning meeting. We have held some lines, we have shown up and said no to racist bans and efforts to strip us of hard-won rights, and we have reached for each other. We’ve been surprised and excited as scientists marched and national parks workers used Twitter to resist fascist policy making.

And, in our exhaustion, we have sometimes turned on each other. Interpersonal beef drains organizational resources. Tactical differences become landmines. Places where we could learn together instead become battlegrounds that play out on social media. We long for something different but are stretched too thin to practice new approaches. We want each other to be perfect and to be transparent about our flaws. We are punitive and transformative in the same breath. 

We are in a fight for our survival and there’s no turning away from it, no turning back. 2017 was a reckoning, an unveiling. An embarrassment, yes, but it’s honest. And now we are at a very real risk of becoming too exhausted to continue our fight, our journey. 

Ella Baker taught us that “we who believe in freedom cannot rest.” 

Ella Baker taught us that “we who believe in freedom cannot rest.” I wrestle with these words all the time, because I believe in freedom, and I believe my body is a crucial part of the fight for freedom. So I interpret these words through my work. I do not rest in terms of how I work. I tirelessly show up for movements I believe in, to hold planned or unexpected hard conversations and mediations, to invite transformation in the face of frustration. I tirelessly seek out old and new ways of moving through our current paradigm and into a viable future. 

But when it comes to my body, I rest. I rest in myriad ways that allow me to show up fully for each facilitation. I ensure that I have quiet time each evening, a bath when there’s a tub, at least seven hours of sleep each night. I want to give us more permission to rest our bodies so that we don’t burn out our spirits and minds in our lifelong commitment to liberation.

It is in that spirit that I invite you to honor your ancestors and remember that they believed in you before your first breath. They believed you could generate gratitude, uplift good news, contribute to genius. Put on your oxygen mask and open to the pleasurable experiences of life. This is our moment to shape.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2018/01/12/resistance-burn-out-activism-new-year/

Here are the 2017 innovations that changed the world

Image: Morgan’s Inspiration Island; eSight; Petit Pli; Manu Prakash/Stanford

2017 may have been a rough year, but there were plenty of inventions, innovations, and gadgets that made the world just a slightly better place.

From global health to social justice to humanitarian aid, a slew of scientists, technologists, and activists came together this year to create impactful solutions to some of our most pressing problems.

In no particular order, here are 30 innovations that made a tangible difference in 2017. For even more inspiration, check out our list of incredible innovations from 2016.

1. The 20-cent paper toy that can help diagnose diseases

This paper device, which only costs 20 cents to make, can help scientists and doctors diagnose diseases like malaria and HIV within minutes — no electricity required.

The Paperfuge, developed by Stanford assistant professor of bioengineering Manu Prakash, is a hand-powered centrifuge that was inspired by a whirligig toy. It can hold blood samples on a disc, and by pulling the strings back and forth, it spins the samples at extremely fast rates to separate blood from plasma, preparing them for disease testing.

It could prove revolutionary for rural areas in developing countries, and save lives in the process.

2. The soft robot sleeve that can restart a failing heart

Researchers at Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital created this customizable soft robot sleeve that can wrap around a failing heart and squeeze it, allowing blood to keep flowing throughout the body. In tests conducted on pigs, the device allowed the animals’ hearts to start pumping again.

The innovation is still in testing stages, but the goal is to one day be able to use it in order to save human lives. According to Harvard, heart failure affects 41 million people worldwide.

3. A Facebook translation bot for refugees

Tarjimly is a Facebook translation bot that connects refugees with volunteer translators, wherever they are in the world. Whether they need to speak with doctors, aid workers, legal representatives, or other crucial services, users can tap into the power of Facebook Messenger to get real-time, potentially life-saving, translations on the spot.

4. Smart glasses that help legally blind people see

The eSight 3 is a set of electronic glasses that can drastically improve a legally blind person’s vision, helping them see and perform daily activities with ease.

The device fits over a user’s eyes and glasses like a headset, using a camera to send images to tiny dual screens in front of their eyes. Two sensors adjust the focus, while a handheld remote lets the user zoom and contrast, among other functions. For a user with 20/400 vision, for example, it can improve their eyesight up to 20/25. 

5. A cardboard drone for humanitarian aid

Image: OTHERLAB

Otherlab, a San Francisco-based engineering research and development lab, developed what it calls the world’s most advanced industrial paper airplane. The cardboard gliders are made with a biodegradable material and equipped with GPS and other electronics, allowing them to be dropped by a plane and deliver two pounds of life-saving materials without needing to be retrieved. 

6. 3D-printed sex organs to help blind students learn

Image: Courtesy of Benetech

Holistic, inclusive sex ed is hard to come by as it is. For blind students, it’s even harder. That’s why advocates and researchers at Benetech created 18 3D figures that show sex organs during a various states of arousal, letting students “feel” their way through sex education. Benetech partnered with LightHouse for the Blind and Northern Illinois University to create the models.

7. A texting service that contacts Congress for you in 2 minutes

2017 was a year of resistance, and one of the most tangible ways of taking action has been contacting your reps. Enter Resistbot, a simple service that lets you text RESIST to 50409 or message the accompanying Facebook bot in order to help you find the right members of Congress and send your message to them directly.

8. The app for detained immigrants to contact their family

Image: Notifica/Huge

The Notifica app helps undocumented immigrants who get detained or caught up in raids to send out secure messages to a designated support network of family and friends.

9. A mobile-based ambulance taxi program in Tanzania

Vodafone has developed an innovative ambulance taxi program in the rural Lake Zone of Tanzania, using the power of mobile phones. The program helps pregnant women in health emergencies dial a special hotline number, through which health workers connect them to a local network of vetted taxi drivers who can get them quickly to clinics when there are few ambulances available.

The drivers are paid by the organization through the mobile money system M-Pesa, so it’s free for users.

10. An app that gets kids moving — and help other kids, too

Image: Lili Sams / Mashable

The UNICEF Kid Power app is a standalone app that expands on the organization’s fitness bands program, helping kids convert their daily steps into life-saving nutrition for malnourished children in the developing world. The app counts your steps — every 2,500 steps earns you a point, and 10 points “unlock” a ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) package that UNICEF and sponsors will deliver to a child with severe acute malnutrition.

11. Facebook’s digital maps that help with disaster relief

Image: Facebook

In June, Facebook announced a new product called “disaster maps,” using Facebook data in disaster areas in order to send crucial information to aid organizations during and after crises. The information helps relief efforts get a bird’s eye view of who needs help, where, and what resources are needed.

12. The chatbot that wants to help you with your mental health 

Image: Woebot

Woebot is one of the first chatbots of its kind, using artificial intelligence to talk to you, help improve your mood, and even alleviate symptoms of depression. It’s not a replacement for a therapist by any means, but a Stanford University study showed that Woebot “led to significant reductions in anxiety and depression among people aged 18-28 years old.”

13. An app connecting refugees with crucial services

Image: RefAid

RefAid is an app that connects refugees with nearby services in education, health, legal aid, shelter and more by using their location. It originally started as a side project, but now more than 400 of the largest aid organizations in the world, including the Red Cross and Doctors of the World, all use it. 

14. A solar-powered tent designed for homeless people

Image: Scott Witter / Mashable

Earlier this year, 12 teens in San Fernando, California, joined forces with the nonprofit DIY Girls to invent a solar-powered tent that folds up into a rollaway backpack for homeless populations. They won a $10,000 grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program to develop the tent, and presented their project at MIT in June.

15. The app that could help end female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) affects millions of women and girls around the world. In Kenya, where the procedure is illegal but still practiced due to cultural significance, a group of five teen girls  created the i-Cut app to fight back.

i-Cut allows users to alert authorities as a preventive measure, and also lets survivors send reports and find local rescue centers. The app earned them a place in the 2017 Technovation Challenge in August. 

16. An eyeglass accessory to alert deaf people of sound

Peri is an accessory that attaches to a deaf person’s eyeglasses and translates audio cues into visual ones. Inspired by first-person shooter games, in which the screen glows as your character is hit, Peri lights up in the direction of loud sounds.

It can help deaf and hard of hearing users not only with increased awareness, but also to avoid dangerous situations more easily. 

17. The tool that turns your extra computer power into bail money

Bail Bloc, created by a team at The New Inquiry, uses your computer’s spare power to help contribute to community bail funds, assisting people in jail and their families who can’t afford bail.  

Bail Bloc uses the power to mine a cryptocurrency called Monero, which is then converted into U.S. dollars to donate to the Bronx Freedom Fund and The Bail Project. No cryptocurrency knowledge required — all you have to do is run it in your computer’s background. 

18. This game-changing Braille literacy tool for kids

The Read Read is an innovative learning device that teaches blind people and those with low vision how to read Braille. Each tile has Braille lettering printed on metal to touch, and the device also reads the letter out loud along with how many dots it contains. This helps the user sound out each word they learn.

19. An air-powered wheelchair for kids with disabilities

Morgan’s Inspiration Island is a new, accessible water park in San Antonio, Texas, specifically designed for kids with disabilities. But what about kids who use electric wheelchairs? No problem — the theme park teamed up with the University of Pittsburgh to develop the PneuChair, a light, air-powered wheelchair that can get wet and only takes 10 minutes to charge.

20. The first gender-inclusive educational toy

Meet Sam, a new set of stacking dolls in which each layer shows a different stage of gender questioning and exploring. Created by Gender Creative Kids Canada, which calls the doll “the world’s first educational transgender toy,” Sam was designed with trans youth in mind. The creators hope it will help educate all children and their families.

Gender Creative Kids Canada launched a Kickstarter for the toy, and also released an e-book and accompanying video to introduce Sam to the world.

21. A robot lawyer for low-income communities

The chatbot DoNotPay offers users free legal aid for a range of issues, including helping refugees apply for asylum, guiding people in reporting harassment at work, and even aiding everyday consumers who want to fight corporations who try to take advantage of them.

22. These period-friendly boxers for trans men

Image: Courtesy of Pyramid Seven

A new company called Pyramid Seven launched a line of period-inclusive underwear for trans men, filling a much needed gap in the period-friendly underwear market. Each pair of boxers is stylish and includes an extra panel inside to support period products, like pads. Due to high demand, the line of underwear quickly sold out.

23. A revolutionary gene therapy treatment for cancer

An illustration of a white blood cell.

Image: Shutterstock / royaltystockphoto.com

Kymriah is a newly FDA-approved cancer gene therapy treatment from the drug company Novartis. It’s part of a new class of therapy called CAR-T, which is made by “harvesting a patient’s own disease-fighting T-cells, genetically engineering them to target specific proteins on cancer cells, and replacing them to circulate possibly for years, seeking out and attacking cancer,” according to Reuters.

It’s not cheap — it costs $475,000 per patient — but the results in patients with aggressive blood cancer are unprecedented. In fact, 83 percent of patients were cancer-free after three months with one dose (they continued to respond after six months, according to new reports).

24. The empowering hands-free breast pump

Willow is a wearable breast pump that allows people to pump hands-free and quietly. You can wear two of the pumps underneath your bra, so it’s discreet and allows you to multitask.

25. A wheelchair that allows its users to stand

The Laddroller is a wheelchair that helps its users stand. Designed by Greek architect Dimitrios Petrotos, the Laddroller uses four wheels, and can also navigate rough terrains. After 13 prototypes, it’s now awaiting regulatory approval to go to market.

26. A portable, reinvented IV pole

Image: Courtesy of IV Walk

IV-Walk is a reimagining of the traditional IV pole to grant its users more flexibility and range. It was designed by Alissa Rees, who was diagnosed with leukemia at 19 years old and had to stay attached to an IV pole for weeks at a time throughout her two years in the hospital.

“Stimulating mobility by using the IV-Walk speeds up recovery,” Rees says on her website. “Besides that, holding the pole is a cheerless way to present yourself to friends or family. Presenting yourself in a proper way can be important during a long stay in hospital.”

27. A solar-powered water delivery cart

Image: Watt-R

Watt-r is a solar-powered water delivery cart that aims to improve the experience for women and children, who often are the ones in developing countries to be tasked with gathering water for their families. The cart is still in development, but it will be able to carry a dozen 20-liter containers of water at a time, and solar power will allow it to move, according to Fast Company.

28. Clothes that expand as your child grows

Petit Pli is a line of clothes that grow with your child using expansion and growth technology. The garments are waterproof, lightweight, and gender-inclusive with pleated designs, allowing each item of clothing to grow up to seven sizes. It’s not only sustainable by reducing waste, but also can save families money on new clothes.

29. Nike’s professional sportswear hijab

Nike launched its Nike Pro Hijab worldwide this year, to further the company’s idea that “if you have a body, you’re an athlete.” Working with professional athletes who wear hijab, the product is made of single-layer mesh that’s breathable, stretchy, and easily customized for any sport.

30. GPS-enabled turtle eggs to help track poachers

Image: Paso Pacifico

According to the wildlife conservation nonprofit Paso Pacifico, poachers in Central America destroy 90 percent of endangered sea turtle nests to illegally sell the eggs, which are considered a delicacy. So the organization created the GPS-enabled “InvestEGGator Sea Turtle Eggs” — 3D-printed eggs that track poachers and reveal smuggling routes, which can help Paso Pacifico work with authorities and stop wildlife crime. The innovation has already won a number of awards.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/12/23/social-good-innovations-2017/

The Strange Viral Saga of Keaton Jones: Feel-Good Story or Cautionary Tale?

This incomprehensibly cruel year only could have ended with Keaton Jones.

Keatons viral fame and even faster backlash is about as 2017 as it comes; one last memory from 12 months of balancing real horror and pain with a never-ending barrage of tragicomic bullshit. Of course Keatons touching story pulled back to reveal a Confederate flag-toting family and arguably exploitative mothernot just because were living in a hell world thats careening toward the worst possible outcomes at all times, but because 2017 is a year of unmasking, and of seeing things as they truly are. Even before the inevitable outing, social media vigilantes had begun holding stories like Keatons to a higher standard, interrogating why only certain (white) kids go viral; why some peoples pains are privileged over others. In the end, the family pictures riddled with Confederate flags were just the icing on the cakeadded proof that we all should have been more skeptical from the start.

Keaton Jones is a bullying victim. However, the only reason why we know thiswhy the whole world knows thisis because of a video uploaded by his mother, Kimberly Jones. Jones says that Keaton asked her to make a video after she picked him up from school last week; Keaton was leaving early because he was afraid of lunchtime bullies. In the video, which Jones subsequently uploaded to her Facebook, Keaton asked, Why do they bully? He continued, Whats the point of it? Why do you find joy in taking innocent people and finding a way to be mean to them? Sobbing, he insisted, People that are different dont need to be criticized about it. Its not their fault.

Mama Jones shared the video, along with a message to her Facebook friends: Talk to your kids. Ive even had friends of mine tell me [their] kids were only nice to him to get him to mess with people. We all know how it feels to want to belong, but only a select few know how it really feels not to belong anywhere.

Keatons emotional report from the lunchroom frontlinesThey call me ugly. They say I have no friendsquickly struck a chord. The New York Times reported that the Facebook video had been viewed 20 million times by Sunday night, in addition to the myriad accounts that republished the clip across social media. Likes and retweets catapulted Keatons story into the timelines of influencers and major celebrities. Stranger Things Millie Bobby Brown offered to be your friend, and Captain America Chris Evans reached out to Keaton and his mom with tickets to the Avengers premiere. Mark Hamill shared heartfelt words of wisdom, and Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker promised tickets to an upcoming game. Jarrett Guarantano, a University of Tennessee quarterback, tweeted out a photo posing with Keaton, his new best bud. This dude is very special and has changed my life forever, Guarantano wrote. Now I have the little brother I always wanted!

Faster than you could say social media adept PR agencies, Keaton had built up a red carpets worth of A-list supporters, including Gal Gadot, Justin Bieber, and LeBron James. And, predictably, this onslaught of attention left good Samaritans searching for a way to help. Enter GoFundMe, 2017s favorite website for supporting viral causes and/or crowdsourcing your health care. Stand Up For Keaton was created on December 9 by Joseph Lam. On the pages description, Lam says that he has no prior relationship with the Jones family, writing, This video really touched my heart.I decided to do this GoFundMe to help with this child's future. With the help of thousands of donors, Lam managed to raise almost $60,000 in just two days.

Keatons viral fame was moving so perfectly apace that it almost felt like it was happening within a social media simulator. But no one, not even sweet kids who get bullied at school only to be celebrated by Gal Gadot, exists in a vacuum. And even the most universally sympathetic piece of viral content can backfire in an instant. Keatons reckoning came quickly, with Monday morning unearthing a cache of old social media posts depicting the Jones family as the friendly white supremacists next door. Old photos from Kimberly Jones Facebook page showed various members of the family posing with the Confederate flag.

Complicating this already strange story was a series of posts by MMA fighter Joe Schilling, who alleged that he reached out to Keatons mother to offer to fly him out to an MMA show, and was instead urged to advertise a GoFundMe page. When Schilling insinuated that Keatons mother was exploiting her son for profit, the user, kimberlyjones_38, responded, What happened to us whites sticking together and helping one of another against the predator? On Monday, Keatons older sister Lakyn Jones tweeted, The Instagram KimberlyJones_38 is NOT my mom. She has a private Instagram and hasnt talked to anyone. We havent received any money and dont plan on it. The gofundmes arent by any of us. She also insisted, Those who know me and my family know we arent racist. My brother doesnt say the N word. Please leave it alone.

By Monday afternoon, The New York Times reported, the Instagram account and linked GoFundMe campaign had been deleted, with a GoFundMe spokesman stating that, the identity of the campaign organizer did not match anyone associated with the family. Also on Monday, Joseph Lam announced his decision to pause his GoFundMe campaign. As many of you know I paused the donations as well as the comments, Lam wrote. As I sit back and read these comments and watched the video again I feel I have to make this update. THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE MOM!! In regards to Lams initiative, a GoFundMe spokesman explained that, When a stranger starts a campaign and does not have a direct connection to the individual theyre raising money for, funds are collected by our payment processors, held, and then only released to the person named as the beneficiary. He added, All funds are on hold until weve received additional information from the beneficiary of the campaign.

In an inevitable post-backlash interview, Kimberly Jones insisted that the resurfaced social media posts were just a joke. The only two photosthe only two photos on my entire planet that I am anywhere near a Confederate flag. It was ironic. It was funny, Jones told CBS News, insisting that, Ive said I spent most of my life being bullied and judged because I wasnt racist.

Reflecting on the public support/outcry the video has elicited, Jones noted, I knew that it could be great and I knew that it could be awful, and it has been. Meanwhile, Keaton insisted that the video was his idea because hed had enough of it. The middle schooler offered a more optimistic stance on his viral fame, saying, It made me feel like I had accomplished something real. Something that could actually change the world.

In so many ways, the phenomenon that is Keaton Jones could have only happened right here and right now, at the intersection of social media viral fame, altruistic celebrity shout-outs, the normalization of white supremacy in Trumps America and the power of woke Twitter. But some of the most interesting and nuanced backlash to Keatons story goes deeper than the (still necessary) assertions that bigots are bullies, and Confederate flag-waving families shouldnt reap monetary rewards. As many Twitter users have pointed out, Keatons viral appeal was racialized long before the flags, in a world where the plight of a white boy is perceived as less political and more pressing than those of people of color.

Connections have been drawn between Keatons bullying and the systemic obstacles facing children of color, with commentators pointing out that some celebrities clearly feel more comfortable reaching out to a white bullying victim than speaking out on behalf of, say, a black victim of police violence. The most precise comparisons are also the most painful oneslike Ashawnty Davis, a 10-year-old bullying victim who committed suicide and passed away last month. Model Munroe Bergdorf is one of many people resurfacing Davis story in the wake of Keaton Jones viral implosion. In these situations it is important to always look deeper than the surface, rather than jumping on the bandwagon, she wrote. It seems that Keatons mother is a proud white supremacist who has been posting racist vitriol on Facebook for some time now. Bergdorf continued, Where was the public outcry for the death of Ashawnty Davis? This 10 year old hung herself in her closet after being relentlessly bullied. Lets change the conversation and show support for the family of Ashawnty. RIP babygirl.

Already, Rihanna has responded to the shifting discourse, replacing an Instagram post in support of Keaton with a tribute to Ashawnty Davis and Rosalie Avila. Other celebrities have continued to show social media love for Keaton, arguing that the 11-year-old doesnt deserved to be punished or criticized for his mothers problematic posts. But try as we might to salvage some humanity out of this failed feel-good story, its really more of a cautionary tale.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-strange-viral-saga-of-keaton-jones-feel-good-story-or-cautionary-tale

Bearded dudes pose for merman calendar to raise money for a worthy cause

Behold the “Merb’ys”—a breed of Canadian bearded mermen flapping their fur and fins for a good cause. 

The gentlemen of Newfoundland and Labrador Beard and Moustache Club are posing in nowt but their merman garb for a dudeoir-style calendar to raise money for mental health organisation Spirit Horse NL.

And, the photos certainly don’t disappoint. The calendar—which can be previewed online—features bearded mermen posing in pumpkin patches, pubs, and on various beaches. 

The Merb’ys are thus-named because “the Newfoundland mermen are a different breed,” says Hasan Hai, founder of the beard and moustache club. Hai came up with the idea of a merman calendar after a friend of his posted a photo from a mercreature themed dudeoir shoot on his Facebook wall. 

He decided to organise a calendar, and posted an “open call to the universe” on social media, which received an unexpectedly high response. 70 or 80 people got in touch with Hai, offering to model or photograph. 

Hai knew he wanted to raise money for charity, but hadn’t yet settled on a charity. When he came across Sprit Horse NL and heard the stories of the people they help, he suggested using the calendar to raise money for the organisation. 

“It basically uses horses to provide equine therapy for people with mental illness, people who want to live better lives, people with physical limitation,” Hai told CBC. 

Donning a fin was a challenge for the men during the calendar shoots. “Moving around in a fishtail is not as easy as you would think,” Hai continued, adding that there was “a lot of hopping” and squirming involved behind the scenes.  

The calendar, which has received an overwhelming number of pre-orders, can be purchased online for $25 CAD ($19.70 USD, £14.99) from the Beard and Moustache Club website. 

Major props to the Merb’ys of Newfoundland!

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/11/10/mermen-dudeoir-calendar-newfoundland/

Bill Gates announces major donation to advance the fight against Alzheimer’s

Bill Gates speaks speaks at the Goalkeepers 2017 event on Sept. 20, 2017, in New York City.
Image: Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Bill Gates just donated a piece of his fortune to advance the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

The philanthropist and Microsoft founder announced in a blog post Monday that he will give $50 million to the Dementia Discovery Fund, a public-private partnership that invests in innovative dementia research. Gates will also donate another $50 million in startups working in Alzheimer’s research.

Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates has a long track record of supporting research to eradicate diseases like malaria and polio. But Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia that progressively affects memory and other brain functions, is the first noncommunicable disease he’s fighting.

The $100 million is his own investment, not his foundation’s. That’s, in part, because it’s personal. 

“This is something I know a lot about, because men in my family have suffered from Alzheimer’s.”

“It’s a terrible disease that devastates both those who have it and their loved ones,” Gates wrote in his blog post. “This is something I know a lot about, because men in my family have suffered from Alzheimer’s. I know how awful it is to watch people you love struggle as the disease robs them of their mental capacity, and there is nothing you can do about it. It feels a lot like you’re experiencing a gradual death of the person that you knew.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. An estimated 5.5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s, and someone new develops the disease every 66 seconds. People of all ages are affected, but 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

Gates said he spent the last year learning everything he could about Alzheimer’s disease, speaking with researchers, academics, and other industry experts. Those conversations led him to focus on five areas: understanding how the disease unfolds, figuring out how to detect it earlier, funding more innovative and lesser-known drug trials, making it easier for people to enroll in clinical trials, and using data to inform better approaches.

Gates’ investment in the Dementia Discovery Fund will help support startups as it explores “less mainstream approaches to treating dementia,” he explained.

“The first Alzheimer’s treatments might not come to fruition for another decade or more, and they will be very expensive at first. Once that day comes, our foundation might look at how we can expand access in poor countries,” Gates wrote, explaining how he might look at the issue beyond his personal investment in the future.

The announcement is timely, coinciding with National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in November. The goal of the month is to increase awareness and drive home the fact that as many as 16 million people could live with Alzheimer’s disease by the year 2050.

“People should be able to enjoy their later years — and we need a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s to fulfill that,” Gates said. “I’m excited to join the fight and can’t wait to see what happens next.”

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/11/13/bill-gates-alzheimers-disease-donation/

Gay man shares bullying experience in response to politician’s comments about marriage equality

Australia is still in the grips of a debate over marriage equality, and it’s often been a toxic affair.

In September, the country’s National Mental Health Commission issued a statement concerned about the negative impacts brought on LGBTQ people by the continuing marriage equality debate. 

Australian conservative politician Matthew Canavan responded by saying the debate “hasn’t been that bad,” and that marriage equality campaigners should “grow a spine” and “stop being little flowers.”

The unfortunate truth is, LGBTQ people have faced routine discrimination over their entire lives, something a young gay man pointed out to Canavan on television program Q&A Monday night.

“I’m a young gay man who had the misfortune of attending an underprivileged public school,” the  audience member, only known as Gordon, said. 

“I endured slurs on a daily basis, was spat upon by more aggressive bullies and found countless notes stuck in my locker, decrying me as bringing shame to my family or being riddled with AIDS and telling me that I was wasting my life. I was also told that I was threat to children and that being gay was no better than being a paedophile.

“Now you, Mr Canavan, have criticised my community as being delicate little flowers who need to grow a spine in the face of abuse. Isn’t the role of leadership to support society’s most vulnerable, rather than kick them while they’re down in hopes of some political point scoring?”

Canavan responded to the question by saying “little flowers” referred to both sides of the marriage equality debate, and that he is worried about a lack of respect for other people’s opinions in modern democracy.

Yeah, this is a can of worms Australia could’ve done without.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/10/09/little-flowers-marriage-equality/

Salesforce launches $50 million Impact Fund to invest in social change startups

Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce, at the annual Salesforce Dreamforce 2013 conference in San Francisco, California.
Image: Kim Kulish / Corbis via Getty Images

Salesforce continues to build a social good movement within the technology sector.

Since it was founded in 1999, the cloud computing giant and its CEO, Marc Benioff, have been trailblazers in redefining “corporate social responsibility,” with philanthropy baked into the company’s DNA.

Now it’s taking that mission even further, using its powerful position in tech and its dedication to social change to fund startups with social impact at their core.

Salesforce announced Tuesday that it’s launching the Salesforce Impact Fund, a $50 million initiative to accelerate the growth of startups that are using Salesforce technology to address some of the world’s biggest problems. Through the fund, Salesforce will invest in these companies, furthering each one’s goal of driving positive change.

“We’re really just excited to launch the Impact Fund … to make the world a better place and a more equal place.”

As part of Salesforce Ventures, the company’s corporate investment group, the Impact Fund will focus on four key areas: workforce development and education, equality, environment, and the social sector.

The first class of startups to receive funding from the Salesforce Impact Fund span these areas of interest.  

In the equality category there’s Ellevest, an investing platform started by Wall Street veteran Sallie Krawcheck that’s designed for women and aims to solve the gender investment gap. For the environment, there’s Angaza Design, a pay-as-you-go tech platform that helps manufacturers and distributors make clean energy devices more affordable for off-the-grid consumers.

In the social sector category is Hustle, which offers peer-to-peer text messaging that enables nonprofits, educational institutions, and advocacy groups to connect with donors and constituents on a scalable basis. And in workforce development there’s Viridis Learning, which uses machine learning to match skill deficiencies in the workforce with local employer needs.

“We’re very excited about all four of these investments,” said John Somorjai, Salesforce’s executive vice president of corporate development and Salesforce Ventures. “Overall, we’re really just excited to launch the Impact Fund … to make the world a better place and a more equal place.”

“Salesforce Ventures is investing in companies that are not only creating innovative solutions, but they’re also improving the state of the world.”

Somorjai explained that Salesforce Ventures, which has grown into the third-largest corporate VC in the world (behind Intel and Google) since it launched in 2009, has about 200 active investments today. Since the beginning of this year, Salesforce  announced two other $50 million funds — one to invest in cloud consulting startups and another to encourage AI startups.

But now the group is trying to bring the company’s overall goal of giving back to its portfolio.

“With the new Impact Fund, Salesforce Ventures is investing in companies that are not only creating innovative solutions, but they’re also improving the state of the world,” Somorjai said. “These are strategic investments that are aligned to our goals around building the world’s No. 1 cloud ecosystem for our customers.”

Suzanne DiBianca, executive vice president of corporate relations and chief philanthropy officer at Salesforce, said the Impact Fund’s first four startups were chosen, in part, because they’re just good businesses. 

“First and foremost, we’re looking for excellent companies — really solid companies, great entrepreneurs, proven track record, great vision, fantastic products,” DiBianca said.

She added that Salesforce has been working with lead partners over the past six months, including Omidyar Network, Kapor Capital, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and Emerson Collective. Google Ventures is a co-investor. 

“We’ve been looking to a lot of these lead partners that were investors in earlier rounds to source some of their best companies,” she said.

Ellevest CEO Sallie Krawcheck speaks during the Women in the World Summit at Lincoln Center in New York  on April 6, 2017.

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

Impact investing obviously isn’t a new concept in the tech world — Omidyar has been investing in social change startups for years, and Bill Gates even launched a $1 billion clean energy fund with other tech heavyweights in late 2016. 

But DiBianca said she doesn’t know of any other corporate venture arms that have taken such an intentional strategy around impact investing.

“There’s a huge opportunity for us to make a difference here, with our corporate capital, in the for-profit sector,” she said.

And it’s true. Salesforce is uniquely positioned to facilitate real growth and impact in this space, in part because as a company it already has. 

If there’s one tech giant in a good position to raise startups in its own image, it’s Salesforce. 

Benioff’s mission in 1999 was to create a new kind of company that makes philanthropy a core part of its founding tenets. Its integrated 1-1-1 model, in which Salesforce leverages a percent of its tech, people, and resources to give back, has inspired 3,000 other companies to adopt the same model. It’s also led to $170 million in grants, more than 2 million volunteer hours, and 30,000 nonprofits and educational institutions using the Salesforce platform. 

And its own company culture reflects its values. Salesforce has nine employee resource groups, regularly assesses its own equal pay gaps (and spent $6 million to adjust salaries of more than 26,000 employees), and achieved its net-zero carbon emissions goal earlier this year.

Salesforce was also one of the first companies to stand against discriminatory legislation targeting queer and trans communities in Indiana, Georgia, and North Carolina. It proved that social justice is no longer off limits in business and corporate social responsibility efforts, and pushed other corporations to do the same.

If there’s one tech giant in a good position to raise startups in its own image, it’s Salesforce. 

“It’s really designed to support a whole new generation of companies focused on driving positive social change through technology,” DiBianca said of the new Impact Fund.

The Salesforce Impact Fund will work like the current venture program. As deals happen, and as rounds of funding come together, Salesforce Ventures will be evaluating them. That means it will invest in startups on a rolling basis. The goal is to fully deploy the $50 million from the fund within the next two years.

“There is good news coming out of the venture community these days, and [it’s] happening through action, not through words,” DiBianca said.

“But more importantly, there’s just a lot of great entrepreneurs out there, and we’re really excited to get to know them, to meet them, and to help power their business ideas on the Salesforce platform and within our ecosystem.”

UPDATE: Oct. 4, 2017, 5:22 p.m. ET Salesforce has clarified that Google Ventures is a co-investor for the Salesforce Impact Fund, not a partner. 

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/10/03/salesforce-impact-fund-social-good-startups/

Coca-Cola coffee is a thing now and we really need to talk about your caffeine addiction

Image: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Much like Donald Trump, the Trump administration seemed to be made of a cutting-edge, space-age substance to which nothing could stick. Teflon Don didn’t even start to capture it. 

Then, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was caught taking chartered flights on taxpayer money. The scandal peaked on Friday afternoon when Price unceremoniously resigned.

Of all the scandals that have erupted around Trump—and there have been plenty—Price’s is among the most mundane. Government officials are routinely enjoying the perks of their position and occasionally having to answer for it. The notion that a relatively minor part of the Trump administration did this would seem to be par for the Trump-branded course.

And yet, with issues like the disaster in Puerto Rico, escalating tensions with North Korea, and a major cultural moment in the NFL, the Price fiasco has shown remarkable staying power. 

There’s just something about it. There might not be a better example of fat cat/Washington D.C. swamp-monster activity than taking chartered flights. 

This speaks to what flying has become in U.S. culture. Plane travel is accessible to the majority of Americans, a shared experience we all know and understand. It’s also a nonstop reminder of the haves and have nots. On the low end, flying is a stressful exercise. It’s waiting in line with your fellow plebes, herded into waiting areas, and scanned thoroughly. Don’t even think about having a bottle of water. 

Meanwhile, we all know what the rich folks get to do. They either breeze through security or skip it altogether. They take private jets and sip champagne and eat some really expensive shellfish we probably haven’t even heard of. For them, travel isn’t stressful; it’s just another chance to enjoy the finer things in life.

The use of private jets in particular has become a hot topic since the financial crisis, when the lavish spending of CEOs became an example of the decadence enjoyed by executives whose companies had cratered. Since then, the air travel experience has only gotten worse, making the luxury of high-end flights seem all the more extravagant.

Trump has long been associated with exactly this kind of thing—both extravagance and private air travel. His airplanes—unmistakably emblazoned with “TRUMP”—became something of a signature, especially during his presidential campaign. Trump might be the poster child of private air travel. 

He also has portrayed himself as the poster child of the “drain the swamp” mentality. Trump was supposed to come to Washington, D.C. and clean house. Trump was supposed to look out for the little guy, the taxpayer, the guy who had been taken advantage of by D.C. bureaucrats. If anything symbolized the exact opposite of Trump’s spin, it was expensive and unnecessary private flights.

Of course, Trump himself has shown little shyness in racking up air miles on the taxpayer dime, with near-constant trips to his Mar-a-lago estate in Florida. There’s also been other stories about people in his administration living lavishly—particularly when the wife of Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin went off on Instagram over critical comments on a photo of her exiting a U.S. government aircraft posted with  hashtags featuring luxury brands.

These are the kinds of bad optics that can wear on a presidency and help create a narrative. Price’s own decisions eventually brought him down, but not without a build up that included some unforced errors from others in the Trump administration—and a healthy public interest in just how bad air travel is for the rest of us.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/29/tom-price-resigns-air-travel-scandal/

Rihanna’s third-annual Diamond Ball was a celebrity-filled spectacle and so much more

Image: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Clara Lionel Foundation

It was a wonderful night.

Jay-Z mingled with fellow tuxedo-clad guests. Beyoncé delicately dabbed her face with the finest of cloth napkins. Leonardo DiCaprio looked off in the distance as someone conversed with him. Kendrick Lamar handed me a microphone (yes, you read that right) and Cardi B’s four assistants gathered her dress to help the “Bodak Yellow” queen make her way through the ballroom full of tables at Rihanna’s third annual Diamond Ball.

In the middle of it all sat a 29-year-old Barbados born woman who needs no introduction, especially following the week she’s had launching an impressively successful (and inclusive) makeup launch and showing her Fenty Puma Spring 2018 collection during New York Fashion Week. 

With all that is going on in her life, it’s easy to forget that the Robyn Rihanna Fenty does more than set trends, release party anthems and design coveted sneakers. 

But she does—and Thursday night in New York City proved that she does it well. Despite the distracting shoulder rubbing that occurred throughout the slow evening, the ball was dedicated towards celebrating and raising funds for the extensive work of her Clara Lionel Foundation, an organization Rihanna created in 2012 and named in honor of her grandparents. 

The foundation focuses on a bevy of issues regarding education, emergency response, and health around the globe, aiming to improve “quality of life for young people everywhere.” Over the past five years, the small but mighty foundation has accomplished that through micro grant programs to financially support schools in Barbados, and contributed necessary equipment to improve cancer screenings on the island. 

This year, CLF has gone global. In addition to taking meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron, CLF has partnered with international bike sharing company ofo, bringing bikes to aid accessibility to education for young girls in Malawi—where Rihanna herself visited the country as an ambassador for Global Partnership for Education, Global Citizen, and CLF. 

All future initiatives proved to become a reality thanks to the the ball’s host, Dave Chappelle, who bought a $180,000 Retna painting during the auction portion of the evening and the many more that stepped up to the plate to raise over $5 million for CLF to continue its work. The controversial comedian, who described the ball’s ambiance as an orgy he once went to, had the audience simultaneously gasping and guffawing at his remarks about touchy subjects that he handled with the grace you can come to expect from Chappelle—R. Kelly, Bill Cosby, and Donald Trump included. 

“This is Jenga, and that motherfucker is pulling all the middle blocks,” Chappelle said about the president.

The 44th president made an appearance as well. Barack Obama went out of his way to deliver a video message of support to Rihanna, praising her philanthropy efforts and offering up VIP tickets for an opportunity to join him and Michelle at the Obama Foundation Fall Summit in Chicago. The tickets, which came with Chapelle’s pocket square, sold for $275,000. 

The event also honored Angeline Murimirwa with the 2017 Diamond Ball Award, recognizing the Camfed Regional Executive Director for her extensive work towards improving education in Zimbabwe, Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia, and Malawi. 

Lamar and Calvin Harris (both previous collaborators with Rihanna) performed at the end of the night, eliciting dance moves from musicians, designers, models, and actors and providing a rare opportunity to let loose, all for the kids. 

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/15/rihanna-diamond-ball-recap/

Forever 21 called out for ripping off a shirt sold to benefit Planned Parenthood

We’ve got another case of Forever 21 graphic tee outrage on our hands. 

This week shoppers noticed that the retailer’s “The Woman” T-shirt bears an extremely similar design to a different tee created by the L.A.-based PR agency WORD to benefit Planned Parenthood. 

The agency posted a side-by-side comparison of the shirts on Instagram, noting the absence of the Swahili, Arabic, Hebrew, and Japanese versions of the word “woman” on Forever 21’s tee. 

Angela Carrasco and Zoila Darton, the founders and partners of WORD, told Jezebel that they were “confused” when they found out about the controversy on Thursday. 

They began selling the shirt online in late July. On its site, WORD explains that the shirt is its contribution toward the fight for better women’s healthcare in the U.S. and abroad and that it represents the agency’s belief that feminism and human rights should be intersectional. WORD donates twenty five percent of the proceeds from sales of the shirt to Planned Parenthood. 

“Maybe they want to capitalize off of feminism,” Darton said. “But feminism is not new to me, it’s something that I really believe, so to see it being co-opted this way is shocking.”

Forever 21 faced even more harsh criticism from social media users.

Carrasco and Darton said that they were most upset by the fact that the sales of the Forever 21 shirt are only benefiting the retailer instead of the women’s health organization. They’re considering looking into legal options and have urged the story to donate any proceeds to Planned Parenthood.

Forever 21’s “The Woman” shirt still appeared in searches on the brand’s website as of time of writing. However, when we clicked on the shirt, we were directed back to the search page instead of to the product’s individual retail page.

Mashable has reached out to Forever 21 to ask if customers can still purchase the shirt and if they have a response to the controversy. 

UPDATE Sept. 16 7:49 a.m. PT: Forever 21 provided a statement regarding the shirt:

“The shirt in question was bought from a third party source.  As soon as Forever 21 was alerted to the issue, we respectfully removed it from our website. Because this product did not have trademark or IP protections, there were no red flags raised at the time of purchase.”

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/15/forever-21-planned-parenthood-shirt/