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Joseph Erbentraut
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Joseph Erbentraut has been writing ever since he had access to his mother's typewriter while growing up in rural Wisconsin. Enamored with the keys' clickity-click sound and the simple beauty of black, perfect words against a purely white background. The medium later became a computer and the young writer's life of reporting launched with the "publication" of the Sixth Grade Times, which offered in-depth coverage of school-wide assemblies, birthday parties and breaking playground gossip. Overseeing a staff of five with an angsty teenage fist, he sold issues for a dime apiece and caused quite a stir with one particular series of bag-lunch exposes.

A decade later, Erbentraut earned a B.A. in Journalism & Mass Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and moved shortly thereafter to Chicago, a city he has grown to adore.

Entries by Joseph Erbentraut

How A Data-Driven Approach Is Reducing Homicides In Colombia

(0) Comments | Posted September 30, 2015 | 3:49 PM

Scientific American: Big Data Are Reducing Homicides In Cities Across The Americas

Could there be a science behind...

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Syrian Blogger Offers An Intimate, Haunting View Of Life In A War Zone

(0) Comments | Posted September 30, 2015 | 1:45 PM

Global Voices: Dispatches From Syria: Marcell Shehwaro on Life in Aleppo

Amid the dozens of stories about the refugee crisis in Europe, it can be easy to forget its tragic cause: the war in Syria, which began more than four years ago.


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Indian Women Are 'Loitering' At Night To Prove A Powerful Point

(0) Comments | Posted September 29, 2015 | 5:40 PM

PRI: #WhyLoiter Reclaims Public -- And Inner -- Space For Indian Women

By day, the streets of Mumbai are filled with men and women going about their day -- working, shopping, exercising and socializing. But by night, the city is dominated by men.

This inequality -- the result of a local culture that makes streets feel unwelcoming to women at night, urging them to remain in their homes at late hours -- has prompted a mini-movement. It's called #WhyLoiter.

In a series called #HerRights that seeks to document both areas of progress and challenges facing the international women’s rights movement, PRI’s The World recently featured a group of young women who had launched a campaign to take back the streets of Mumbai.

PRI's Rhitu Chatterjee accompanied the women for one of their monthly midnight walks through a particularly conservative part of Mumbai. Though the walks are fun, they're "silent protests," too.

The goal, participant Neha Singh explained to Chatterjee, is to encourage Indian women not to feel afraid of exploring the cities they live in and to feel more confident about their place in public. Ultimately, the hope is that it will help force broader, societal change.

“People will start looking at women not as possessions or property that need to be kept at home and preserved or safeguarded, but as fellow human beings that have equal right to public spaces as men do,” Singh explained to PRI.

The movement, inspired by a book with the same title published in 2011, appears to be spreading. A similar effort is underway in Pakistan, where women and girls are using social media to reclaim space in typically male-dominated tea stalls, as BBC reported earlier this month. 

The #HerRights series launched earlier this month in honor of the 20th anniversary of the UN's women's rights-focused Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Another recent story in the series features a group of female college students in New Delhi who are pushing back against their school’s curfew -- which is far stricter for women than it is for men.


Modern Farmer: At This New Jersey Farm, Alpacas Help The Mentally Ill

Gizmag: Tanzania Turns To Anti-Poaching Drones To Help Endangered Wildlife

The What’s Working Honor Roll highlights some of the best reporting and analysis, from a range of media outlets, on all the ways people are working toward solutions to some of our greatest challenges. If you know a story you think should be on our Honor Roll, please send an email to editor Joseph Erbentraut at with the subject line "WHAT'S WORKING." 


For more solutions-focused coverage, follow What's Working on Facebook and Twitter.

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Germany's Prisons Could Not Be More Different From America's

(0) Comments | Posted September 28, 2015 | 5:51 PM

The Marshall Project/VICE: Prison Without Punishment 

Germany takes a different approach to its prisons -- and with its relatively low...

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Marine Biologist Sylvia Earle Issues Stark Warning On The Oceans

(0) Comments | Posted September 28, 2015 | 5:04 PM

Among a distinguished panel discussing the issue of sustainable oceans Monday at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, one speaker’s remarks resonated the most.

During introductory remarks at the session, oceanographer Sylvia Earle commented that she believes the biggest problem when it comes to how overfishing, climate change and related issues are impacting the planet’s oceans is "ignorance."

"People do not understand why they should care," she continued. "If people understand that the ocean is fundamental to every breath they take, to their very existence, they will do what it takes because of the recognition that it's important to our economy, to our health security, but most importantly to life itself."

Earle, who formerly worked as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s chief scientist, went on to argue for a larger percentage of the oceans to be protected, such as the 50 “hope spots” she helped select as safe havens due to the wildlife and underwater habitats present there. 

Earle also urged people to be more conscious about their eating habits when it comes to seafood, pointing out that it takes considerably more plants to grow a pound of tuna than a comparable amount of chicken. 

“We think of great white sharks as the top predators, well, we should look in the mirror,” Earle said. “We have to think differently. There’s no free lunch. The air is not free, the ocean is not just there for us to take without some accounting for it.”

The panel, which was moderated by Vice Media CEO and co-founder Shane Smith, also featured James Michel, president of the Republic of Seychelles; Maria José González, Mesoamerican Reef Fund executive director; and actor Ted Danson.

In remarks prior to the panel, former President Bill Clinton noted that he was happy to see a large audience in attendance.

Maybe the ocean will no longer be the biggest ignored problem,” Clinton said.


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Coding School For Girls In Afghanistan Also Teaches Confidence

(0) Comments | Posted September 28, 2015 | 2:16 PM

The woman behind Afghanistan’s first coding school for girls and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist took center stage Monday afternoon as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson led a session on disruptive technology and innovation at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting in New York City.

After alerting the audience to NASA’s announcement concerning liquid water on Mars and the previous night’s “blood” supermoon eclipse -- which “did exactly what we predicted and expected it would do,” Tyson introduced Code to Inspire founder and CEO Fereshteh Forough and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and biomedical engineer Sangeeta Bhatia. 

Forough explained that, in the next month, her organization will be establishing its first programming lab aimed at women between the ages of 15 and 25. The schools will allow women to learn how to code and program in a safe place, without fear, and prepare them for future employment opportunities.

Ultimately, she hopes the schools will serve as an incubator for graduates of the program to develop mobile apps and other projects, as well as a model that could be replicated in other Middle Eastern countries. 

“I think technology and education are the best way for women empowerment and helping them to step into the new world,” Forough explained to Tyson.

The schools, she added, are about much more than coding.

“It’s also about how to increase your self-esteem, to present your idea and be more outspoken. That’s why it’s only for women. It’s the only place they feel relaxed comfortable, they can enjoy and ask any question they want and be innovative.”

At MIT, Bhatia and her students are working to develop synthetic human organs, an aim Tyson called “on the face of it, a little creepy.”

These organs can serve purposes big and small -- at the “teeny, tiny” level, Bhatia explained, very small artificial livers can be used to develop more effective malaria medicine.

In addition, Bhatia touched on the gender gap in technology and science -- "only 3 percent of high-tech startups are founded by women," she pointed out out -- and noted that there are some examples to follow in making continued progress.

At Harvey Mudd College, Bhatia said, three changes were made to the school’s curriculum and over five years the school increased its participation of women in its computer science program from about 10 percent to 40...

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Boston Teachers Visit Students' Countries Of Origin To Bridge Cultural Divide

(0) Comments | Posted September 25, 2015 | 2:35 PM

Boston Globe: Lessons From Under The Coconut Tree

If teachers had a deeper understanding of their international students’...

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All-Women Bangladeshi Peacekeeping Unit Defies Stereotypes

(0) Comments | Posted September 24, 2015 | 2:09 PM

Refinery29: Meet One Of The World’s Only All-Women Peacekeeping Units

The United Nations’ peacekeepers are tasked with bringing order and stability to conflict and natural-disasters zones. But the organization’s 100,000-plus force of peacekeepers has been criticized for lacking women on the force. There have also been reports of male peacekeepers engaging in sex exploitation.

The good news is that women from Bangladesh have responded to the UN’s call for more women to serve as peacekeepers, forming an all-women unit that was deployed to Haiti following the earthquake in 2010. They are one of just three all-women peacekeeping units in the world today.

The unit’s unlikely formation is documented in a new film titled “A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers” that premiered this month at the Toronto International Film Festival.

In an interview with freelance writer Jennifer Chowdhury on lifestyle website Refinery29, the film’s co-director and producer, Geeta Gandbhir, explained that she was attracted to the unit’s story because it “challenges stereotypes of South Asian women and particularly Muslim women.” The women in the unit are their families’ breadwinners, leaving their husbands and children at home. 

Chowdhury’s coverage of the film might seem out of character for a lifestyle website that is generally more focused on fashion, beauty, health and entertainment, but a number of other recent stories on Refinery29 also strike a more serious, solutions-oriented tone that challenges the definition of what a lifestyle media outlet can or should cover.

One recent piece on the site features Chinese human-rights lawyer Wang Yu, who is part of the UN’s #FreeThe20 campaign, highlighting the stories of 20 imprisoned women from throughout the world as a precursor to the upcoming Beijing+20 conference. That conference will serve as a check-in, 20 years later, on the women's rights goals world leaders established at an international meeting in 1995.

Another piece focuses on Stephanie Sinclair’s Too Young To Wed photo series, which aims to build awareness of child marriage. The story is accompanied by a powerful personal essay, also written by Chowdhury, about her own mother, who was married at the age of 15. 


NPR: Coding Class, Then Naptime: Computer Science For The Kindergarten Set

The Conversation: How Low-Tech Farming Innovations Can Make African Farmers Climate-Resilient

The What’s Working Honor Roll highlights some of the best reporting and analysis, from a range of media outlets, on all the ways people are working toward solutions to some of our greatest challenges. If you know a story you think should be on our Honor Roll, please send an email to editor Joseph Erbentraut at with the subject line "WHAT'S WORKING." 


For more solutions-focused coverage, follow What's Working on Facebook and Twitter.


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What Is So G**damn Special About Riot Fest Anyway?

(4) Comments | Posted September 23, 2015 | 7:08 PM

The end of summer means many things. Chief among them, for music fans, is the end of festival season.

Sure, festivals have a whole lot of downsides -- we've previously detailed them here at HuffPost -- but there are a lot of positives to consider about...

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Conheça as 'Black Mambas', o grupo de mulheres que combate o tráfico de animais na África do Sul

(0) Comments | Posted September 23, 2015 | 2:54 PM

As Black Mambas lutam contra o tráfico de animais na África do Sul, que atingiu um nível “crítico” recentemente.

equipe contra a caça ilegal

CRÉDITO: BLACK MAMBA ANTI-POACHING UNIT /FACEBOOK Integrantes da Unidade Contra Caça Ilegal do Black Mamba, no nordeste da África do Sul.
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How Hungary's Small Muslim Community Is Helping Refugees

(0) Comments | Posted September 23, 2015 | 2:18 PM

Washington Post: As Hostility Flares, Hungary's Muslim Community Mobilizes To Aif Refugees

The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe...

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Schools Nationwide Are Working To Overcome Bias In Education

(0) Comments | Posted September 22, 2015 | 2:50 PM

Education Week: Beyond Bias: Countering Stereotypes in School

In its purest form, education should be a great...

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Philadelphia News Startup Looks For Ideas City Should 'Steal'

(0) Comments | Posted September 21, 2015 | 4:47 PM

The Philadelphia Citizen: Ideas We Should Steal

For any city to succeed, it cannot limit itself to ideas...

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How California Is Helping Low-Income Students Succeed In College

(0) Comments | Posted September 18, 2015 | 5:46 PM

The New York Times: California’s Upward-Mobility Machine

When it comes to recruiting and retaining an economically diverse student...

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Reunited Punks L7's Message To Millennials: 'Get It Together, Step Up'

(0) Comments | Posted September 18, 2015 | 1:11 PM

Everywhere a music fan turns these days, it feels like a band at their height in the ‘90s is reuniting -- and the quality of the ensuing musical output has varied widely from inspired to “why?!”

But there have been few reunions met with as...

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Florida Paper Pushes For Bike Safety With Aggressive Reporting

(0) Comments | Posted September 17, 2015 | 5:31 PM

Columbia Journalism Review: How A Florida Newspaper Began Advocating For Better Bike Safety

Columbia Journalism Review:...

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Photographer On A Quest To Capture Native Americans' Diversity

(0) Comments | Posted September 16, 2015 | 2:43 PM

The Guardian: One Woman's Mission To Photograph Every Native American Tribe In The US

Three years ago, Seattle photographer Matika Wilbur set out on an ambitious journey that has thus far required her to trek 250,000 miles around the country.

Frustrated with the stereotypical images that Wilbur saw dominating narratives about the Native America community, she set out to capture all of the nation’s (then) 562 federally-recognized tribes. (There are 566 today.) 

That is how Project 562 began. Herself a member of the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes, Wilbur has been visiting reservations -- some in remote areas -- throughout the country and shooting photos for her collection since December 2013. Her journey is well underway, reports Hilal Isler at The Guardian.

The Guardian reports that Wilbur will be completing the latest leg of her journey in the northeastern U.S. later this month. 

She is hopeful her photographs will help broaden the perception of what it means to be Native American today, replacing more narrow ideas that fail to accurately represent the diverse population. She plans to showcase the photos in exhibitions, publications and curricula.

“I’m ultimately doing this because our perception matters,” Wilbur explained to the Guardian. “Our perception fuels racism. It fuels segregation. Our perception determines the way we treat each other.”

Meanwhile, Wilbur shares samples of her collection-in-progress on Instagram and has already been exhibiting some as well, including a show this month at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan.

According to a story in the Ferris State Torch, the university's student newspaper,Wilbur had planned to complete her journey within three years. But with three years under her belt and about 200 tribes to go, Wilbur expects she has another two years ago.


Los Angeles Times: Los Angeles, Beijing Agree On Plan To Promote Clean Hair As Part Of Obama-Xi Deal

New Statesman: Gender-Neutral Language Is Coming — Here's Why It Matters

The What’s Working Honor Roll highlights some of the best reporting and analysis, from a range of media outlets, on all the ways people are working toward solutions to some of our greatest challenges. If you know a story you think should be on our Honor Roll, please send an email to editor Joseph Erbentraut at with the subject line "WHAT'S...

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Punk Rock Frontman's Drug Addiction Almost Killed Him, But He Lives To Scream About It

(0) Comments | Posted September 16, 2015 | 2:27 PM

Given that some of FIDLAR's best-known songs have titles like “Cheap Bear” and “Cocaine,” it’s hard to blame fans of the Los Angeles band, itself an acronym for “Fuck It Dog, Life’s a Risk,” for associating the skate punk outfit with a live-fast-die-young party-hardy ethos.

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School Gardens Are Helping The Developing World Take On Hunger

(0) Comments | Posted September 15, 2015 | 3:53 PM

Christian Science Monitor: School Gardens Fight Hunger In Developing Countries

While significant progress has been made on food...

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Here's Who's Fighting Increased Sex Trafficking Due To Climate Change, Poverty

(0) Comments | Posted September 15, 2015 | 1:21 PM

For the communities living in the Sundarbans, a remote region of islands on the border of eastern India and Bangladesh, a perfect storm of climate change and extreme poverty has put many thousands of women and children at heightened risk of sex trafficking.

In an effort to push back against the practice, the NGO Save the Children India is working with local partners in more than 80 villages in the region to offer classes to the community’s children, PRI's The World reports in a story published this week.

According to PRI's Sam Eaton, the classes serve a dual purpose: First, to get the students back on track with formal schooling -- many have dropped out -- and second, to teach them how to keep an eye out for traffickers, alerting their teachers to suspicious people turning up nearby. As a result, the students become a sort of “vigilante” group protecting their peers.

A number of factors have contributed to the region becoming a trafficking hub.

The rising sea level in the region -- especially after the devastating Cyclone Aila hit the islands in 2009 -- has been responsible for repeatedly destroying locals’ homes and farmland in what Reuters described as "everyday disasters."

The situation has made families increasingly desperate for economic opportunities, causing them to send their children -- both boys and girls -- away to find work in a city.

In other cases, families ignore their suspicions of attractive young men who arrive in their community promising marriage to their daughters only to later sell them into sex trafficking, Reuters' Aditya Ghosh described in a May 2015 story.

"They are very easily misled by traffickers and agents lurking around, who promise a fantastic life in the cities, the kind that the mainstream media project," Bankim Hazra, Sundarban Development Board chairman, explained to Ghosh.

But Save the Children's program is having results.

According to PRI, trafficking cases in those villages have been practically eliminated. The group has also set up child protection committees to serve as liaisons between communities and mainland police and are also looking to start community banks to help families finance repairs to flood-damaged homes. 

Still, challenges remain and the problem is massive. The practice of trafficking is so widespread in the region that India’s West Bengal state, of which the Sundarbans are a part, is leading the country in reported cases of human trafficking and was home to almost 40 percent of the entire country’s cases, according to a 2013 National Crime Record Bureau report cited by the Indian Express. 

As reported by Reuters, over 30,000 adults and children in the region were reported missing over the past 10 years of available data, a number considered by victim advocates to be an underestimate because fears of community stigma cause many families not to report their cases to police. 

It wasn’t always this bad. According to a 2013 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report, West Bengal has seen a 23-fold increase in the number of missing children and a 33-fold increase in missing women between the years 2001 and 2010.

Meanwhile, the West Bengal government plans to help Save the Children scale up its education program to serve more villages, PRI reported. Earlier this summer, the government also announced the creation of a vocational program aimed at helping rescued trafficking victims get back on their feet.


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