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This Valentine’s Day Make a Contribution for the Love of Education

To  Loyal Read Think Write Teach Followers,
 
Valentine’s Day is usually a very personal (Person to Person) celebration, but this year, I ask that you consider a different kind of love. As a board member of Friends of Ninos de Guatemala, a non-profit organization that builds and operates primary and secondary schools in Guatemala, this Valentine’s Day, I ask you to make a contribution for The Love of Education. 
 
 
 
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Niños de Guatemala (NDG) provides underprivileged children with an education. NDG runs two primary schools and a secondary school wich house over 500 Guatemalan children that would otherwise not have been able to go to school. The organization is self-sustainable due to several business initiatives such as a Spanish school and tourist activities.

NDG is continually striving to ensure the physical and emotional well-being of our students, as well as the academic. All of the children in our programs receive two nutritionally balanced meals a day, medical and dental care, instruction on proper health and hygiene, sexual education, and access to our on-site social work and psychology departments.
 
 
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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in African American News

 

China-built railway linking Ethiopia and Djibouti officially opens for business

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Following a few months of testing on the Ethiopian side, the China-funded and built railway linking Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa with the strategic Red Sea port of Djibouti was officially inaugurated in Djibouti on Tuesday.

The new 750km railway line turns a week-long drive through a winding pot-hole filled road into a smooth 12-hour ride to the coast. The project, backed by $4 billion of Chinese investment, is expected to be a boon for the economies of both African nations. Landlocked Ethiopia, one of the fastest growing markets in the world, gets access to the sea, while the tiny country of Djibouti gets easier access to 94 million Ethiopian customers.

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Last October, Xu Shaoshi, head of China’s top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, gave a speech at the railway’s inauguration ceremony in Addis Ababa acting as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s official envoy. Xu hailed the project as “a railway of Sino-African friendship in the 21st century.”

It replaces an old diesel railroad line started by the French in 1894 that had fallen into disuse and disrepair after years of war and famine. It also marks the second time that China has built a trans-national railway through Africa. The last one was the Tazara Railway connecting Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam with Zambia’s Kapiri Mposhi in the 1970s.

We likely won’t have to wait 40 years for another one. South China Morning Pot reports that this could be just the first stage in an ambitious trans-African track that would link the Red Sea with the Atlantic Ocean.

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In the meantime, the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway serves to signify China’s continued investment on the African continent. Perhaps no where is this investment more evident than in the burgeoning manufacturing powerhouse of Ethiopia. In 2016, $20 billion of Chinese investment poured into the country which is fast trying to change its global image from a country filled with drought and famine to one that is filled instead with factories and railways — recently attracting no less than Ivanka Trump’s shoe manufacturer to move shop from China to Addis Ababa.

Furthermore, according to AFK Insider, Ethiopian Airlines is in the process of adding a direct flight to Chengdu, its fifth non-stop flight to a Chinese city, and Ethiopia is working on launching a civilian satellite into orbit with the help of China.

Meanwhile, the tiny East African country of Djibouti is home to China’s first overseas military outpost, a naval base that Beijing insists is only a logistics hub for China’s naval and trade presence in the Gulf of Aden.

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Matt Bonini contributed to this story

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2017 in African News

 

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What A New Year Means to Me

For me, a new year means a new opportunity to reconcile the past. There are moments during the 365 days of the last year that many feel invested. They feel permanently committed to an idea and/or ideal, a person, and/or position. I do not intend to discuss the joys and benefits of starting anew. I want to talk about those 365 days that most people want to forget. Those days are long; each of those days filled with opportunities. January 1st is not the only chance we get to change. Every day we wake up is an opportunity to reflect on the day before. We don’t have to follow through on poor choices until the year ends and a seeming magical portal opens to erase the past. On January 1st we are still our old selves. Wherever we go there we are. Though many may wish, we cannot escape our self. What we can do, is be very conscious of our every move. Each decision we make leads us to a future and a past. Each day we have the power to choose. It’s not just one day that counts. Every day matters.

Read Think Write Teach

Happy New Year!

 
 

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Americans don’t read as much as they used to

In 1982, nearly six in 10 American adults — 57 percent — reported having read at least one work of literature, like a novel, short story, play, or poetry collection, in the last 12 months. But as of 2015, only 43 percent can say the same:


(The Washington Post)

That decline marks a 30-year low in Americans’ reading habits, according to new data from the National Endowment for the Arts. For comparison, in 2015, 66 percent of respondents went to a movie or attended a live performance.

Among adults who do read, demographics make a difference. Women are more likely to read literature than men; white people are more likely to read than black or Hispanic Americans; and higher levels of education correspond to higher literature consumption rates. Bonnie Kristian

 

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If You Have $500, You Can Start Investing. But Should You?

 

 

Here’s a better idea: Build up a bank account first.

 

Still trying to get started saving for retirement? Your task just got a little easier.

Online financial adviser Wealthfront is now offering people with as little as $500 to invest a convenient and cheap way to build a portfolio of stocks and bonds. And for accounts up to $10,000, the service is free.

That’s sounds like a great deal, and in some ways it is. Of course, Wealthfront isn’t doing this to just be nice—they’re hoping to turn you into a paying client down the road. And while it’s great to get started on retirement saving early, if all you have to to put away right now is $500, you may have priorities besides putting money in the stock market.

Wealthfront is one of a new breed of web-based financial advisers, often called roboadvisers, who aim to automate work once performed by flesh-and-blood stock brokers and planners. The service, which has grabbed $2.5 billion in assets since it was founded in 2008, helps investors purchase a portfolio of low-cost,exchange-traded index funds. The mix is based on an investor’s age and answers to online questions about risk tolerance.

Wealthfront’s service was already free for investors with less than $10,000. (Investors with more money pay an annual fee based on 0.25% of the amount invested above the $10,000 threshold. All investors pay fees for the underlying funds.) But while it had previously required investors commit at least $5,000, the company on Tuesday lowered that threshold to $500.

Wealthfront isn’t alone. A similar service called Betterment has no minimum, although investors with less than $10,000 pay $3 a month, or 0.35% a year if they sign up to have $100 a month transferred in from a bank account.

Both companies are fighting aggressively to capture young investors, even if those customers don’t pay much at first. Here’s why: Millennials are already the biggest cohort in the workforce. One recent study predicted that as much as $30 trillion in wealthwill trickle from boomers to millennials over the next several decades. Online advisers are looking to sign up young people now with the hope of collecting the real money later as their assets grow.

Wealthfront’s diversified, index-fund based approach is very sensible. But for people just beginning to save, most financial planners suggest your first priority for money outside your 401(k) is to build an emergency savings fund, ideally one large enough to cover six months of living expenses, in case you lose your job or face a health emergency.

That money should be in something safe, like a simple bank account. Banks do have their flaws: Wealthfront chief executive Adam Nash recently wrote an essay on Medium touting his service over checking accounts that slap investors with with fees for overdrafts and account maintenance. But it’s still possible to find a free bank account. Our annual Best Banks feature recommends both checking and savings options.

Investment portfolios are volatile—don’t forget stocks more than lost half their value in the last recession, just as many people lost their jobs. Meanwhile, money in a savings or checking account, while it won’t earn much at today’s interest rates, will always be there when you need it.

The upshot: If you’re financially secure and looking to sock away an extra $500 or $1,000 mostly as a way to build your saving habit, Wealthfront’s new offer is worth considering. If that $500 is really all you’ve got, start with something simple and safer. And then keep going.
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The big problem with one of the most popular assumptions about the poor

By Roberto A. Ferdman

In the late 1960s, Walter Mischel, a researcher at Stanford University, invited several hundred children to participate in a game in which they were given a choice: They could eat one sweet right away, or wait and have two a little later. Initially, the goal was simple: to see how and why people (kids in this case) delayed gratification. But after the end of the experimentMischel began to check in with as many of the participants’ families as he could, and over the following decade he learned that his little experiment probably had much larger implications than he had anticipated.

Many of the children had trouble resisting the single, immediate treat (a marshmallow), which was to be expected. The magnetic force that exists between kids and candies is no secret. What was surprising, however, was that that tendency — the inability to forego something good right now in exchange for something better in a bit — was associated with all sorts of negative life outcomes, including lower levels of academic achievement and higher rates of obesity.

Over time, Mischel’s experiment, which is often referred to as “the Marshmallow Test,” has turned into perhaps the most famous study of its kind, inspiring many others, including follow-ups by Mischel himself.

Watch Walter Mischel, the creator of the Marshmallow Test, discuss its implications

 

Time and again, poor children have performed significantly worse than their more fortunate counterparts. A 2011 study that looked at low-income children in Chicago noted how poor children struggled to delay gratification. A 2002 study, which examined the physical and psychological stresses that accompany poverty, did too. And so have many others.

The realization has sparked concerns that poverty begets a certain level of impulsiveness, and that that tendency to act in the moment, on a whim, without fully considering the consequences, makes it all the more difficult for poor children to succeed. But there’s an important thing this discussion seems to miss. Poor kids may simply not want to delay gratification. Put another way, their decisions may not reflect the sort of impulsive nature we tend to attribute them to.

“When resources are low and scarce, the rational decision is to take the immediate benefit and to discount the future gain,” said Melissa Sturge-Apple, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester who studies child development. “When children are faced with economic uncertainty, impoverished conditions, not knowing when the next meal is, etc. — they may be better off if they take what is in front of them.”

A recent two-part study conducted by Sturge-Apple shows how the tendency of poorer children to pounce on immediate rewards might not be the result of impulsiveness but rather of careful consideration.

In the first experiment, she monitored the heart rate of 200 low-income 2-year-olds. The monitoring allowed her to approximate each child’s vagal tone — a measure of the activity of the vagus nerve, which has been shownto indicate how well a given individual performs under stress (i.e., reads social cues, reacts to environmental contexts, and adjusts behaviors). High vagal tone is good: it suggests a heightened ability to act relatively calmly under stress. Low vagal tone is bad: it suggests just the opposite.

Two years later, at the age of 4, the same children were presented with a choice. Each was sat a table where two plates and a bell were placed. One plate held two M&Ms, while the other held five. The children were told that they could either ring the bell and have the two M&Ms immediately or enjoy the plate of five as soon as the experimenter returned.

Interestingly, each child’s vagal tone appeared to have a significant effect on their decision. But — and this is an important but — it didn’t have the sort of effect many would have imagined. The higher the child’s vagal tone — the greater, in other words, a child’s ability to act calmly under pressure — the more likely the child was to ring the bell. The calmer the children were to think it through, the more likely they were to choose the immediate reward.

In other words, they probably weren’t acting on impulses or whims, as one might assume. The calculation might have not have been optimal, but it was likely considered, and that informs the sort of intervention psychologists might use to help.

In the second experiment, Sturge-Apple used data from a longitudinal study, which included a sample of 140 mother-and-child pairs. The information gathered was similar. Vagal tone was measured for each child at 18 months. The same test was also administered, this time with three and eight M&Ms, and at age 5 instead of 4. This time, roughly half of the mothers were both college-educated and wealthy, while the other half were both non-college-educated and poor. And it produced a fascinating outcome.

The children born to college-educated mothers of high socioeconomic status acted exactly as one would expect. The higher their vagal tone, or calmness under stress, the more likely they were to hold out for the five extra M&Ms. For children born to non-college-educated mothers of low socioeconomic status, on the other hand, the outcome was exactly the opposite. The higher their vagal tone, the less likely they were to wait.

The chart below, plucked from the study, shows just how stark the divergence is.

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(Source: APS journal Psychological Science)

Why exactly socioeconomic status appears to have such a severe influence on how children approach this problem is unclear, but Sturge-Apple believes it probably has to do with context. The circumstances in a controlled experiment might be the same for poor and rich kids alike. But the reality for poor and rich kids, which influences not only their behavior but also the inner pendulum that informs their decisions, is quite different.

“One size does not necessarily fit all,” Sturge-Apple said. “Our theories, which are based upon limited samples, may not reflect the realities faced by many children.”

This might seem like a nuanced point, but it’s an important one, because it shapes how we label certain behavior and lift up impoverished youth. If a child is choosing immediate rewards at the expense of future gains not because the child is impulsive, then helping that child adjust to an environment in which resources such as money and other assets (or even just marshmallows and M&Ms) are easier to come by should reflect that understanding.

“It changes the nature of the question from one asking is this a ‘bad’ or a ‘good’ behavior to asking, ‘What is the function of this behavior for survival and thriving in a resource-poor environment?’ ” said Sturge-Apple. “I think once we start asking that question, we may find better ways to tailor intervention and prevention work for children at risk.”

In some ways, this uncovers a broader problem with how we perceive the actions of people who live very different lives than we do. We brand certain actions and choices as mistakes, when they might simply be developmental adjustments necessary to cope with their environment. For those who don’t worry about their next meal, because they never had to, choosing a marshmallow now instead of two marshmallows in a few minutes, all things equal, could only be the result of impulse-driven folly. For those who do have to worry about the next meal, passing up food now for the promise of food later is the misguided move.

While Sturge-Apple’s research has focused on children, there’s reason to believe the same dubious assumption likely affects how we treat low-income adults. In the United States, contrary to international trends, poor people are far more prone to obesity than their wealthier counterparts. And while there is good reason to believe it is, at least in part, a result not of how much poorer households are eating but of what they are eating, there is also evidence that those who suffer through poverty at a young age develop a fractured ability to regulate eating that can last a lifetime. A three-part study conducted earlier this year found that adults who grew up in low-income households tended not only to eat but to eat roughly the same amount of food, whether they were hungry or full.

To some, this might seem like a question of willpower, but that’s likely a bit shortsighted. Assuming the poor are more prone to impulsivity doesn’t properly consider the severe circumstances in which many are forced to live, and how those circumstances shape a person’s rational behavior.

“When you grow up in these types of environments, you’re effectively being trained to eat when you can instead of when you’re hungry,” Sarah Hill, who teaches psychology at Texas Christian University, told The Washington Post earlier this year.

You might also be programmed to eat when possible because experience tells you the next bit of food, however large it might be, is never guaranteed.

 

 
 

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Powerball’s $1.3 Billion Swindle Of Americans

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2016 in African American News

 

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