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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

Glimpsing The Virtual Reality Future Of How We Treat Eye Problems

(0) Comments | Posted August 27, 2015 | 3:13 PM

Quartz: An entrepreneur is using virtual-reality headsets to try to cure vision disorders

Virtual reality is already being touted as a useful tool...

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This App Tells Your Friends You Got Home Safe

(0) Comments | Posted August 26, 2015 | 4:47 PM

GOOD Magazine: Now Your Friends Can Keep You Safe by Digitally Walking You Home at Night

It turns out there may be an upside...

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Phoenix Court Waives Misdemeanor Fines, Warrants For Homeless Population

(0) Comments | Posted August 26, 2015 | 4:14 PM

A program in Phoenix, Arizona, is helping the city’s homeless population address one of the biggest obstacles to its quest for self-sufficiency: lingering fines and warrants, often for low-level violations.

The third Tuesday of every month, “homeless court” is convened inside the Lodestar Day Resource Center...

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This App Tells Your Friends You Got Home Safe

(0) Comments | Posted August 25, 2015 | 1:29 PM

GOOD Magazine: Now Your Friends Can Keep You Safe by Digitally Walking You Home at Night

It turns out there may be an upside...

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How One Actress-Activist Is Working To End Dogfighting In Los Angeles

(0) Comments | Posted August 24, 2015 | 4:03 PM

For the second year, The Huffington Post is holding a week-long, community-driven effort to bust the myths and raise awareness about pit bulls, a maligned "breed" that often bears the brunt of dated, discriminatory legislation that can make it near impossible for these dogs to find a forever home. You...

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'The Dandy Lion Project', a série fotográfica que derruba os estereótipos da moda para homens negros

(0) Comments | Posted August 21, 2015 | 2:46 PM

Para os homens negros, o mundo da moda tem sido muitas vezes forjado com estereótipos, preconceitos e imagens de camisetas GG, jeans largos e correntes chamativas.

Mas a série fotográfica “The Dandy Lion Project” pretende mudar tudo isso mostrando que a moda dos homens negros e, por...

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How A Small Michigan Town Is Sending All Its Kids To College

(0) Comments | Posted August 20, 2015 | 12:17 PM

Baldwin has never been a place particularly associated with high academic achievement.

The small, rural northwestern Michigan town of 1,200 residents is the county seat of Lake County, where only 8 percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree compared to 25 percent of the state overall. Poverty,...

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India Is Home To The World's First Completely Solar-Powered Airport

(0) Comments | Posted August 19, 2015 | 10:50 AM

One of the world’s three biggest polluters just took a big step toward reducing its greenhouse emissions and embracing renewable energy sources. 

India’s fourth-largest airport, the Cochin International Airport in the southern city of Kochi, announced on Tuesday that it is now “absolutely energy neutral,” The Economic Times reports. The airport is co-funded and operated by the Indian government through a public-private partnership. 

The airport’s energy neutrality is possible thanks to a 12-megawatt solar system consisting of more than 46,000 panels installed on a 50-acre site. The system can generate up to 60,000 units of electricity daily.

According to Al Jazeera America, the project took six months to build and cost $10 million, which the airport anticipates it will recover within five years. The panels are expected to last 25 years.

The panels were designed and installed by Bosch Ltd., which has a five-year partnership with the airport, according to Catch News. 

The airport began testing solar energy in March 2013, when it installed a small solar plant on the arrival terminal’s rooftop, according to The Economic Times. 

The project has been seen as a model for the rest of India, and the government is urging other airports to follow suit.

India's goal is to ramp up solar capacity to 100 gigawatts by 2022. Its current capacity is four gigawatts.

India has a broader goal to derive 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2022, with 3 percent coming exclusively from solar. Earlier this summer, the government rolled out new incentives to encourage developers to turn to renewable energy.

Also on...

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Humans Of New York Has Helped Raise Over $2 Million To Help End Slave Labor In Pakistan

(0) Comments | Posted August 18, 2015 | 4:46 PM

After Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind the wildly popular Humans of New York photo blog, traveled to Pakistan this summer, it wasn’t all that surprising that he would document incredible stories of people going about their everyday lives -- but the reaction of his massive following to...

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Katrina Survivor Joins ROTC After Witnessing Army's Recovery Efforts

(0) Comments | Posted August 18, 2015 | 4:15 PM

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Glenda Blanche had just begun fifth grade.

Living in the city’s 3rd Ward as one of six children of a single mother impacted by drug addiction, she already knew struggle. But nothing could have prepared her for...

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Syrian Refugee Camp's Circus School Spreads Confidence, Smiles, Hope

(0) Comments | Posted August 18, 2015 | 1:14 PM

When Mohammad “Abu Qasem” Qusam Ghouzlan arrived with his family at the Za’atari refugee camp in northern Jordan from his home of Syria, he thought he would be staying just a few days.

Two and a half years later, it turned out that...

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(5) Comments | Posted August 18, 2015 | 4:34 AM


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Activists Push To Make Child Marriage In India Easier To Annul

(0) Comments | Posted August 17, 2015 | 10:47 AM

Though child marriage has been officially prohibited in India since 2006, the practice is still all-too-prevalent -- an estimated 43 percent of women there are married before they turn 18, and that number tends to be higher in poor, rural parts of the country. 

There are some signs of progress on the issue, as brave young women like Santadevi Meghwal, with support from civil rights activist Kriti Bharti, are attracting international attention in their efforts to fight back against the practice. 

Still, there is frustration among some activists that the legal process to revoke these marriages is too slow -- in the case of Meghwal’s marriage, which she was unknowingly entered into when she was just 11 months old, they began the effort to nullify the marriage in May and expect the matter could take a year or more to be resolved. 

That is unacceptable, Jason Jeremias, co-artistic director of Price of Silence, a New York-based performing arts collective for women’s rights, told The Huffington Post. Jeremias’ group has brought together an international coalition of activists who are demanding that India’s laws change so that “child marriages are ‘void’ instead of ‘voidable.’” 

“If we’re talking about a childhood marriage, we’re talking about an illegal marriage, so the process should be almost automatic,” Jeremias told HuffPost. “There should be an automatic, streamlined process for annulling these that allows easy access for those who are most vulnerable. If that’s not happening, the process is broken and needs to be fixed.” 

The coalition -- which also includes Mumbai-based FemPositive, Feminism in India and 16 December Kranti Official, a Delhi anti-rape group -- launched a campaign gathered around the #FreeSantadevi hashtag in May.

The campaign centers on a petition and a social media drive where supporters are encouraged to share photos of themselves holding signs sporting the #FreeSantadevi message. Their goal, in addition to ending child marriage in India, is to attain a swift annulment for Meghwal in addition to reversing a $25,000 fine her village’s council charged her family as punishment for refusing the arranged marriage to her would-be husband. 

Photo messages, which included contributions from as far away as Tunisia, Hong Kong, Panama and Honduras, and a letter co-written by leaders from all four organizations were delivered to Indian government officials last month.

A copy of the petition, along with its over 5,800 signatures, were brought to government officials last week. And next, the coalition hopes to recruit supporters to deliver additional photos and letters to Indian embassies throughout the world.

“We want to keep the pressure on so that the Indian central government gets the idea that this is getting pressure from every end until they make a statement to streamline the law,” Jeremias said.

While annulments of child marriages are a faster process than divorces which, the Sydney Morning Herald reported, can be a process that currently takes more than a decade in India, annulments are most often delayed by a husband refusing to show up for a hearing, dragging out the process. Jeremias believes the law should be changed so that a husband’s absence in such a setting should be grounds for the annulment’s approval. 

According to the international coalition Girls Not Brides, an estimated 15 million girls are married before the age of 18 each year worldwide, though rates of child marriage are on a slow decline. These girls are at increased risk of pregnancy and childbirth complications, as well as HIV/AIDS infection and domestic and sexual violence. 

The three countries with the highest child marriage rates, according to UNICEF, are Niger, Bangladesh and Chad. In order to combat the practice, activists in India and Ethiopia have created educational and economic incentives with some success.

Below, more contributions to the #FreeSantadevi...

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'Agrihoods' Offer Suburban Living Built Around Community Farms, Not Golf Courses

(1) Comments | Posted August 14, 2015 | 1:07 PM

The phrase “planned community” conjures up a lot of images -- maybe a swimming pool, obsessively manicured...

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Spanish Town Installs Communal Fridge To Fight Food Waste

(0) Comments | Posted August 13, 2015 | 4:17 PM

Consider it a “free little library” approach to saving food from the trash.

In the Basque Country town of Galdakao, Spain, residents have rallied around a public “solidarity fridge” installed earlier this year in an effort to reduce food waste.

According to NPR,...

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(3) Comments | Posted August 12, 2015 | 7:03 AM


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Workshops Are Connecting Community Leaders In Conflict Zones With Tech Solutions

(0) Comments | Posted August 11, 2015 | 5:06 PM

It is an image you’d more likely envision taking place somewhere in San Francisco or Seattle -- groups of people coming together to share tech knowledge and ambitious, peaceful visions for the communities they live in. But this time it’s taking place in Basra, Iraq.

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This Jail's Urban Farming Project Benefits Inmates, Local Charities

(0) Comments | Posted August 10, 2015 | 5:29 PM

The next time flowers are delivered to your door in Chicago, the bouquet just might be made up of blooms nurtured by an inmate at Cook County Jail.

Chicago-based startup Flowers for Dreams, last week, announced the start of a partnership with the...

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Farmers Are Generating Renewable Energy And Making Money -- Thanks To Cow Poop

(1) Comments | Posted August 10, 2015 | 2:58 PM

Who knew cow manure could turn out to be so valuable? 

According to an Agence France-Presse story published this month, a family-run dairy farm in northern Indiana is finding a revenue-generating and earth-friendly use for the 70,000 gallons of manure and urine produced daily...

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Indian Woman Who Was Married Off At Just 11 Months Old Fights Against Child Marriage

(1) Comments | Posted August 7, 2015 | 4:35 PM

A 20-year-old woman whose parents entered her into a marriage when she just 11 months old has now rejected that marriage and is fighting to have it annulled.

According to an interview with Gulf News published last month, Santadevi Meghwal discovered at the age of 16 that she had been entered into an arranged marriage when she was not yet a toddler. When her would-be husband and in-laws showed up at her home in the western state of Rajasthan, she refused to leave her house.

Meghwal, a college student studying to become a teacher, was disenchanted at the sight of her “husband,” who she described as crude and aggressive to the Sydney Morning Herald. Further, his family wanted her to abandon her education and become a housewife, which is not the life Meghwal has in mind.

Her “husband” went on to stalk her when she went to college and threaten her, actions that eventually led her parents to support her decision to reject the marriage, even after her village’s council, called a caste panchayat, urged her family to pay a lofty fine of 1.6 million rupees (over $25,000) and banished them from the village in lieu of sending her to live with the man, who is now 28. 

Meghwal then turned to Kriti Bharti, a child rights activist with the Saarthi Trust NGO, for help. According to NDTV, they are working to have the marriage annulled by mutual consent and planned to pursue legal action concerning the fine threatened by the village council. 

An annulment could take as long as a year or more to process and her “husband’s” family could still present challenges, but Meghwal is undeterred.

I am not bothered,” Meghwal told Gulf News. “Let them drag the case. I know the law is on my side and I will win the case.” 

Bharti, who is trained as a child psychologist, has a growing record of getting child marriages annulled, winning 27 annulments through May, according to the Guardian. The first of them was awarded in 2012. 

While child marriage in India is technically illegal, the country is home to more child brides than anywhere else in the world. According to UNICEF’s latest estimates, 43 percent of Indian women aged 20-24 were first married prior to the age of 18.

Rates of child marriage in India are highest in poorer, rural parts of the country such as the state of Rajasthan, where Meghwal lives. And while the practice is generally on decline among brides younger than 15, the marriage rate has actually increased for brides ages 15 to 18, according to the Girls Not Brides organization. 

Being married as a minor puts girls at increased risk of HIV and domestic violence, according to the International Center for Research on...

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