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Strikes and Protests Pay Off for Walmart Workers

April 23, 2014 in Business, Change, Good News, Inspiration, Technology by Meredith Ansell

Walmart Protest

“Access to Open Shifts will go a long way toward improving the financial health of Walmart employees” (image by 020808 at Wikipedia)

After two years of protests and walkouts over employment policies that limited workers’ hours and opportunities for professional development, Walmart finally responded with a new program called, “Access to Open Shifts.” After a successful run as a pilot program at its Fort Smith, Arkansas store last year, Access to Open Shifts is now up and running at more than 4,000 US Walmart stores.

The majority of Walmart workers are part-time employees. Walmart’s cap on the number of hours available to its workers meant that if a part-time student worker, for instance, wanted to add hours at the store between semesters or during college breaks, he or she could not. The policy kept large numbers of Walmart employees in the status of “part-time” workers, without the job benefits available to full-time employees.

With Access to Open Shifts, part-time employees will be able to pick up extra hours, even outside the department where they regularly work, and more importantly, extra pay. The ability to work extra shifts in different departments will allow the worker to gain experience throughout the store. Read the rest of this entry →

Nanotechnology—the Next Big Leap Forward

April 10, 2014 in Change, Good News, Technology by Robin Cook

Nanotechnology Tel Aviv

Nanotechnology – the greatest technological revolution of all times?

More than 1,200 people from around the world recently gathered in Tel Aviv, Israel to share in the excitement of what scientists say will be the greatest technological revolution of all—nanotechnology.

Imagine a world where cancer patients will no longer suffer through the debilitating effects of chemotherapy. Instead, they will swallow a pill composed of nanites that enter the body, seek out and destroy only the cancer cells, leaving the healthy cells untouched. Or, the cultivation of special plants that will be spliced with genes from a host person, thereby producing a stem cell bank for regenerating organs and other diseased tissue. Food-borne bacteria outbreak? Nano-sensors will immediately reveal the presence of bacterial infection in food. No more waiting 24-36 hours for the bacteria culture results. The nano-sensors will identify the type of bacteria, its strength and other factors necessary to minimize the fallout from food poisoning due to bacterial infections. Read the rest of this entry →

Using Technology to Help Autistic Children

April 7, 2014 in Change, Good News, Inspiration, Technology by Meredith Ansell

Julie Kientz

Julie Kientz

Julie Kientz is a computer scientist but she is not your usual computer geek. In fact, you will rarely find her in front of a computer. For Julie Kientz, the computer is a simply a tool to help her accomplish her primary mission in life—helping families with autistic children.

Kientz’s devotion to assisting children with autism began in graduate school. While pursuing her doctorate in computer sciences, Kientz spent a year and a half working as a therapist to gain a better understanding of the issues facing families with autistic children and their healthcare providers. By first understanding the issues involved with autism, Kientz was better able to innovate the technological solutions. As a therapist, she observed that the ability to see potential improvement in a child’s development was hampered by the paper-based recording system used by therapists. One child might have several therapists, all recording their assessment sessions on pages of paper kept in a binder. Read the rest of this entry →

Environmentalism: Interviewing Philanthropist Dame Shirley Porter

March 26, 2014 in Change, Good News, Green, Inspiration, Philanthropy by Robin Cook

Dame Shirley Porter

Dame Shirley Porter

Dame Shirley Porter was a politician and environmental activist in the UK before moving to Israel in 1993. As Leader of Westminster City Council and Lord Mayor of Westminster, she introduced various projects to clean up London.

In Israel she became involved with the Council for a Beautiful Israel and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, and she was awarded the prestigious ‘Green Globe’ award in 2009 for her contribution to Israel’s environmental movement.

The Porter Foundation, established by Dame Shirley Porter and her late husband Sir Leslie Porter, supports a number of environmental and philanthropic initiatives in Israel. Its flagship project today is the Porter School of Environmental Studies (PSES) at Tel Aviv University, established in 2000 as Israel’s first multi-disciplinary graduate school dedicated to the research, teaching and dissemination of environmental studies.

Dame Shirley Porter has been actively involved in the design and construction of the new Porter School for Environment Studies, which is one of the first “green buildings” in Israel. Opening in May 2014, it is designed as a living laboratory for students of green building techniques and environmental research.

Robin Cook: Why have you chosen environmentalism as your philanthropic focus?
Dame Shirley Porter: I have always been involved in everything to do with the environment, and in particular cleaning up cities. I believe that if a place is beautiful, you feel better. If it’s clean, you feel better. In London, it started with planting trees and flowers on roundabouts and making the city look more attractive. From that aesthetic point of view I gradually became involved in the theoretical and academic side of the environmental movement. Read the rest of this entry →

Interview Q&A as Corporate Mirror

March 24, 2014 in Business, Good News, Inspiration by Robin Cook

Job fair

Humphreys Job Fair – U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, South Korea – Photo by Rick Kim

Glassdoor posted its Top 25 Oddball Interview Questions, and they are – as advertised – quite odd. Judging by their weirdness, one can only imagine what the answers look like. But unconventional questions are a good thing. One reason is because these question types get people thinking in creative ways, an increasingly relevant asset in the new economy. Another reason that goes unnoticed is that such questions can be effective transmitters of corporate culture. Basically, the questions signal to the candidate attitudes about how the company works and the values it prizes – without any formal or explicit explanation.

Job seekers should keep this in mind even though interviews are nerve-wracking enough as it is. As with all things,questions provoking unscripted responses can be taken to extremes. Google developed a reputation, mostly unfounded, for asking so-called brainteasers. These questions were more Zen koan than actual lines of inquiry. They may be useful in minting new monks, but not so helpful in finding the best programmers and data analysts. Read the rest of this entry →

Sam White’s Off-Grid Refrigeration Revolution Keeping India’s Milk Fresh

February 16, 2014 in Business, Change, Good News, Inspiration, Technology by Meredith Ansell

Sam White

Sam White – eliminating the need for diesel generators for cooling milk in rural India

Usually for the startup entrepreneur, a single key publicity exposure can make all the difference. It could mean coverage by the press, maybe even by a world-class news publication like the Wall Street Journal. In terms of influence and buzz making, the WSJ might have to start deferring to TED. A case in point is Sam White, co-founder of Promethean Power Systems, a thermal battery maker that specializes in cold-storage preservation of perishable food, who hit the motherload.

White gave a presentation at a TED event in Boston, showing how his technology will transform the rural dairy industry in India (the world’s largest milk consumer), and it went viral. White is now stranger to start-up activism. He and co-founder Sorin Grama have won numerous innovator awards. But even White have been surprised when his video was picked by the World Economic Forum, receiving countless more views on its way to viral status. Read the rest of this entry →

Josh Miller: Co-founder of Branch Re-Envisions Online Conversation

January 28, 2014 in Business, Good News, Inspiration, Internet, Social by Robin Cook

Josh Miller

Josh Miller, Co-Founder of Branch

Usually one doesn’t move into a dorm as a senior at Princeton… and then leave a couple of days later. But such is the logical next step of your life if you are Josh Miller, co-founder of Branch, an innovative social media tool that departs from the Twitter model by emphasizing discussion-based “roundtable” type conversation. Miler is not exactly a Mark Zuckerberg clone. I first saw his name on Forbes’s recent 30 Under 30 list.

Zuckerberg, as we all know, came up with Facebook as a student at Harvard. Perhaps he started the project as a public service for students, but he soon saw the commercial potential of social media. Miller is slightly different because he seems to be approaching social media from an ideological perspective. There is no contradiction here. Great entrepreneurs can be committed ideologues and vice versa. Read the rest of this entry →

The Public Detective: Sherlock Holmes Copyright Expires

January 16, 2014 in Business, Good News, Social by Robin Cook

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes – now a public domain

A recent ruling by a federal judge in Chicago has apparently ushered Sherlock Holmes into the public domain. But, so as to dispense with the obligatory pun right away, all is not as elementary as it seems. The situation is complex because later Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes stories are still copyrighted in the US, although the expiration date is not so far off. In effect, Holmes is both in the public domain and copyrighted at the same time.

How is this good news? The first thing to note about IP struggles of this magnitude is that they are rarely straightforward procedural battles. Like the proverbial detective story, they contain twists and turns in abundance. Take the ongoing epic copyright lawsuit over Superman, along with Holmes certainly one of the great money-making cultural properties of all time. The heirs of Superman creator Jerry Siegel are locked in what seems like an endless seesaw battle with DC Comics (Warner Bros). Read the rest of this entry →

Mandela’s Gift: South Africa,Vacation Destination

January 1, 2014 in Africa, Change, Good News, Inspiration, Social by Robin Cook

Nelson Mandela

Mandela’s importance transcends South Africa and even politics – he is a symbol with timeless and global reach

The death of Nelson Mandela at age 95 is one of those profound moments at which point we take a sort of grand cultural, historical, and social inventory of all the good in the world. People in South Africa are busy celebrating his outsized life, moral grandeur, and enduring legacy. Of course, it’s standard protocol for political leaders to issue some formulaic message on Mandela’s significance and the grief that everyone feels over his loss. Because Mandela’s importance transcends South Africa and even politics – he is a symbol with timeless and global reach – it’s not unexpected that celebrity artists, social activists, and change agents of all stripes would be moved to share some token remembrance. We saw them pour forth from official media outlets. We also were also deluged by endless tweets.

But Maya Angelou’s interview on CBS’s Face The Nation certainly ranks as the most important reflection on Mandela’s accomplishments. Angelou is probably the world’s most famous African-American poet as well as deeply connected to the anti-Apartheid struggle (she was at one time married to one of Mandela’s political rivals). Read the rest of this entry →

Outside the Comfort Zone: Urban Compass’ Ori Allon

December 24, 2013 in Business, Good News, Inspiration, Internet, Social, Technology by Robin Cook

Ori Allon

“Ori Allon recently joined with ad exec Eyal Chomsky, sports agent Arn Tellem, and NBA player Amare Stoudemire to purchase the Jerusalem basketball team, Hapoel”

The serial entrepreneur is a restless animal. He or she moves from one investment to the next, never satisfied with seeing a single seedling ripen into sustainable profitability. The challenge is personal, but it’s also about creating impact in the entire ecosystem.

Take the Twitter success story, with its many component parts. Their stock price has effectively doubled since the touted November IPO, a record for the microblogging company. So what turned Twitter into Wall Street’s new social media darling? The rule book for monetizing social media remains uncodified. But one principle seems obvious: you need the right people in your corner, who somehow fuse entrepreneurial smarts with technical wizardry.

This brings us to case of Ori Allon, until recently Twitter’s Israeli-born director of engineering. Allon, at age 33, has seen an envious amount of entrepreneurial activity. Armed with a PhD in computer science, Allon has sold startup companies to Google and Twitter. Now he continues searching for fresh challenges with his new startup company, Urban Compass. Read the rest of this entry →

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