What's your state's stereotype? Plus, the best of the web this week.

Ever wish someone would read the entire Internet and give you a list of the best articles? Well, you're welcome! The best of the Web this week includes a map of American state stereotypes, an article about how the ancient Greeks would have dealt with Obamacare, a look at a startup with a surprising approach to helping young entrepreneurs get funding, and four simple steps to avoid getting hacked. Enjoy!


Arts and Culture

Why Are Americans So ... / Reena DiResta / No Upside

"A map of American state stereotypes, generated by Google autocomplete."(via Varina)




Hear, All Ye People; Hearken O Earth / Errol Morris / The New York Times

Brilliant: Errol Morris runs an experiment on Times readers to test whether our perceptions of the truth can be affected by fonts.




Call Me Maybe — Carly Rae Jepsen (Chatroulette Version) / Steve Kardynal / YouTube

Just when you thought you were getting sick of "Call Me Maybe," this comes along ...




Write Your Own Academic Sentence / Writing Program / University of Chicago

You're just four clicks away from writing like a PhD! Sample sentence: "The construction of post-capitalist hegemony is, and yet is not, the poetics of the gendered body."




Politics and World Affairs

Fussbudget / Ryan Lizza / New Yorker

Meet Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's new running mate, in this in-depth profile from earlier this year.




Top Ten Differences Between White Terrorists And Others / Juan Cole / Informed Comment

Sadly relevant after last week's massacre at a Sikh temple. Number 6: "White terrorists are random events, like tornadoes. Other terrorists are long-running conspiracies."




What Pericles Would Say About Obamacare / Paul Woodruff / Oxford University Press Blog

Democracy, the ancient Greek way: "Imagine a council of 500 citizens chosen at random ... with no worries about reelection to find a solution to our health care problem."




Romney's Side Course Of Culture / Ta-Nehisi Coates / The New York Times

As usual, Coates manages to be both interesting and original where others are dull and predictable; be sure to click through to Ron Swanson's Pyramid of Greatness. (via Charley)




Addressing Poverty In Schools / Joe Nocera / New York Times

Can even good teachers make a difference when their students' lives are defined by poverty? One organization is trying to equip schools to deal with poverty head on, with promising results. (via Bo)




Business and Economics

New Crowdfunding Twist: Invest In A College Grad / Christina DesMarais / Inc

A new startup, Upstart, allows young entrepreneurs to raise capital by selling a share of their future earnings.




Japan Inc. Tests A New Survival Skill: English / Chico Harlan / The Washington Post

A Japanese billionaire worried about competitiveness decides his 6,000 employees need to speak English—and gives them two years to learn it, or face demotions.




No More Growth Miracles / Dani Rodrik / Project Syndicate

Argues that gains from rapid industrialization — which drove the growth of China, India, and others — will be more difficult to come by, and that future gains will have to come from improved institutions and governance.




Why Investors Should Avoid Hedge Funds / Felix Salmon / Reuters

Ouch: "If all the money that's ever been invested in hedge funds had been put in Treasury bills instead, the results would have been twice as good."




Science and Technology

How Not To Get Hacked / Farhad Manjoo / Slate

The crazy story of how a writer for Wired got hacked, and four simple steps you should take to safeguard your digital life; if you haven't done these yet, you're being reckless.




The Art Of The Passive-Aggressive Redesign / Russell Brandom / BuzzFeed

Fun roundup of unsolicited redesigns of popular websites, including Amazon, American Airlines, IMDB, and Wikipedia.




Back To The (Far-Fetched) Future / The New York Times

An enjoyable look back at predictions from 1964 on what New York would look like in 2000, with some fun graphs and a lovely tribute to the city by its then-mayor.




Terms Of Service; Didn't Read

"'I have read and agree to the Terms' is the biggest lie on the web. We aim to fix that," declares a new site that summarizes and rates different companies' terms of service.




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True

Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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