National / International News
On Monday, the 16 people who make up the Ferguson Commission will meet for the first time.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has charged the group with addressing systemic inequity in the state like law enforcement practices, as well as education, housing and economic disparities.
Over the next year, the commission is expected to do nothing short of making the region a “fairer place for everyone to live.”
Governor Nixon says he has appointed a mix of citizens to tackle some of the state’s most intractable problems.
"They include business owners and not-for-profit leaders. Teachers and lawyers. Police officers and community activists. Pastors and public servants," says Nixon.
Along with some socioeconomic diversity, there are ten men, and six women; nine of whom are African-American, and seven who are white.
Before any member even walks through the door, though, there are interpersonal gaps that must be bridged, says Bob Stains.
Stains is with the Public Conversation Project which facilitates dialogue around difficult community problems.
"There are these huge differences in experience that cause people to hear each other in different ways and that often leads to a lack of understanding, or no understanding at all," he says.
To avoid getting bogged down, Stains suggests members take time to talk about their experiences and how those experiences have infused their passion for this cause.
In other words, before the Commission gets rich and poor, black and white, to commit to social and economic justice, members themselves must walk the walk.
That's the drop in retail spending this Black Friday weekend over last year, the Wall Street Journal reported. That seems at odds with the improving economy and the National Retail Federation's projected 4.1 percent rise in holiday spending. The drop could be a sign that "Black Friday" has just gotten too big; with deals advertised weeks in advance and available online, consumers might not be excited at the prospect of standing in line at 4 a.m. to get a deal.16
That's how many people comprise the Ferguson Commission, which meets for the first time on Monday. The group seeks to address systemic inequity in Missouri, like law enforcement practices, as well as education, housing and economic disparities. The diversity of the commission is also worth noting—There are ten men, and six women; nine of whom are African-American, and seven who are white.93
That's the age of Dr. Lowell Gess, a retired ophthalmologist in rural Minnesota, who heads to Sierra Leone next month. And while he won't be a front-line Ebola responder, he will risk exposure when treating patients with eye disease, as the virus spread through bodily fluids like tears. Gess says that at his age, helping people outweighs personal risk.119
That's how many New York Airbnb users rented out three or more listings in 2010. It's a small portion, but they took in half of the city's revenue on the site that year. A New York Times Magazine column examined the entrepreneurs who run businesses within the "sharing economy," from ad-hoc (and likely illegal) Airbnb hotels to TaskRabbit subcontractors.$800 million
That's how much is raised in the annual sale of Girl Scout cookies. But that number may soon explode: the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. have approved a digital platform to sell cookies online. How soon before we have to worry about getting LinkedIn requests from our local troop?20 million
The number of views the "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" teaser racked up in its 24 hours online Friday. Compare that to the last time a "Star Wars" trilogy launched, with the trailer for "The Phantom Menace" in 1998. Fans lucky enough to have an Internet connection could download the two-minute trailer, CNET reported, and the unprecedented traffic put the still-young world wide web to the test.
It looks to be another banner year for online holiday sales, anchored by Cyber Monday on December 1, when online marketers offer discount deals to get American consumers to shirk work and dot-com shop instead
IBISWorld predicts Americans will spend 15 percent more shopping online on Cyber Monday 2014 than they did on the same day in 2013. Overall, holiday retail sales are predicted to rise 4.2 percent over 2013 levels, according to IHS Global Insight; sales rose 3.1 percent year-over-year in 2012 and 2013.
“Shopping over this weekend — whether Thursday, Friday, Small-Business Saturday, Cyber-Monday — you’re doing it for the sport, more than you’re doing it for the prices,” says analyst Patty Edwards at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Seattle.
Edwards says that since consumers can instantly compare prices online and find better deals, the value of these ‘special shopping days’ for consumers is increasingly the ritual team effort among mothers, daughters, aunts, and co-workers.
28-year-old Jessica Harper of Portland, Oregon, says special holiday shopping days devoted to hyper-consumption don’t grab her generation, with the exception of Small-Business Saturday.
“It’s becoming a little more trendy to shop local,” she says.
Ebola has killed more than a thousand people in Sierra Leone, including several doctors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to warn against any non-essential travel to the country. But that's not stopping Lowell Gess, a 93 year-old retired ophthalmologist in rural Minnesota, from heading to Sierra Leone January 3rd.
"When you're at a certain age, you just keep your fingers crossed you won't have a stroke or heart attack before January 3rd," he says.
Once in Sierra Leone, Gess won't be a front-line Ebola responder. But the virus is present in body fluids, including tears, so he could risk exposure when treating patients with eye disease. For Gess, it’s a worthwhile risk.
"Just being there with them facing this terror every day is encouraging because they feel abandoned," he says.
Gess’s love of Sierra Leone and its people goes back more than half a century. He and his wife Ruth, a nurse, spent two decades in Sierra Leone as medical missionaries, raising their six kids there. After moving back to the Midwest in the 1970s, they still returned to Sierra Leone regularly to help out at an eye hospital they established in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown.
Even Sierra Leone’s bloody civil war didn't keep Lowell Gess away. During one trip, rebel fighters invaded Freetown. It's another dangerous situation Gess just laughs off.
"It continued after dark,” he recalls. “And when bullets were flying around, I just went to bed."
Dr. Lowell Gess and his granddaughter, Dr. Debby Gess Ristvedt, walk back to Lowell's house from the Alexandria Eye Clinic where Debby, and her father Dr. Tim Gess practice.Vickie Kettlewell/MPR News
Gess's wife died a few years ago. So these days, he usually makes the arduous 36-hour trip to Sierra Leone by himself, as he did earlier this year. In January, he will be lugging extra baggage with him—about $100,000 in donated eye medicines and equipment.
Gess’s adult children and grandchildren say there's no point in trying to hold him back. By now, they’re used to his annual pilgrimages to Sierra Leone.
His granddaughter, Debby Gess Ristvedt, an eye doctor herself, says she just wishes she accompany him, as she did once before. With two young children at home, she says that’s not practical.
"I'm excited for you, Grandpa. And I'm proud of you,” she tells Gess.
"They're hurting there,” Gess responds. “And if we can help a little bit, that will be nice."
Lowell Gess says if he does contract Ebola while in Sierra Leone, he won't seek treatment in the U.S., even if that means dying in the country he regards as his second home.