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Italy: Volunteers Show En Masse to Help Earthquake Victims

(A seismic graphic showing the distribution of aftershocks from this month’s horrendous earthquake in Central Italy.)

On August 24, a devastating 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Italy, claiming the lives of hundreds of area residents while ravaging the mountain town of Amatrice, where 224 of the 291 victims lived. The incident has displaced more than 1,000 people.

The scenes from the aftermath are heartbreaking – a visceral reminder of horrific outcomes that natural disasters can unleash. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi discussed the earthquake in an address to the nation:

Right now we feel terrible pain. Italy is a family that has been hit and struck, but we are not going to be stopped.

Unfortunately, the healing process may hit some speed bumps. Authorities and analysts are concerned that the mafia may try and fit its way into the rebuilding process. Organized crime still plays a large role in Italian society, intertwined with the international drug trade and racketeering and responsible for countless murders.


As Franco Roberti – head of the country’s dedicated anti-mafia agency – relayed to reporters concerning the potential of meddling by various mafia syndicates:

There are risks, it is useless to hide it The risk of infiltration is always high. Post-earthquake reconstruction is a tasty morsel for criminal organizations and business interests.

While authorities work to ensure that the healing process precludes interference from criminals, there have been some glimmers of hope and signs of a deeply entrenched commitment to the social good. More than half of the responders who helped Amatrice and the surrounding areas in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake were volunteers – specialists who commit large amounts of time to honing skills integral for emergency situations.

Among the volunteers, a group of 20 migrants from Africa pitched in, helping clear rubble in the search for survivors.

Witnessing such selflessness and a drive to support the social good without profit is both commendable and paramount for the best possible functioning of society. Supporting individuals such as those that stepped up in Italy – as well as the organizations that help coordinate their efforts – is imperative for private businesses, government bodies, and individuals alike.

Food Justice: Are Nanofarms the Future?

(Nanofarms in action. Courtesy of Replantable.)

Entrepreneurs and food justice activists have been cultivating new and innovative ways to get healthy, nourishing vegetables into the hands of urban dwellers and underserved communities. Vertical Farming – for example – could revolutionize the way the basic needs nonprofits acquire stocks to feed those in need through inventive kiosks that grow food in-store (or, potentially, right in the food pantry of a soup kitchen).

A similiar product is currently in the works through a Kickstarter campaign that has raised nearly half of its $50,000 goal.

Two forward-thinking designers in Atlanta founded Replantable, a startup that looks to produce and begin marketing nanofarms that can grow food right in your own home. Through LED lights, the small boxes provide nourishment to greens and utilize unique fabric pads to retain moisture. Better yet, nanofarms provide a way for people to grow healthy foods – including arugula, bok choy, and beets – without the use of pesticides or other chemicals.

The devices only require users to apply water and to trigger a timer. The hands-free operation involves a notification light that helpfully informs the user that plants are ready for harvest.

Ruwan Subasinghe, one of the designers behind the project, has more details:


The nanofarm lets people harvest minutes before eating, and only pick what they’re about to eat. The rest stays alive and growing rather than decomposing and shrinking. Our customers have shown us that they’re able to harvest every last bit of produce from the nanofarm

The nanofarm will sell for about $350, which may seem steep to many consumers. The devices, however, can produce greens for up to five years, and they work during all seasons. Nonprofits and basic needs providers could assist poor communities in procuring nanofarms, delivering constantly renewing, healthy foods to the neighborhoods that need it most.

NFL Hires Popular, History-Making Female Police Chief

(Cathy Lanier poses with Washington D.C. police officers. Photo: Ted Eytan)

A popular police chief is switching jobs this week.

Cathy Lanier – the first ever female police chief of Washington, D.C. – is departing from her role as a public servant and picking up the mantle of head of security for the NFL. She was in charge of D.C. police for 10 years, an incredibly long period of time for a position that – in many cities – often undergoes quick turnover rates.

Her popularity stemmed from a number of factors. The city progressively got safer under her tutelage. Perhaps even more importantly, she gained the trust of D.C. residents through a commitment to community policing.

This style of law and order embeds police officers within communities, ensuring that they become acquainted with the local population while developing and maintaining relationships with community figures. This proactive approach to policing cultivates trust, and has been considered an important strategy for bridging wide gaps between cities and police departments, especially where fissures concerning race, police brutality, and crime have led to historical highs of public distrust.

The NFL’s choice to hire a history-making woman who embodies progressive sensibilities concerning security does seem like a positive step for the scandal-plagued institution.

To reporters, Lanier contextualized her career change:

What’s more important than being responsible for public safety and security than the nation’s capital? Where do you go from here right? When I thought about the NFL, it’s America’s favorite sport and what’s more important than making sure America’s favorite sport is safe?

Keeping sports fans safe certainly contributes to the social good. But it will take the NFL more than the Lanier appointment to fully rehabilitate its image tarnished by obfuscating the medical risks of football, turning a blind eye to domestic violence, and economically damaging local communities through privileged tax designations.

How You Can Help Louisiana Flood Victims

(The National Guard prepares for flooding in Louisiana)

Disastrous floods have struck Louisiana yet again. The toll has been staggering. This week, more than 66,000 Louisianans have filed for FEMA assistance. As many as 40,000 homes have been damaged by flood waters, and at least 30,000 people have been rescued from either vehicles or homes by authorities due to the Louisiana flood.


The total cost of the Red Cross’ operations in the region is expected to reach $30 million in order to cope with the crisis, which has claimed 11 lives so far.

In addition to having to rebuild after losing so much, residents in Louisiana face a number of other issues that stem from this natural disaster, the likes of which are becoming all-too-common as climate change continues to ravage coastal regions. Lingering health risks – such as mold exposure – will haunt residents for months to come.

Celebrities and average citizens alike have pitched in to help those affected. In a high-profile move, Taylor Swift has donated $1 million for relief efforts. Lady Gaga has also contributed, having donated an undisclosed sum.

You, too, can help flood victims rebound. The following vetted organizations are organizing and/or providing on-the-ground services for Louisiana residents. Make a gift today:

Red Cross
United Way
Louisiana Strong

Gays Against Guns: LGBTQ Activists Take a Stand Against Gun Violence

A group of LGBTQ activists are taking a stand against gun violence, with hundreds participating in direct actions against gun companies and their allies around the country.

Gays Against Guns (GAG) formed following the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando this past June, in which a gunman murdered 49 people at the popular gay bar. The activist collective has chapters in 9 cities and boasts more than 300 members in New York City. The group plans to target gun manufacturers including Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co – the two largest in the United States – as well as the National Rifle Association.

The group’s Facebook page states: “Queer complacency is over. We call for a ban on assault weapons and sensible gun regulation. We will not let our 49 siblings’ death be in vain.”

The direct actions – slated to kick off Monday – are partly inspired by older activists in the group who participated in the Act Up gay rights campaign of the 1980s, which offered advocacy for people in the gay community affected by AIDS and broadcasted their plight. Act Up’s direct action approach is credited with successfully bringing AIDS into the public spotlight.

GAG seeks to not only elevate the discussion around gun violence and rail against the cynical lobbying of the NRA that persistently blocks meaningful gun laws, but to target companies and individuals with financial stakes in weapons manufacturing.

On Monday, activists staged a “die in” outside of BlackRock, an investment firm with large investments in Smith & Wesson.

Cathy Marino-Thomas – a campaigner for GAG – discussed the rationale for protesting BlackRock:

Here is a company whose CEO, Laurence Fink, prides himself on their socially conscious investment yet comes right out and tells clients that mass shootings worked to their financial advantage,” said campaigner Cathy Marino-Thomas. “They’re smart enough to acknowledge they profit from massacres but can’t find a way to unload those stocks? That’s amoral.

GAG also looks to call attention to firms that vie benefits to NRA members, including car rental companies and Visa.

The nascent organization may just be getting off the ground, but its moral vision and willingness to act are inspiring qualities. With more organizations representing a greater diversity of US citizens forming a loose coalition fighting for sensible gun laws, the tide may slowly turn in favor of sanity in a political arena dominated by Second Amendment extremists.

Undocumented Immigrants in Holding Hunger Strike

(The Berks County Residential Center located in Leesport, Pennsylvania.)

Women at a Pennsylvania residential center housing undocumented immigrants are on hunger strike to call attention to the slow mechanisms of government authorities in dealing with their cases.

The Berks County Residential Center is home to three families that have been housed at the facility for over a year. The maximum amount of time suggested by law that undocumented immigrants can be housed before transferral is 20 days – a timeframe that the Obama Administration claims is upheld by US Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As evidenced by the cases in Pennsylvania, however, this norm is obviously broken with some regularity.

The center houses dozens of women and their children – many from Central America – who claim to have fled violence in their home countries in the hopes of securing a better life.

In a letter signed by 22 women held at the Berks County Residential Center, the psychological toll on their children is thrown into sharp relief:

Our children, who range in age from 2 to 16, have been deprived of a normal life. We are already traumatized from our countries of origin. We risked our own lives and those of our children so we could arrive on safe ground. While here our children have considered committing suicide, made desperate from confinement. The teenagers say that being here, life makes no sense. One of our children said he wanted to break the window to jump out and end this nightmare.

Advocates working on behalf of the undocumented immigrants believe as many as 26 women are participating in the hunger strike, which is now entering its second week. You can read the full letter signed by the strikers here.

US authorities have received criticism in the past for brutal detention centers and questionable practices that infringe on undocumented immigrants’ human rights.

The Tap will have more as the strike in Pennsylvania continues.

AnalyticsIQ Connects Nonprofits With Big Data

There is a common saying in the nonprofit sector that philanthropic institutions lag at least ten years behind private industry counterparts when it comes to implementing new technologies.

Donor retention, for example, is often treated as an art rather than a science. When nonprofits lack the resources to assemble and analyze the hard data necessary for concrete solutions to demographic issues in their donor support base, they necessarily rely on the gut feelings of experienced professionals.

And while there are plenty of stewards out there who get results through skill and experience alone, there are tools available that not only make their lives easier, but that result in game-changing improvements to their nonprofits’ organizational capacity as well.

One firm based in Atlanta, Georgia is working to help nonprofits utilize these tools.

AnalyticsIQ offers comprehensive data analytics services, helping organizations discover important data and make better use of the donor information they already possess.

“One nonprofit client approached us with major issues concerning lapsed donors,” explains Mike Hattub, Chief Operating Officer at AnalyticsIQ. “During our initial discussions we uncovered a number of additional areas where we could also make a big impact on the group’s operations and fundraising.”

The client – a blue chip nonprofit active across the nation – was initially hesitant at delving into compiled data. They opted to move ahead, however, and AnalyticsIQ created a data model that the client used to create a specially tailored mailing that targeted 50,000 households.

The ROI on the mailing was double the client’s initial projection.

From there, AnalyticsIQ developed more models targeting specific age and ethnic groups that resulted in further successes. Eventually, AnalyticsIQ would be responsible for the majority of new donor mailings for the organization, providing invaluable demographic and consumer data that helped maximize the returns on fundraising mailings that ranged from 1-2 million individuals.

“Through our services – including Dynabase, our proprietary database – we help nonprofits achieve maximum scalability for donor mailings in order to meet their goals,” Hattub tells Key Elements Group. “We compile and analyze thousands of consumer characteristics and attributes that help development professionals craft the right language and appeal strategy for the job.”

In an era where information translates into profits and fundraising, nonprofits can’t afford to overlook the competitive benefits offered by data analytics. The world’s biggest brands and most cutting edge companies use analytics to determine consumer profiles and digital behavior in order to optimize user experience and convert interest into revenue. Nonprofits – both big and small – should follow suit.

(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and content from AnalyticsIQ. Key Elements Group LLC did not receive monetary compensation for writing this article or affiliated links.)

Camp Century: Abandoned US Base in Greenland Poses Radioactive Threat

(The Greenland Ice Sheet, home to Camp Century, an abandoned US base that could leak radioactive waste)

While certain political parties and public figures (here’s looking at you, Donald Trump) may dismiss the reality of climate change as a politically expedient ploy, the overwhelming majority of scientific opinion not only confirms its existence but has also furnished a sobering look at its longterm effects. From decreased water reserves threatening vulnerable populations to rising sea levels putting coastal cities underwater, climate change poses a number of threats to the social good across the globe.

In addition to the aforementioned macro-level threats, there are also regional particularities that tie directly to climate change. Take, for example, an abandoned US military base in Greenland that has recently garnered headlines for the cataclysmic danger it may pose in the future.

The base, named Camp Century, was built into the Greenland Ice Sheet in 1959 and deserted in 1967. Ostensibly a research station, the camp was additionally used as a potential nuclear launch site, chosen for its striking distance to the Soviet Union.

Camp Century Greenland Climate Change Key Elements Group
(The entrance to Camp Century, US Military Archives)

When the camp was decommissioned, the 200 US military personnel stationed there up and left, with official opinion holding that the encroaching ice would effectively seal off residual pollutants. While this policy may have worked out until now, shrinking glaciers in Greenland may release a host of dangerous materials that could result in an environmental catastrophe.

In a statement, climate scientist William Colgan described the situation:

When we looked at the climate simulations, they suggested that rather than perpetual snowfall, it seems that as early as 2090, the site could transition from net snowfall to net melt. Once the site transitions from net snowfall to net melt, it’s only a matter of time before the wastes melt out; it becomes irreversible.

The secret nuclear program at Camp Century – called Project Iceworm – also featured a nuclear reactor that powered the base and that has most certainly resulted in radioactive waste. Other harmful materials – including biological and chemical waste – also factor into the pollutants that could escape through melting ice.

Camp Century Climate Change Greendland Key Elements Group
(Image of Camp Century, US Military Archives)

To further complicate the situation, the responsibility for cleaning up this gargantuan mess is up in the air. The base was created and funded by the United States, but was approved by Denmark, then the colonial power in possession of Greenland. Nowadays, Greenland is an autonomous country.

The case of Camp Century, while high-profile, may not be entirely unique, as Colgan explains: ”Two generations ago, people were interring waste in different areas of the world, and now climate change is modifying those sites.”

As climate change progresses without a meaningful, united response from governments, agencies, and institutions around the world, threats like the one posed by Camp Century will proliferate. And, regardless of how effectively the world turns the tide on climate change, we now live in a reality where Camp Century and other toxic relics will inevitably require herculean efforts to control.

It’s just a matter of time.

Violence in Europe: Knife Attack in London

After a spate of unnerving public attacks in Europe, citizens across the continent are on edge. Germany has experienced three separate incidents – including a mass stabbing, a mass shooting, and a failed bomb attack – in recent weeks that have resulted in a heavier security presence. For a culture that has prided itself on civil order and peace since the trials of World War II, armed patrols are an alien and traumatizing sight.

In France, a man claiming allegiance to ISIS drove a truck into crowds gathered in Nice to celebrate Bastille Day, killing 84. And, on July 26, a parish priest in Normandy was murdered by two men also claiming allegiance to ISIS before the assailants were shot dead by authorities.

These attacks are threats to the social good. First, they stoke fear and insecurity. As daily life becomes less secure through persistent attacks on the public’s trust, citizens simply cannot enjoy public activities without concern for their own wellbeing. This fear greatly detracts from the quality of life.


Additionally, the attacks create windows of confusion, where facts blur, accusations fly, and the worst impulses in politics emerge in full view. Last night’s knife attack in London was horrifying, yet serves a solid example of sober management from the authorities.

A 19 year-old Norwegian national of Somali origin stabbed six people, killing one – a US citizen in her 60s. Police on the scene successfully tasered the assailant – who had emigrated to England in 2002 – and took him into police custody.

The incident had the hallmarks of recent terrorist attacks, but authorities took a measured approach and concluded that the attack was spontaneous. Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley of the Metropolitan Police told reporters:

Whilst the investigation is not yet complete, all of the work that we have done so far increasingly points to this tragic incident as having been triggered by mental health issues, At this time we believe this was a spontaneous attack and the victims were selected at random.

“So far we have found no evidence of radicalization or anything that would suggest the man in our custody was motivated by terrorism,” Mr. Rowley concluded.

The press and the authorities should be lauded for refraining from hasty allegations. But while the violence was unattached to a terror motive, the randomness is reminiscent of the all-too-common gun violence endemic to the United States. Random acts of violence still create insecurity and fear. Indeed, yesterday London’s Metropolitan Police deployed 600 specially trained arm units to patrol London. While not connected to any specific intelligence, the move is likely a response to the public’s concern and to recent incidents in Europe, and is a huge step for a country famous for its unarmed police officers.

These acts of violence are a reminder of the importance of a strong and responsive security apparatus. And while they may test the public’s resolve, strong and pro-social responses will ultimately pay off more than sowing fear and distrust.

Trump Feuds with Fallen Soldier’s Parents

(Arlington Cemetery)

In his latest indiscretion, Donald Trump has committed a cardinal sin of public life – denigrating soldiers and their families. Following the DNC, the erstwhile reality star and Republican presidential candidate has gotten himself into hot water over his aggressive response to the parents of a fallen US solider.

In unscripted remarks in Philadelphia, Khizr Khan – father of Humayun S.M. Khan, a captain killed in Iraq protecting the lives of his fellow soldiers – lambasted Trump, who he said was ignorant of the US constitution. He further explained that Trump’s divisive rhetoric is an insult to those who have sacrificed so much for the country. In his speech, Khan rhetorically asked Trump:

Have you ever been to Arlington cemetery? Go look at the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America – you will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.


(Watch Khan’s powerful speech at the DNC in Philadelphia.)

Trump, known for is incautious language and offensive remarks, disparaged Khan and his wife, Ghazala Khan, in an interview with ABC. “If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say,’ Trump said, describing Ms. Khan, a grieving mother. “She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”

When the candidate had an opportunity to pay homage to a deceased solider and his family, he instead felt compelled to analyze Ghazala Khan’s behavior in a baffling display of narcissism and condescension. Ms. Khan, in turn, wrote an op-ed, explaining that she could not speak because merely looking at photos of her son is such an intolerable act that it brings her to tears.

Trump’s lack of empathy has brought widespread condemnation, including from his fellow Republicans. John McCain – a US prisoner of war, Senator, and one-time GOP presidential candidate – released a statement condemning Trump:

In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier’s parents. He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States – to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates.

Sally Bradshaw – a Republican strategist and co-author of the Republican Party’s “autopsy report” following the 2012 elections – has officially left the GOP over Trump’s response to Khan’s speech, stating that:

Donald Trump belittled a woman who gave birth to a son who died fighting for the United States. If anything, that reinforced my decision to become an independent voter. I’ve been considering the switch for months. Ultimately, I could not abide the hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump and his complete lack of principles and conservative philosophy,

As the gaffes pile up, Trump’s ability to safely navigate alliances within the GOP establishment seems increasingly limited. His sheer disdain for political norms – while endearing to his fringe base – has officially steered into hitherto unknown territory. As John Oliver expressed well on his show Last Week Tonight, when he discussed the dumbfounding quality of Trump’s injudicious remarks:

Honestly, the main takeaway from these two weeks is that, incredibly, we may be on the brink of electing such a damaged, sociopathic narcissist, that the simple presidential duty of comforting the families of fallen soldiers may actually be beyond his capabilities – and I genuinely did not think that was a part of the job that someone could be bad at.


(John Oliver discussed Trump’s dumbfounding comments to the Khan family.)

Sobering and serious words from a comedian more prone to using sarcasm and ridicule to make his points. The haunting prospect of a Trump presidency appears to weigh heavily on Oliver, as it has begun to do so for so many others in the public arena.

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