AIF Blog

What We're Reading, May 29, 2015

May 29, 2015


Want insight into the topics we'll be covering at the 2015 Aspen Ideas Festival and Spotlight Health? Over the next few weeks, we'll share articles that have caught our attention, as related to each thematic track. Some are by Festival and Spotlight speakers, others stand out because they go in-depth on a topic that will be featured.

Happy reading!

The Endangered American Dream

Starbucks and Arizona State are collaborating to help cafe workers get college degrees. Amanda Ripley discusses the idea and its effectiveness in reviving the middle class.

Income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, is greater in the United States than any other developed country. This article explores the nature of income inequality in the US through both numerical figures and stories from history.

Inexpensive online college course material may be the solution to the growing inaccessibility of university, even if it means not getting a formal degree. 
In the US economy, the providers of spiritual and physical care do not recieve the same payoffs as those who compete against each other. Anne-Marie Slaughter emphasizes that placing more value on caregivers would be beneficial to the the nation overall. 
French economist Thomas Picketty has sold over a million copies of his book, 'Capital in the 21st Century'. A year later, Picketty argues that resdistributionists have greatly misinterpreted his message on inequality in capitalist societies. 
Paying workers above the minimum wage benefits companies because it incentivizes workers to be more productive and encourages the use of the workforce as a strategic asset. 
Post 9/11, a study was conducted by a child psychologist, studying the effect of the attack on the city’s public school children. The results of the study were surprising: trauma resulting from poverty, not terrorism impaired children's academic performance.
Biochemistry vs Reason: What science fails to explain, and how choices are not always controlled by a chemical process.
A recent Harvard study confirms that meditation benefits the brain. In this study, scientists found that meditation literally rebuilds the brain’s gray matter in 8 weeks.
A recent neurological study confirms what parents of teenagers have suspected for years: that teens shut off the "social processing" area of their brain when receiving criticism from their parents.
During Near Death Experiences (NDEs), people often feel an out of body sensation, recalling pleasant experiences from throughout their life. Spirituality and science compete to explain the phenomenon as more people live to tell the story due to healthcare improvement.
Generosity may be a counter-instinctual response to trauma or brain injury, not a quality inherent to the “human spirit”.

Spotlight Health: Navigating Public Health Threats


When providing aid to “ebola orphans” in Africa, donors should focus on quality instead of quantity: foreign aid should support home-grown solutions to challenges facing these orphans.
Nigeria, in the midst of a regional epidemic, there were only 20 reported cases of Ebola and 8 deaths, despite crowded urban centres and underdeveloped health infrastructure. This article, by Alexandra Sifferlin breaks down what Nigeria did right, and discusses what other countries can learn from Nigeria in future disease outbreaks.
Life at the Ebola clinic in Suakoko, Liberia is described as both, “ordinary and otherworldly”. Here's what an average day on the front line of an epidemic is like.
As the environment deteriorates, areas of Africa with already scarce water resources are entering crisis. Innovative water management strategies, such as through a Public Private Partnership model, are needed to avert tensions between communities in the future and to address the growing issue of water insecurity.
Between 2004 and 2012, HIV infection rates in Haiti decreased by 50% due to safer sex practices. However, a generational shift in safe-sex practices and attitudes is threatening this progress and is responsible for a resurgence in disease rates.

Internet-connected pacemakers are soon to enter the Nigerian market as internet access spreads in the areas. Concerns arise however where these devices may be “reverse-engineered” with cheaper to meet the market prices of Nigeria, which may make these devices more susceptible to cybersecurity threats.

With experts predicting that the world population will reach 9 billion in 2050, a big question is how the earth will produce enough food to feed everyone. Bill and Melinda Gates discuss how the continent of Africa will aid in this effort while standards of living improve in african nations in the next 30 years.