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

Kenyan Women Are Quietly Revolutionizing Farming.. And The Government's Noticing

(1) Comments | Posted August 3, 2015 | 2:04 PM

For people in central Kenya who are trying to live off the land, the challenges are many as the region is not known for its agriculture-friendly conditions. 

But, thanks to the work of an organization working to spread innovative farming techniques, that could be changing...

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Florence And The Machine Electrifies At Lollapalooza, Lightning Storm And All

(0) Comments | Posted August 3, 2015 | 12:51 PM

If British singer-songwriter Florence Welch was bothered at all by the massive summer lightning storm that served as a dramatic backdrop to her Lollapalooza-ending set in Chicago Sunday, she did not let on. If anything, she appeared to thrive on it.

Welch, who heads up...

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거리를 청소하러 나온 로마 사람들(사진)

(0) Comments | Posted July 31, 2015 | 3:22 AM

세계에서 가장 아름다운 도시 중 하나인 로마의 시민들이 도시를 청소했다. 한 배우의 트윗이 계기가 됐다.

로마는 지금 국제적으로 비난을 받는 중이다. 쓰레기 수거 시스템이 제대로 돌아가지 않는 상태이기 때문이다. 이를 두고 뉴욕타임즈는 현지 스케치 기사에서 “이탈리아의 수도가 퇴화되고 있다”고 보도하기까지 했다.

이런 상황에 진저리가 난

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Low-Cost Schools Are Being Built Out Of Sand In Jordan Refugee Camps

(0) Comments | Posted July 30, 2015 | 1:18 PM

A team of architects is working to bring low-cost, durable homes to refugee camps in Jordan and other parts of the world by relying heavily on readily available materials like sand and soil.

The innovative Re:Build construction system is the product of a partnership between architects Cameron Sinclair and Pouya Khazaeli, nonprofits Save the Children and Relief International and Pilosio Building Peace, the nonprofit initiative connected to a scaffold company.

The system uses natural materials in combination with scaffolding tubes to create easy-to-assemble and modular structures that can serve as homes, schools or clinics in a refugee camp or other emergency situation.

How it works is that wall frames are filled with sand, gravel or stones, while the roof is topped off with soil to allow for insulation as well as the growth of micro crops to eat. The structures also have a container to channel and recover rainwater, are solar-powered and its floors are made of a durable plywood. 

As reported by ArchDaily, the system has already been put to the test with the construction of two schools in Jordan: one at the Za’atari camp -- the Middle East's largest refugee camp which marked its third anniversary this week -- and a second at Queen Rania Park in Amman. Because children represent a high percentage of the displaced Syrian refugee population in the region and many have been out of school for years in some cases, learning facilities were a high priority for the Re:Build team. 

The structures are unique not only because they are cost-effective and mobile -- similar to the Ikea Foundation shelters the U.N. is investing in -- but are also so easy to assemble so that individuals with no prior construction experience can, and do, help build them, and are paid to do so. According to Sinclair, parents of the students using the schools participated in their construction.

"We victimize refugees by treating them as second-class citizens instead of understanding that they are some of the most resilient and hardworking people on the planet,” Sinclair explained to FastCompany of their decision to make the system so intuitive. “By engaging the refugees as paid laborers ensures that they once again feel in charge of their own destiny and leave with the skills to reassemble the school back in their home country."

Though the structures come at a much lower cost when compared to traditional construction, the price tag is still notable: according to ArchDaily, the schools cost about $30,000 each. The concept development was supported by a Crowdrise campaign, while the construction was funded by Pilosio in partnership with local nonprofit...

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1 Man's Tweet Inspired People Across Rome To Clean Up Their City

(0) Comments | Posted July 29, 2015 | 4:02 PM

A popular actor’s tweet appears to have inspired the residents of one of the most beautiful cities in the world to take the matter of their hometown’s excessive piles of trash into their own hands -- literally.

The city of Rome has been dealing with...

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Muslim Funny Fest Is Using Comedy To Overcome Stigma

(2) Comments | Posted July 29, 2015 | 2:46 PM

It is said that laughter is the best medicine, but can it help counter Islamophobia?

Dean Obeidallah and Maysoon Zayid were looking to accomplish just that with the Muslim Funny Fest, which they co-produced last week. The event marked the first-ever Muslim stand-up comedy festival in New York City, and possibly even in North America.

The festival, which brought together over a dozen Muslim comedians to perform at the Comic Strip Live comedy club, was a smash. According to the event’s Facebook page, each show of the three-day event sold out.

The goal, Zayid explained to HuffPost Live this month, was to showcase the variety of experiences Muslims have, while also exploring what they share: having to deal with generally unfavorable views many Americans have of the Muslim community. In recent years, Americans' opinions of Muslims have actually worsened.

"The common link that, sadly, brings us together is the bigotry and hatred we are currently experiencing as American Muslims,” Zayid told HuffPost, “and I am hoping that the Muslim Funny Fest will do something to dilute that hate." 

It appears to be succeeding. Azhar Usman, a participant in the festival, told AJ+ that he’s personally witnessed the power such shows can have to break down negative stereotypes.

“There’s been a couple of instances where people have come up to me after a show -- this has been really heartwarming -- and they’ve literally been in tears,” Usman told AJ+. "And they said to me, like, ‘I came into this show with so much anger and negativity in my heart towards Muslims, and you have completely destroyed that.’”

The fest is able to bridge that gap because of the accessibility of a comedy event when compared to something more serious. It’s a “subtle, stealth type of mission," Obeidallah joked to Yahoo’s Katie Couric. 

“With comedy, you can reach people who will never go to a lecture on Muslims,” Obeidallah, who is also a SiriusXM host and a Daily Beast columnist, told Couric. “They would never read a book on Muslims. But they’ll come to a comedy show. And while they’re there, they’re gonna laugh. And you hope maybe they learn something while they’re laughing.”

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New York Summer Camp Gives Homeless Children A Chance To Just Be Kids

(0) Comments | Posted July 28, 2015 | 2:12 PM

For most kids, summer is a time of year to look forward to.

But that's not typically the case for the 23,000 children who live in New York City’s homeless shelter system. With children out of school, shelters and temporary housing alike often become...

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Disability Rights Advocates Call Out Uber Over Accessibility Issues

(0) Comments | Posted July 24, 2015 | 2:41 PM


Uber still has a long way to go in order to make its transportation network fully accessible to New Yorkers in wheelchairs, a disability rights organization said ahead of Sunday's 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The United Spinal Association last week released a television ad and a series of mailers criticizing Uber in the midst of tense negotiations between the city and the app ahead of a City Council vote concerning whether the service would face an expansion cap in New York.

“I’m so shocked about how much discrimination there is in New York City,” Dustin Jones, a disability rights advocate, says in the video. “Getting around the city in a wheelchair is hard. People look the other way.”

Jones went on to point out the progress the city’s disability rights advocates have made toward their goal of making half the city’s yellow taxi fleet wheelchair-accessible -- the city has agreed to achieving that goal by 2020 -- and claimed that, of Uber’s 14,000-strong fleet, zero vehicles are similarly accessible. He also accused Uber of poaching taxi drivers who had been operating wheelchair-accessible cars.

In response to the criticism, Uber pointed to its wheelchair-accessible UberWAV service, which the company said in a statement to Capital New York, launched last August and makes over 300 pickups weekly. The UberWAV service allows users to request a wheelchair-accessible city taxi, but not a black car or any other option, through the app. Spokesman Khan Shoieb added that the app plans to expand that service in the future.

Presently, UberWAV primarily serves the four outer boroughs, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island; the New York Daily News reported in January, that the service is not available in Manhattan below East 96th Street, so the majority of that borough is not covered.

The United Spinal Association counts transportation equity, particularly access to taxis, among one of its key advocacy issues. According to the organization’s website, cities like Chicago, San Francisco and London -- which offers 100-percent wheelchair-accessible taxis -- have already taken action on this issue. 

The organization has also pushed for more accessibility in Washington, D.C. In response, Uber DC called itself “an ardent supporter of expanding accessible options” for people in wheelchairs in the D.C. area and indicated that it is working to improve its accessible services in the District.

Meanwhile, a deal reached this week between Uber and the city ahead of the anticipated City Council vote put a proposed cap on the app's growth in New York on hold -- for the time being. As part of the deal, the app agreed to participate in a congestion...

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Community-Led Cooking Classes In African Cuisine Are Helping People Lose Weight, Eat Healthier

(0) Comments | Posted July 23, 2015 | 3:56 PM

When it comes to working toward a healthier lifestyle, the answers to the problems of obesity, diabetes and diet-related chronic illnesses that threaten our future might actually lie in our past. 

That is the message of Oldways, a Boston-based food and nutrition education...

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Perfume Genius Embraces His Fears To Find A Bigger Sound

(0) Comments | Posted July 23, 2015 | 11:08 AM

It’s been almost a year since Seattle-based singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas, who performs under the stage name Perfume Genius, took perhaps the biggest risk of his career to date.

Following two critically-acclaimed albums of down-tempo, piano-centric confessional indie pop -- 2010’s “Learning” and 2012’s “Put Your...

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Chvrches Prepares To Disprove The Sophomore Slump With 'Every Open Eye'

(0) Comments | Posted July 22, 2015 | 3:46 PM

It’s been a divine couple of years for Chvrches.

The Scottish synth-pop outfit -- featuring vocalist Lauren Mayberry, synth-master Martin Doherty and guitarist Iain Cook -- burst onto the scene internationally with dark-yet-danceable tracks like “Lies,” “The Mother We Share” and “Recover” in late 2012. By...

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5 Lessons Music Festivals Everywhere Can Learn From Chicago's Pitchfork Fest

(0) Comments | Posted July 22, 2015 | 9:12 AM

A few days have passed since the triumphant conclusion of Chicago's Pitchfork Music Festival, and now that my socks and feet have had plenty of time to dry up following the wild weather that forced the fest's brief evacuation on Saturday afternoon, it's time to reflect.

Over the 10 years...

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20 Years Later, Considering The Legacy Of 'Jock Jams,' The 'Red Bull Of Music'

(0) Comments | Posted July 21, 2015 | 10:41 AM

Get ready for this: "Jock Jams," that high-energy, testosterone-fueled, bro-friendly series of sports-themed music compilations, turns 20 on Saturday. 

On July 25, 1995, the first "Jock Jams" album -- trumpeting a promise of “the hottest crowd-pumping grooves of all time” on its cheerleader-centric cover -- was released and was an...

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Workers Bring Mental Health Care, Medication To Homeless In Miami

(0) Comments | Posted July 20, 2015 | 1:41 PM

A partnership between advocates for the homeless, city outreach workers and a health center is helping mentally ill people living on the streets of Miami access the medication they need for a better future.

The bring-the-clinic-to-them approach, which began last year, has been dubbed the...

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Groups Bring 10,000 Affordable Toilets To Rural India So Women Can Relieve Themselves Safely

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

For many women in poor, rural parts of the world, a lack of access to a private toilet is not just a matter of inconvenience, it also puts her at risk of diseasessexual assault and ridicule.

But in the poverty-stricken Bihar region of India,...

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Powder Extends Almost-Expired Food's Shelf Life, Could Be Key To Ending Hunger

(0) Comments | Posted July 16, 2015 | 2:08 PM

When it comes to food, the world has two major, conflicting problems: Hunger and waste. But a new powder could help address both of those issues, simultaneously.

Earlier this month, a group of students at Lund University in Sweden completed a successful, 219,786 Swedish...

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Here's The Actual Impact All Those Buckets Of Ice Had On ALS Research

(0) Comments | Posted July 15, 2015 | 1:34 PM

Remember this time last year when everyone’s congresswoman, favorite singer and probably a distant cousin or 10 was dumping ice water on their heads in the name of ALS research and awareness? The global #IceBucketChallenge raised an estimated $220 million in donations and, a year after...

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(3) Comments | Posted July 14, 2015 | 8:59 PM


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Here's More Proof That Millenials Are The 'Giving Generation'

(13) Comments | Posted July 8, 2015 | 10:43 AM

Though millennials are often stereotyped as lazy, selfish and entitled, new research has again shown that donating to charities and volunteering are important to today’s young professionals.

Eighty-four percent of the 1,584 millennial workers surveyed made a charitable donation last year, according to the...

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Mothers Helped Troubled Neighborhood Stay Shooting-Free During Violent Chicago Weekend

(20) Comments | Posted July 7, 2015 | 5:46 PM

A group of mothers who patrolled Chicago's streets with a message of peace helped keep one of the city's most violent neighborhoods free of shootings over an otherwise violent holiday weekend.

Mothers Against Senseless Killings volunteers donned bright pink shirts and walked throughout the...

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